By Thomas Gerbasi
It’s the biggest week women’s boxing has ever seen, and there’s no way Alicia Napoleon wasn’t going to be a part of it, even if it meant fighting on a Wednesday night.
“It’s definitely an awkward night to fight on,” laughed the WBA super middleweight champion, who will face Eva Bajic in an eight-round non-title bout at Sony Hall in NYC tonight.
But after being on the sidelines since a win over Hannah Rankin last August, Napoleon wasn’t going to get picky about what day of the week she was fighting on.
“At this point, I don’t care if it’s a Monday morning, I’ll fight,” she said. “So I’m definitely excited to be on this card, it’s a great card, it’s great talent and you’ll also hear me commentating that night, as well.”
For the record, Napoleon is sticking to commentating on the Broadway Boxing card (which airs on UFC Fight Pass) after her fight, but many believe that she could do it before as well, considering that Serbia’s Bajic enters the bout with a 14-16 record. And yeah, that’s not worth a title shot, but the 34-year-old has been in with stellar competition over the years, including Layla McCarter, Delfine Persoon, Ivana Habazin and Mikaela Lauren, so she’s not being taken lightly by “The Empress.”
“I never underestimate any opponent, no matter what their record says, no matter how they look on tape,” she said. “In this sport, you never know. Every day is different to all people, so I respect everyone I step in the ring with. I’ve taken a look at some of her footage and she’s a respectable opponent. She’s a little awkward, but she definitely has ring generalship, she’s got good legs, and I’m not taking her lightly. And it’s gonna be the same throughout my career. It’s what got me to be a champion, so why fix what’s not broken?”
In short, it’s the perfect “keep busy” bout for the New Yorker, who will keep her name in the news on the week Claressa Shields faces Christina Hammer in a highly anticipated middleweight unification bout.
“They’re two awesome fighters, two world champions and it’s one of the great fights,” Napoleon said of Shields-Hammer. “But every woman is training just as hard and trying to accomplish the same thing. I’m a world champion, other girls are world champions, Christina and Claressa are world champions and they’re gonna meet with us as well and those fights are going to be just as respected and they should be because we’re not that much different from one another and we’re fighting for the same things.”
And for the record, Napoleon weighed in at 156.2 pounds for her bout with Bajic, so obviously getting down to the middleweight limit is no issue, making her a very interested observer when the bell rings on Saturday in Atlantic City.
“For sure, because those are girls that I’m gonna be stepping in the ring with,” she said. “I watch all boxing closely because I enjoy it and I love it, and every fight helps me – male or female – but these are two women we’ll definitely end up meeting. I’m sure I’m gonna get in the ring with both of them, so I’ll be there live, sitting ringside and in support of both women and also doing my homework and doing my job as a champion.”
It’s clearly a good time to be Alicia Napoleon, newly married and building her brand outside the ring as a businesswoman while building her resume as a champion between the ropes. But is it a good time to be a female boxer? Napoleon believes it is.
“It is a good time and it’s just gonna get better and better and better,” she said. “I think we’ll reap the benefits, finally. Katie Taylor just fought in a unification fight and she got paid a decent purse and those are the purses we should be seeing and they should be increasing from that amount. This is the fight at the end of the day. We’re women, we’re fighting, no different from the men. And we’re not paid the same. We need to be paid the same, and there’s no reason why female world champions should be working a full-time job trying to make a day’s pay and still be a professional athlete when we’re world champions. It’s just not fair, it’s just not right, it’s just not ethical. It needs to change. It is starting to change; let’s hope it continues that way.”