A year ago, we heard whispers, but not many had Stephanie Simon on their radar on the amateur boxing scene.
The American hero, who is a part of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, found her way into the sport of boxing and began competing. Not unlike a movie script, Joseph Higgins, who is best known for his fighter, Patrick Day's passing in a prize fight and seemingly had left the sport for good, connected with Simon. The two created a bond, and that bond now might be formulating a 2024 Olympian, as Simon has the unique opportunity of fighting for the United States in two different ways in her life.
Simon had fought periodically at nationals prior to the pandemic, but since the COVID-19 shutdown, Simon really began to compete in boxing; a win over a tough contender in her division like Carson Crawford, showed that she is a suitable and serviceable fighter at the national level. But a loss to Sharahya Moreu, long considered one of the best women's boxers in the country, felt like Simon had potentially hit her ceiling. No fault of her own, but often very good fighters run into long-standing decorated amateurs and become gravity guys or gals. They ascend to a certain point but then come back to earth when facing the 100+ amateur fight, multiple-time national champion fighter.
Yet, in August of 2021, Simon drew comparisons to Marvin Hagler, as her style might not be pretty, but it was highly effective. After two early wins in Tulsa, she defeated Sharahya Moreu enroute to winning the Golden Gloves. This was followed by a landmark statement by Stephanie Simon, who stopped the tournament favorite Ariana Carrasco, and the talk of the previous national tournament, Arika Skoog. Back-to-back stoppage wins as Simon won the 2021 USA Boxing tournament at nationals.
To understand what Simon did is quite unheard of. The closest example would be Hector Luis Garcia, a decorated fighter, but rather an unknown fighter, dominating Chris Colbert, but that isn't even a fair comparison.
This year, Simon has been waiting to compete as she lost to Morelle McCane, who might be her rival for the Olympic spot. McCane is the puzzle Simon has yet to figure out, as Ohio boxers are typically the best amateur fighters in the country, and McCane is from Ohio. That said, Simon won all three of her fights in Lubbock, Texas, to defend her national title and defeat a fighter who competed at the Olympic Trials in 2019, Stacia Suttles.
The win means Simon has secured her spot in the Olympic Trials in 2023, but more so, the American hero continues to add to her incredible journey. Simon is something I haven't seen before, a testament to hard work, self-belief, and unwillingness to be defined by society's norms on what an athlete needs to accomplish to be great. Simon is taking everything and earning her respect.