Maureen Shea: High Profile Venues, Low Profile Opponents

19.03.07 - Bernie McCoy: On Friday night at the Theater in Madison Square Garden, featherweight Maureen Shea raised her professional boxing record to 10-0. It was essentially business as usual for the self proclaimed "New Million Dollar Baby" as Shea stopped Eva Silva via TKO in the third round of a scheduled eight round bout on the Irish Ropes' "Erin Go Brawl" card. This bout marked Shea's second appearance at the Garden in a career that has also included a fight underneath a Evander Holyfield PPV event. It was, likewise, business as usual for a Shea foe, as Silva (4-6), who arrived at the Garden with three straight losses and without a win in over two years, was, from the outset, a clearly overmatched opponent..

More than a few years ago a neighborhood guy known locally as Jimmy "the Saint" Flood (who would later serve as a prototype for the main character in a very undervalued Andy Garcia movie) told me, "Remember one thing, it ain't what the number is, it's what the number means and sometimes that number means nothing."

Keeping that pearl of Flatbush wisdom in mind, it's tempting to view Maureen Shea's 10-0 record as more than a bit overvalued. Shea's ten opponents have had a cumulative record of 18-28; only two of the ten have had winning records and both those fighters were coming off losses heading into the Shea bout. Her first four wins, in the ten win streak, were against fighters without a victory. An arguable case can be made that Maureen Shea has yet to face a competitive fighter. (Shea has a no-contest on her record, a May 2006 six round bout against Kim Colbert, originally adjudged a UD for Colbert, later changed to NC when Colbert failed a post-fight drug test. Colbert came into that fight with three straight losses and a 2-10 record.)

Maureen Shea has been boxing professionally for slightly over eighteen months, following an extensive and largely successful amateur career. Shea is an articulate, intelligent, gracious athlete and from the start of her professional boxing career has been guided by Luigi Olcese and Hector Roca, both experienced and highly capable New York ring mentors. Olcese and Roca have brought their fighter along with what can fairly be described as exactly the pace they believe her talent in the ring merits. Such strategy is as it should be, in fact it is the obligation of every trainer and manager in the sport to carefully guide their fighter thru her career, an obligation adhered to by at least a majority of the overseers of fighters in the sport of Women's boxing. Thus, while it is without merit to question the game plan of those charged with a fighter's career path, it is, nonetheless, valid to question a fighter's position in the boxing hierarchy based on what some might consider a "soft" record.

In the run-up to the Silva bout, there was considerable talk about Maureen Shea's ranking, by the WBA, as the "number one" featherweight. This lofty position is tempered somewhat by the fact that, in the boxing community, the WBA, given their modest bona fides in the sport of Women's boxing, is not the first sanctioning body that comes to mind when one seeks to determine the relative ranking of female boxers. In the more recognized rating systems, Shea is listed as the seventh ranked featherweight according to the NABF, the WIBA ranks her tenth in the super-featherweight division, Boxrec lists Shea as the number three super-featherweight and the latest WBAN top ten rankings for the featherweight and junior featherweight divisions do not include Shea. How significant are those rankings? They're opinions, pure, simple and sometimes biased, but they're opinions, nothing more, sometimes less. Here's mine.

Maureen Shea could be a very talented boxer. I hope she is. The sport of Women's boxing cannot have too many talented boxers, particularly those who can also serve as articulate and effective advocates for a sport that needs all the help it can get from its athletes. But here's a fact: Maureen Shea's next competitive professional boxing match will be her first. She has yet to be in a professional boxing ring against a quality fighter and until that happens, the issue of just how good a boxer Maureen Shea is remains an open question. Until Shea goes beyond performing against overmatched opponents in big time venues and is showcased against big time competition, all the opinions about rankings, all the talk about a long ago movie, all the blurbs about the Bronx, are just that: opinions, talk and blurbs and those matter nothing at all once the bell rings. Maureen Shea has had a spotlight on her since the beginning of her professional career and outside the ring she has handled that spotlight in a thoroughly graceful fashion. In the ring, to date, that spotlight has never been shared by any of Shea's opponents and that situation needs to change if Maureen Shea is to be seriously considered for a spot among the top ranked fighters in the sport.

Maureen Shea has won ten times in the professional ring and she has done it in some high visibility venues against some low visibility opponents. As a result, unless and until she competes in the ring against good fighters with good records, not 2-1 nor 6-4 records and certainly not 1-5 and 4-6, until she does it against fighters with quality resumes who come into the ring with a string of wins instead of losing streaks, until Maureen Shea takes her unbeaten record into the ring against a quality fighter in a competitive bout rather than the type of opponents she has rolled up ten wins against, those ten wins are just numbers and those kind of numbers, as Jimmy "the Saint" noted those many years ago, mean little or nothing.

Article posted on 20.03.2007

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