Maureen Shea is looking forward to having a stellar 2022. After nearly two years of working through various impediments, the fighter from the Bronx, New York is ready to get back to business.
“I am not retired, that needs to be the topic of your article,” Shea told NYFIGHTS.
Her record stands at 29-2-1 (13 KOs) and she is currently ranked No. 4 in the WBA's bantamweight division. “I’m 40 now and I am like was in my prime. Women get better with age.”
Shea, who debuted as a pro in 2005, last fought on Jan. 17, 2020, before the pandemic rocked the world. She scored a stoppage victory over Martina Horgasz.
Shea was tabbed “The Real Million Dollar Baby” because she helped Hilary Swank at the famed and fabled Gleason's Gym in DUMBO, Brooklyn, New York get ready to look like a fighter for the 2004 Hollywood release “Million Dollar Baby.”
The hitter told us is she is eager to get back into the squared circle, and is looking for a tune-up fight early this year. She'd then like to cash in on her world ranking for a shot at Las Vegas resident Jamie Mitchell, now the WBA Bantamweight champ after she beat Brit Shannon Courtenay in October.
Shea speaks of Mitchell and I can tell her juices are flowing, as a competitor. She has a different vibe towards the women’s boxing establishment, though. She characterized herself as “really angry,” stating “I'm tired of this, of what’s going on in boxing with the females.”
Shea is angry about the WBA bantamweight title fight between Shannon Courtenay and Ebanie Bridges on a Matchroom card, featured under the Conor Benn-Samuel Vargas main event on April 10, 2020. At the time of the fight, Shea was ranked Number 2 and Shannon O’Connell was ranked 1. Courtenay was ranked 8th and Bridges was ranked No. 9. That fact that rankles Shea, who believes that she should have been given the opportunity to fight for the title against O’Connell.
“When two women and a promotor and a sanctioning body do that, all women lose, not just me,” said Shea.
That sentiment that was echoed on Twitter by former champion Susie “Q” Ramadan:
Luigi Olcese is Shea’s manager. He explained his take on the issue. “They (the WBA) ranked Shea number 1 at 118. But then Matchroom requested to do the title on a vacant championship with two girls who got ranked right before the fight. We were promised the winner,” Olcese told the writer.
At the time of their championship fight Courtenay and Bridges had only 12 fights between them, just a little more than a 1/3 of Shea’s total fight count of 33. “God Bless the both of them, but I have been where they are, 7-0 or whatever they are,” she said. “I am 29-2 with 13 knockouts, I have a high boxing IQ… they’re mediocre fighters, God Bless them, they’re mediocre fighters because they’re not there yet. I was a mediocre fighter too, until I got the experience.”
Olcese continued: “The WBA said to me that a condition of Matchroom doing the world title fight was the winner would have to face Maureen. That is what I was told. I requested it in writing, that was not given to me.”
The WBA has been widely criticized for their title shenanigans by media and fans alike, on the men's side, and so Shea is getting a taste of “equality,” it could be argued, and not in a good way. That sanctioning body has made some moves to respond to hits to their image, though, and fans have noted that they've seen some positive trending.
The WBA did not return a request for comment on Shea’s ranking.
Now, it can be argued that in this pandemic era, it's much more challenging, often, to make any fight at all, because Covid throws curveballs all over the place, renders plans void in the blink of an eye. Like when a rematch between Courtenay and Rachel Ball got set up with the victor to be crowned WBA 118 pound titlist. Ball tested Covid positive, however, so Bridges slid in and took her place. Courtnenay defeated Bridges via decision at Copper Box Arena in London to win the WBA bantamweight championship. And Ball was to be her first defense, but that pesky Covid tripped things up. Ball experienced “long Covid” symptoms, effects which kept her from returning to the ring months and months after she tested negative. So the 36 year old Mitchell secured the opportunity. This, despite the fact that she wasn't ranked at bantamweight; she was in fact ranked at super bantamweight, in the WBA's No. 9 slot.
Team Mitchell licked their chops hard when Courtenay couldn't make weight. Mitchell could claim the title if she won the fight, but Courtenay couldn't, as she parted ways with the title on the scale.
In summation, an unranked contender fought for a title against a champion who couldn’t retain it either way. Boxing logic, people…
So, Shea finds herself on the outside looking in for now. She isn't just bummed for her, she informs us, she believes this sort of activity hurts the sport as a whole. “Honestly, I think the boxing public is getting (screwed) on the reality of women’s boxing and they are only getting sold a few stories. They’re not getting sold the real stories.”
After 16 years as a professional and 23 years in the sport, Shea anxiously waits for her return to the ring, and reflects on the journey that brought her this far. “I boxed for myself to prove that I was strong, overall, to try and find myself. I fought to be respected by the men in boxing, the people in boxing and then I had to fight to be accepted and now I feel like I have to fight to be recognized…I’m tired of it. I don’t box for anyone else anymore, now it’s for me.”
Despite her frustration, she knows boxing is still her “salvation.” She clearly still loves the sport, she sees boxing as “the architect that built me.”
Some of the building was probably re-building, because Maureen has been open for a long spell about abuse she experienced as a teenager, inside a friendship-turned-romance with an older man. She didn't find and take to boxing so forcefully because she was motivated by revenge or to give herself skills at rebuffing potential episodes of physical abuse. She took up the sport to give herself the most important respect one can have, self-respect. Boxing helped her escape that relationship and helped her get in better health. She lost about 60 pounds, and further, Maureen gives credit to boxing as an anti-depressant.
By any measure, Shea has had a solid career. She has two world title victories, starred in an uplifting comeback story where she lost two fights in a row by TKO, changed head trainers, then came roaring back into the title picture ripping off 16 victories and a draw. She could easily call it a career and be proud of what she has achieved, but it is clear she feels there is more to do in boxing. We're not talking titles, no.
Her goal now is to make it on her own with a different message than what she feels has too often been fed to the public. Shea is looking to empower women in the sport to look to spread the message on why they fight, apart from the acquisition of title belts, adulation from the masses, and making bank. “How about encouraging strength, encouraging self-defense, encouraging education, elegance or owning your truth,” says Maureen Shea, fighter. “That’s what I want people to think about when they think of women’s boxing.”