Babes in the Business of Boxing: A Series of Interviews with the Fearless Women Making their Mark on the Industry

By Raquel Vasquez
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Rocsi Diaz

The face of boxing happens to be a beautiful one. Every boxing event you watch will have one of these women in front or behind the camera. There’s no doubt after interviewing all four of these women in different times and places, that no one can question or wonder how they got to their current positions.All I could say to myself was: good thing I’m not some stuttering newbie.

These are the kind of women that do not ask for permission. These are the kind of women that don’t need a gang of girls to go with them to the restroom. My story will take you through four highly successful women’s experiences in the business of boxing. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Michelle Joy Phelps, founder of Behind the Gloves, presenter for the Inaugural World Boxing Super Series, and Sky Sports Boxing Toe2Toe Correspondent, is the kind of cool chick you want to go have a beer with right away. Easy on the eyes, her middle name says it all. She is a joy to speak with.

Michelle Joy Phelps

I was privy to be one of the first people in her new you-space studio in downtown LA. In the heart of the Fashion District, in an old building there’s a completely remodeled floor with beautiful stark white walls and state of the art hardware. Michelle is really tall, her stature immediately reminding you of her modeling days. Michelle didn’t know she wanted to be a voice for the sport of boxing. Michelle’s story starts with a drinking night at a bar. Without any careful considerations, she made a candid raw video commentary on the Pac-Man vs Bradley #1 fight and posted it on her personal YouTube channel. She woke up to thousands of comments. BINGO, she had figured out her future in a completely organic way.

Michelle literally carved out her own position. She set herself a two-year goal, and financed her own agenda. Michelle faced a character assassination online. Everything from what she was wearing, to her hair, to how she spoke was criticized. She figured out very fast that she wasn’t being heard. In this circumstance having been a model was detrimental. She was once praised for “doing her job quietly in the corner.” Meaning, you can’t be a beautiful girl and do any kind of networking… oh no, that would mean she was looking for a boyfriend.

Michelle Joy Phelps

Michelle notes that the timing was perfect for her YouTube channel. “YouTube was at its peak.” Michelle is a completely self-made business woman with no formal education. She just smiles now at the memory of a cringe moment, “I wanted to die.” seems a little extreme when remembering her big blooper, a simple name stammer. Michelle noted, “there used to be no women to interview. Women in boxing are on the rise, let’s see if there is some investment in these female boxers.” It’s been a solo road for Michelle on her career path in boxing and no names came to mind when asked if any women had supported her. “A woman can ask the same question as a man, but you’ll get a different response.”

The aha moment for Michelle was found in the comments of her YouTube channel with over 100k subscribers, “Now it’s about the interview and not about me!” Be sure to download her app Behind the Gloves.

Cynthia Conte : Ring Magazine and 360 Promotions Correspondent Commentator and Host. At first sight you might think she’s a popstar, but don’t let the glitter fool you. She’s a graduate of California State University Fullerton, where she received her BA in Radio, Television, & Film Communications. Cynthia is not the poised lady that you see for no reason. She was a sorority girl and pageant queen! She’s a perfectionist with high energy and a smile that just won’t quit.

After college she couldn’t get a job, so she continued her education and attended SMC for broadcasting & hosting. She soon was hired as a weather girl on channel 5. Cynthia faced rejection several times and mentioned that her dad schooled her on how to get better, how to learn. Cynthia had a huge motivating support system that started at home. Cynthia, during and after college, had already been a business owner and owned two boxing gyms. Her sister had been working with fighters in training camps, and that’s where experience and timing came into play. Her big break came by way of Dominic Verdan from Ring Magazine who complimented her voice, and encouraged her.

Cynthia Conte

She landed her first interview with Gennady Golovkin or as we know him Triple G! She was hired to co-host with Jess Rosales for Canelo vs GGG 2. Never before in the history of boxing had two female hosts been televised. That fight has since been voted Fight of the Year 2018. She explained, “Jess Rosales supported me and encouraged me. Women need to work together.”

“Men have a love hate relationship with women and boxing.” Cynthia, like so many other women in business, was once treated inappropriately by a trainer during an interview. She has dealt with comments that have been mean, insulting and hateful. She’s been told women don’t belong in boxing. It would take so much more than a keyboard-bully to waiver this powerhouse.

Cynthia Conte

This year Cynthia was flown to the Philippines to be honored by receiving the coveted WBC Medal for Service in Boxing Media at the 3rd Annual WBC Women’s Convention. She is the official host for 360 Promotions Hollywood Fight Nights. Cynthia remembers one of her cringe moments of calling her talent by the completely wrong name. She explained, “You have to believe in yourself and never stop!” Cynthia has had the honor to call the Superfly Fight Night undercards with Doug Fischer the editor for Ring Magazine and boxing genius/historian, and is the first woman to ever host HBO’s Official Weigh-Ins. She made history for that because it happened to be the final HBO boxing telecast. Cynthia’s next move is creating her own platform. “The time for women is now!” Her own words have never been truer.

Nancy Rodriguez , founder and Senior Executive Director of Supreme Boxing, and Public Relations and Support for the World Boxing Council, is the winning combination: beautiful and smart. She’s all insight, intuition and ambition. Nancy has a passion to work, and says, “There’s no time for a pity party, we’ve got to work together.” Nancy didn’t start out in boxing, but had been a lifelong boxing fan. Nancy has always been a career woman and got her experience in public relations from the music industry. Soon that same ambition and forceful drive had her doing the same thing for fighters.

Her ingenuity with her clients has been revered and cannot be duplicated or imitated. Boxing has taken Nancy around the world. She has done everything from literally hitting the streets with her fighters, to putting on amateur boxing shows, to volunteer work, to being an MC. Nancy has been in front of the camera,  behind the camera. She’s even been to the left and to the right of the camera! One of my most poignant questions of this interview was: have you ever been confronted by a non-supporter misogynist boxing fan in or out of the industry? All of the women have answered yes. Nancy was blatantly laughed at by a man who questioned what she was doing at a boxing event. She had been hired as a supervisor (nothing to laugh at whatsoever).

Nancy is highly appreciated and recognized in the world of boxing. She is an inductee into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame. She was recognized for the special commendation award. Her awards and accolades in her office will make you gasp. Her wish for women in the future is one of the top answers given, “For women to receive fair and equal pay!” Just like the rest of us, Nancy has made her mistakes along the way and remembers giving arch enemies each others named gifts. A key note in Nancy’s interview was when she said, “Amateur fighters need to come out and support; the women boxers also need to come out and support the boxers and events!” Carol Stiedler a first in management in her own right, was a positive influence and supporter of Nancy. She also thanks Michelle Corales of the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame. Nancy is a non-stop business woman with goals, projects, events, and so much going on, she could run the country.

Rocsi Diaz- Commentator for Golden Boy Boxing Promotions, and Emmy winning TV Host and Actress, is a serious mofo that doesn’t mess around. There’s never going to be any stopping this woman. We agreed to meet in the San Fernando Valley at 9 AM on a chilly morning. Rocsi and I sat together with cappuccinos and had a solid interview. Rocsi is not afraid to drop an F bomb and I loved that!

She has had an amazing career in TV, radio, and film. “I had a great ride in radio,” Rocsi explained. Her career started in radio and she is best known for her 106 & Park Show. I could go on and list all of the things that Rocsi has done but let’s get to the facts, Rocsi is an Emmy-winning journalist. To call her “new” to anything would be a huge mistake. She was already very well established when her agent saw an opening for her at Golden Boy Boxing Promotions. Her manager submitted her as a candidate for the Golden Boy position because Rocsi has always been a boxing fan. “Boxing brought my family together on fight night,” she explained.

On advice to women in business, Rocsi said “News is news, do your research, know your business, be prepared.” With all of her radio, and TV experience Rocsi says, “I never thought I would be in boxing and every time I sit with Oscar I’m still a little bit starstruck.” She didn’t arrive at boxing as anything other than a veteran journalist. “Entertainment tonight really groomed me. Entertainment Tonight was very pro-female. Linda Bell was an executive producer, and Penny McDowell, they helped groom me and encouraged me.” As for any women in boxing that helped her, she said she didn’t know any women in boxing, and still doesn’t.

Rocsi says she has never stepped into the ring without doing her research. “Thanks to New York I give zero fucks, and I’ve always had a thick skin.” As an actress going on auditions, rejections are the norm. She’s had to deal with boxers doubting her knowledge and, clearly showing that with an attitude while she’s interviewing them. “Women have it 10 times harder, we are paid less and we have to know more because someone’s going to take a shot at you.” In an interview with champion fighter Miguel Cotto she went out on a limb and really pushed for the interview. He clearly did not want to be interviewed, but she got him to smile and got her job done! I think one of the most passionate things that Rocsi said throughout our interview was, “To be successful you have to be selfish, that means sacrificing relationships, time with your family. Your career has to come before everything.” Rocsi is also adding producer to her roster of outstanding talents.

Crystina Poncher, reporter, host and commentator for Top Rank Boxing, is a rare breed. Crystina knew exactly what she wanted to do since the age of 11. After graduating with honors from Long Beach State with a BA in Broadcast Journalism, she established herself in the NFL, and Fox Sports with hard relentless work. Her goal was to be a sideline reporter for the Lakers, and never dreamed she would end up in boxing. Although Crystina had a welcomed start in the industry, she hasn’t been exempt from character bashing. On live TV during an interview she once had an athlete flash her a bare ass as the team laughed and carried on. Did Crystina have virgin eyeballs, of course not, but would a male reporter get that treatment?

Crystina Poncher

On women in boxing, Crystina says, “Male boxers respect the female boxers, but the women fighters don’t get enough publicity. Women in boxing need more opportunities.” Many women come to mind when I asked if any women had helped her in her career. Lindsay Rhodes from the NFL Network, Bonnie Wilson from Fox Sports, & Claudia Trejos from ESPN were all positive peers. “Equal pay,” was Crystina’s response, a familiar answer amongst these women when asked what would you like to see women accomplish in the future? Her advice for women, “Work very hard and always be prepared. Carry yourself in a way others have no choice but to respect you.” Crystina most definitely has our respect. Watch out for her with Top Rank and ESPN and their fresh business deal.

Crystina Poncher

These women are role models and influencers. Women in the workplace have always faced discrimination. Even still, women have operated as editors, reporters, sports analysts and journalists even before the 1890’s. To think that the road was paved in the years of late would be naive and a gross dismissal to the many strong women before us.

We must honor the pioneer women in sports journalism. Anita Martini, the first woman to ever cover MLB in 1973. Leslie Candice Visser, the first female NFL Sportscaster 1976. Amy Faye Hayes first female Ring Announcer 2001. This story is dedicated to them and the many women like them worldwide.
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