Photo Credit: Cathy Panado Photography
Our one-on-one interview with two-time champion Jolene Blackshear as she prepares for her bout in the main event of Bobby D Presents “Dangerous Divas” on September 4 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
You have five seconds to answer the following question.
What is one thing you remember from 1997?
You may wonder what the point of that question was. Simply put, I am creating a timeline for the basis of this story to demonstrate the impressive nature of one local fighter’s boxing career.
This week I met a truly special person, female fighter and two-time world champion Jolene “Classy Assassin” Blackshear, as she prepares for her upcoming bout against New Yorker Susan Reno in front of her hometown fans in San Diego.
Jolene Blackshear (8-5-0, 3 KO’s), who stands just under five feet tall and sports the physique of an Olympic athlete, is headlining the main event of Bobby D Presents “Dangerous Diva’s” on Thursday, September 4, 2014 from the Crowne Plaza Hotel in what looks to be an action packed night of boxing in San Diego.
So let’s backtrack a little bit. What did happen in 1997 exactly?
Bill Clinton is inaugurated for his second term as the President of The United States. In their second fight, Mike Tyson bites the ear off Evander Holyfield shocking the boxing world. The iconic movie “Titanic” premiers to record-setting box office numbers.
Lastly, Jolene Blackshear, in only her third fight defeats Anissa Zamarron for the IFBA Light Flyweight Title.
The purpose of taking you through some of these historical events in 1997 and to include Blackshear’s first title in the same regard is to demonstrate the fact that Blackshear has been able to fight at an elite level for nearly three decades. In fact, she has crossed multiple eras and at the age of 44 continues to excel in a sport that rarely sees its fighters getting past the age of 35.
“What is impressive about Jolene is her age. She is always in great shape,” explains Blackshear’s trainer Jose Cital. “We have to tone her down and try to control her work ethic sometimes. She’s like the female Bernard Hopkins. She is winning titles in different eras which is incredible,” Cital adds.
For Blackshear, her age isn’t something she thinks about. It is just part of her overall journey, which is one that goes back to 1995 when she first entered the ring as a professional female fighter. When asked about her first title and the emotions that came with the fact that she was a champion, Blackshear was honest about what her place was on the boxing landscape.
“It took me a few fights to feel like I really had earned it and deserved it,” she explains. Even with the IFBA title around her waist, it wasn’t until her second title defense that she started to believe she belonged. “I fought this one girl Delia (Gonzalez) who was really respected in the boxing world. She came from a boxing family and was a champion herself. When I beat her that was the moment I realized I could step into the ring and take care of myself,” Blackshear explains.
With a handful of fights under her belt and a title to her name, the future looked bright for Blackshear; however, like most fighters experience during their careers their always seems to be a few small bumps in the road along the way.
In 2000, after stringing together a 4-1 record with two title defenses, Blackshear travelled to Louisiana to face Margaret Sidoroff. Blackshear lost the fight via unanimous decision and a nine-year absence from the ring followed. It was during this time away from the sport that made Blackshear realize she had more fight in her.
“I was unfulfilled for those 9 years that I wasn’t fighting. It wasn’t necessarily by my own accord that I stopped fighting during that time, so to be able to come back after that and finish my career strong is important to me,” she explains.
As you can imagine, taking extended time off from almost anything, whether it is a sport, hobby or career, can create significant mental and physical challenges that may deter that person from completing the “comeback story” with any success.
For Blackshear, staying physically sharp and mentally strong are things she can do in her sleep. Blackshear, who is an ex-collegiate athlete, may have been away from the ring for nine years; however, she never really stopped working at her craft.
“During my break I was still training. I always knew that I could make it back I just didn’t know when,” she explains. “Boxing was always part of my life. The competition may not have been there, but for me I never stopped boxing,” Blackshear adds.
Upon her return to the boxing world, Blackshear also felt the need to make some changes to the team that was in her corner, guiding her and helping the champ get back on track.
“Jolene came to our gym in 2011. Jolene and I had a very good connection. I asked her if she wanted to continue fighting and she said yes,” Blackshear’s trainer Jose Cital tells me. “Our first fight together was down in Mexico. It was an all-women’s card and Jolene knocked the girl out in the first round,” Cital adds.
Cital was being modest when he told me that story. In fact, Blackshear knocked out her opponent Lili Barajas in just 47 seconds of round one. For Cital, who comes from a long lineage of Mexican fighters and was once a fighter himself, it was about giving Blackshear a new look inside of the ring.
Cital explains, “Coming off her break we gave her a new look from a new team. From my perspective it was about giving her a new formula, or a new way to think about boxing that helped her back.”
The new formula was working as Blackshear rattled off two wins in 2013 including her second title, which she earned by defeating Sindy Amador via split decision in Ontario, California. With the WIBA Light Flyweight title added to her resume, Blackshear faced a tough road loss to Maria Suarez at the Chumash Casino to cap off 2013 and then took on a tough fight in 2014 against undefeated Mexican fighter Kenia Enriquez, who is fighting as the co-main event at “Dangerous Diva’s.”
“We knew the Kenia (Enriquez) fight was going to be hard. It was a great fight. Win or lose San Diego got an awesome fight,” Cital explains.
Blackshear isn’t bothered by her last loss and can only look ahead to the task in front of her on September 4. Despite the setback, Blackshear knows that putting on a great show as the main event at Bobby D Presents “Dangerous Divas” will be something fans can look forward to.
Legendary boxing promoter Bobby DePhilippis, who has been recognized by the NABF (North American Boxing Federation) his stewardship in promoting female boxing with the title of “Female Fight Promoter of the Year, has welcomed Blackshear back for her second fight under the promotion and given her a main event nonetheless.
“I have only fought here (San Diego) once before and it was very humbling for Bobby D to put me on as the headliner after one fight with the promotion. I take that very seriously,” she explains.
Blackshear, a San Diego resident, is thrilled about the chance to fight in front of her hometown again and understands that being the hometown fighter can bring some challenges. When asked if she is facing any distractions with fighting in San Diego, Blackshear was sure to mention the people that mean the most to her: the fans.
“It’s really just business as usual honestly. It is exciting though. I think it is exciting for my fans to get to see me fight here,” she tells me. “I hope my fans really enjoy the show. Knowing that my fans are watching gives me the motivation to perform my best,” she adds.
So how dangerous will this diva be on September 4?
“Fireworks,” Blackshear tells me when I asked what we can expect from her upcoming bout. “Hopefully a stellar performance, aggression and poise. It’s a moment for me to shine and I take that seriously,” the two-time champion adds.
As for what’s next? This savvy veteran knows how to answer that question. “I am focused on that task at hand,” she quickly responds. Blackshear’s opponent, Susan Reno, has already fought in San Diego once and was involved in an all-out war with “Diamond Girl” Amaris Quintana last April. That is something Blackshear doesn’t take lightly.
Despite the standard response, it is obvious that Blackshear feels strongly about her abilities and future in this sport. “I would like to leave my mark. To prove who I am in boxing. To inspire others so people don’t forget what I sacrificed,” she explains.
If Blackshear’s journey were a book, I am quite confident that the ending has yet to be written. And Blackshear couldn’t agree more.
“I don’t know what the end of the story is yet. I want to get past this fight with a win and then compete for another title,” Blackshear tells me as our conversation comes to a close.
It is a very rare thing to do something at a high level for nearly 30 years. The mental fortitude and commitment to upholding the physicality required to succeed in the sport of boxing are the two things that can end a fighter’s career at any given time. For Jolene Blackshear, at the age of 44, it is certain that those are two challenges she has no problem tackling.
When talking to trainer Jose Cital, it was apparent that Blackshear has plans for another run at a belt. “Every horse can run. But only some horses are champions,” Cital tells me. I couldn’t have said it any better.
“I will rise to the occasion,” Blackshear leaves me with. And that is something I do not doubt.