Boxing has evolved in many ways throughout the years but within the last few years, women have been getting more of an opportunity to showcase their talents on bigger platforms. The lower weight classes are flooded with talent and one fighter in particular is looking to make a name for herself in the boxing world and her name is Sulem Urbina.
Sulem Urbina (10-0) is a flyweight prospect fighting out of Phoenix, AZ who is building her profile and climbing the rankings in an effort to fight for a world title in the future. Currently, she is ranked #8 with the WBA and #10 with the WBC. Sulem has a unique story and I was recently able to speak to her in an effort to share it with the world.
Without further ado, let me introduce to you flyweight prospect Sulem Urbina.
AG: Sulem, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Let’s start from the beginning and let the readers know what it was like growing up, some of the challenges you faced and when you decided to start boxing.
SU: I was born in Hermosillo Sonora, MX and at the young age of four, my family decided to bring me and my two older siblings across the border undocumented in an effort to provide us a better life than the one we had in Mexico. It was five of us living in a tiny, one bedroom apartment that my father was barely able to afford and provide food to eat. We attended a school that was a mile away and we walked to and from there every day. My brothers and I always got along really great and I always felt like I was a tomboy since I was always around boys.
One day my brothers started to get into boxing and I tagged along with them and this was when I was eleven years old. After I tagged along the first time, my brothers didn’t want to take me so that motivated me even more to keep going. My father encouraged me to keep going and I enjoyed going to the local Salvation Army Gym to box. I made friends with the kids on the boxing team that were my age and it was something that kept me busy as I had a lot of energy.
AG: Was there a specific fight or fighter that really solidified your desire to be a boxer?
SU: It wasn’t so much a fight or fighter that did it, it was the neighborhood gatherings on the weekends for the PPV fights. Someone from the neighborhood would tell everyone that they were having the PPV fight and there would be a big cookout which was a good time. It was a big Mexican tradition in my neighborhood.
AG: So you're actively boxing in the gym and are having amateur fights. How was that experience and what would you say are the biggest differences between fighting in the amateurs and in the pros?
SU: My amateur record was 96-17 and I turned pro at the age of 26. I competed for the Nationals for the first time in 2009. I was competing all over the world and representing Mexico. Honestly, competing in the amateurs and in the pros are two completely different sports. I have to admit, when I started as a pro, I did struggle with the adjustment. I was a little jumpy, didn’t set up my punches the right way, and I wasn’t that comfortable with my power. It wasn’t until my fourth or fifth fight when I started to get comfortable with my power. In amateur boxing, it's all about speed and getting started right away as in the pros, it’s more about setting up your punches and the pace is much slower. Overall all, it took me a while to adjust. I’m now able to slow things down and sit on my punches more.
AG: What is your current promotion situation?
SU: I had signed with Zanfer promotions right out of the amateurs. My contract with them recently expired and I am looking to see what my options are with either Zanfer or with other promotion companies. I’m undecided what I am going to do but for now I am a free agent.
AG: I have heard that women who box are compensated and treated better at events held in Mexico more so than they are here in the U.S. Can you elaborate on that for those that don’t know?
SU: There is a difference as women boxers are praised in Mexico. I can show up to an event in Mexico and everyone recognizes you and ask for pictures and autographs. They also treat you better and when I go to an event here in the U.S, unless you are really into boxing, they won’t know who you are. Women fighters get plenty of respect in Mexico and I feel that the U.S is a little behind when it comes to us. We also receive a lot of respect in other countries like China, Argentina and places in Europe. My fights have been televised on Azteca TV and when I do end up fighting here, I’ll probably end up fighting when no one is in the arena.
AG: The flyweight division has some big names like Seniesa Estrada, Marlen Esparza aside from the champs. Are those fights the ones you see yourself getting soon or in the near future?
SU: I think those are all fights that need to start happening. Now that I am a free agent, I have more options in regards to future fights. The Esparza fight would be a big one as we have fought in the amateurs and those fights were really good but it would have to be built up. The fans would truly love that fight if it were to happen.
AG: We have seen some women in boxing go into the world of MMA in order to be better compensated as a fighter. Is that something that you would be interested in?
SU: It’s something I have seen a lot of and of course I want to get paid better but I know what I signed up for and boxing is what I want to stick to. Boxing is what I do, it’s what I love and what I am going to stay loyal to.
AG: You have a unique situation when it comes to your trainer as he is your husband. What’s it like having your husband being your trainer and how do you guys balance that with your relationship?
SU: During training camp, it is extremely difficult. My husband is very strict on me and because I am his wife, he is that much harder on me. He definitely makes me pay for every little mistake I make in the gym. Sometimes I get really stressed out but at the end of the day, I know he wants what’s best for me. Sometimes I have a tough day at the gym and I don’t want to cook for him when I get home but I still do although I don’t talk to him for the rest of the evening. We move past it and the next day is a new day. We also have fun and I don’t think any other partner would allow or understand all of the things I do with boxing. He is in it with me 100% and the best thing is that I don’t have to pay for a personal trainer.
AG: Is there a funny story that you care to share involving you and your husband while training that bled into home life?
SU: Sometimes I just really dislike him. (Laughs) He really tries to break you down mentally and one time I got on his nerves and he kicked me out of the gym so I grabbed my bags and went to the car. We drove to the gym together so I had no choice but to just stay in the car and wait for him. The ride home consisted of me not even talking to him and just facing the window.
AG: What are some other things that you are currently working on aside from boxing?
SU: I help out at the boxing gym and do a little ring announcing here in Arizona. I also do some modeling which is pretty fun. I love being a girl and with that, I also love to cook. I cook and sell pastries on the side and after boxing, I would like to become a chef.
AG: What message do you have for kids that want to learn how to box and desire to do it full time?
SU: Boxing is a sport that you cannot be forced to do. It has to come from within and the moment you are forced to do it, you will end up getting hurt. Make sure that it is something that you truly have a passion for and have some fun while you’re doing it.
AG: Where can fans follow you and your journey?
Sulem Urbina has an interesting background with the skills and desire to become a world champion one day. The flyweight division is stacked with talent and Sulem Urbina is one of many that are gunning for that top spot. Follow her on her journey and see if she makes it to the top.