Femmefan.com interviews with Alicia “Slick” Ashley, one of the most unique and talented fighters in women’s boxing today. By, Michael-Ann Rowe.Alicia “Slick” Ashley, (13-7-1) won her first home fight beating Delia Hoppe of Dominican Republic.
Q: Alicia, you’re beautiful, you have a degree in Computer Systems, you’ve won scholarships to Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham dance schools. Why boxing?
A: I never had a dream to become a boxer. Boxing was a progression of another sport, karate. But, even before that, I started dancing when I was six—my father is a choreographer and my life was dancing—until I got injured. After the injury, I started doing karate. I wanted more of a challenge, and started kickboxing. My first kickboxing match I fought a boxer. In kickboxing, you have to kick eight times per round and then you can use your hands; so when [my opponent] started boxing, I didn’t know what to do ‘cause I was all legs. So I had to learn to box to get better at kickboxing.
Q: They call you Alicia “Slick” Ashley. How did you get that name?
A: My name is “Slick” because of my movements, and that of course is because of my dance background. I’m very light on my feet, really quick and I don’t want to get hit!
(Laughs) It’s funny, you watch a lot of boxers and they stand there just to get hit, just to throw a punch, and I am not like that.
Q: With this kind of diverse background, how do you think other people perceive you?
A: I know a lot of my opponents don’t like fighting me because they think I’m too slick, they think I’m an awkward fighter. I’m not traditional, so if they do fight me, it’s because they have to. I’m also a South Paw! So that’s another additive.
Q: Do people take you more serious than others?
A: They take me very serious. I’ve got a lot of people who, when you call them up to fight, they say “no-no, not right now.” (She grins and laughs.) And I’m kind of happy about that. But I’d rather have more fights.
Q: There are many women who go into the ring because of abuse, or some kind of hardship. Do you feel like you’re in a different league?
A: I think the difference is that they need something to boost their self-confidence, and with me, I was already confident. I was never pulled down, and I come from a strong family where women are the matriarch and are very strong. My grandmother raised us, while my mother came to the USA to work. But, once they do get it, women love to. They have anger too, which I don’t have, so they have that advantage over me.
Q: Where were you born?
A: Born in Jamaica , and brought up in Brooklyn , New York .
Q: When you go into the ring, is it more about winning a great fight or a more about a KO?
A: Actually I never think KO, I’m not that fighter, because I’m a mover. My brother tells me I don’t have the killer instinct. I might overwhelm you with punches, but I never think about a KO. For me, I actually like to make people look silly (smiles).
I really think of it as a performance—it goes back to dance again. I don’t think my fans would come to see me if the fight stopped in two rounds.
Q: You were training with Hector Roca, who’s trained many celebrities—the latest being Hillary Swank, but now you’re with your brother, Devon. What is Devon doing that Hector Roca didn’t do?
A: I actually started out with my brother on karate, kickboxing, and boxing. When I started boxing, we were butting heads and at that time, Hector was a better trainer; my brother and I needed space. With Hector, there was no familiarity in it, no family, no Father, no brother. It was easy for me to take instructions from him.
When I was able to grow, I went back to my brother. With my brother, he knows what buttons to push. After each fight—we go, we look at the tape and I’ll say I really want to learn this, and he’s willing to work on that. At one point, I had a terrible “inside” fight, but I wanted to move and mix it up “inside”; it’s just something you really have to practice and learn. Hector at that time, was not willing to do that because I was getting hit a lot more. But in order to become well rounded you have to learn everything and my brother was willing to teach me that. We have a better relationship because of that time off.
Q: You have a sweet list of career highlights!
A: Yes, the first was getting a scholarship at Alvin Ailey Dance School. I also danced at the Apollo. My second would be black belt karate—I have a second degree in black belt. I also won a kickboxing championship the night before I fought and won a “Golden Glove” at Madison Square Garden!
Q: Nice! You turned pro in 99’, what’s the difference between your amateur and pro career?
A: The difference is that I have to fight a lot more as an amateur. I had a pro style as an amateur fighter. As an amateur, you need to be a lot more aggressive—throw a lot more punches. They don’t care if you hit harder or lighter, but in the pros it’s more about accurate punches and how hard you hit. So my style is much better as a pro, except I don’t get as many fights. I wish I was amateur at this time, just because I could compete more.
Q: What did your parents say when you told them you wanted to “be a Boxer?”
A: I didn’t really tell them (grins). I was 28 when I started boxing, so there wasn’t really anything they could do about it. My father was sad because I could no longer dance. My mom doesn’t like me boxing. I used to come home from karate class and she had the ice pack waiting; never said anything, but she gave me the ice pack. She loved me and supported me quietly.
Q: Did they ever ask, “How are you going to make a living at boxing!?”
A: There was never anything in that sense because I have a degree in Computer Systems and I worked my way through college. The question before, was how was I going to make any money dancing! When I was going to go to the Dance School of the Arts, my brother, Maurice, said, “You might get injured, so you need to get an education!”
Q: How does Alicia Ashley or anyone make money boxing?
A: Well at this time, I’m not making money boxing, that’s why I have a full time job training boxers. I train people, and then I box on the side (grins), that’s how I have to think about it at this time.
Q: One would think that turning pro means more money.
A: That is not the case at all, not in the USA. In Europe, women are able to make a lot more money, that’s why I end up fighting away—the women actually headline a lot of fights. In Germany, the most famous fights are for women. Regina Halmich makes up to a million dollars. I have three world titles. If I was male—easily six figures, as a female, I’m hard pressed to get five figures. So that discrepancy between male and female is huge is this county.
Q: “Million Dollar Baby,” how much of an impact did that movie have on women’s boxing?
A: It definitely impacted women’s boxing. After the movie, there was an influx of women—a large variety of women coming into the gym. Women’s boxing is so much on the rise, because I think the spectators were starting to get bored with the sport, and with the influx of women, they revitalized the sport. You see the same happened in tennis, and soccer; the women revitalized the sport! We need to watch more women, because they are exciting to watch.
The IOC ruled against including women’s boxing at the 2008 Olympics but, they are taking a more serious look for 2012.
Q: What is it going to take for women to gain more respect and recognition in this sport?
A: It’s up to the media to show more fights. HBO is not showing women’s fighting, and their premise is that there are not any great women boxers, but there are! If you say you’re going to show it, they’ll fight each other!
At this moment, Laila Ali has another woman in her weight class who is a phenomenal fighter, Anne Wolfe, and everyone wants to see that fight. If a big name venue shows it, everyone will watch it. My fight is still being shown in Europe . I actually had people come from Ukraine and China who said they saw my fight. To get the general public to watch more women’s boxing, it needs to be shown more.
Q: Speaking of Laila, why are you not on “Dancing with the Stars?”
A: (Big laugh) I wish I could. I’d be there in a second, but I was a professional dancer.
Q: Are you watching it?
A: Yes, I tape it!
Q: Give us your take on how Laila’s doing?
A: She’s doing very well. You see her as a strong individual, now her femininity is coming through. It’s great to see her attack and you see how competitive she is; she’s definitely out to win.
Q: She’s got some competition, give her one tip on staying in that game.
A: I think she has to get a little softer—that’s it- that’s her hardest chore—because she’s got sexy down, all the Tango, the Rumba, she’s got that down; but it’s whenever you see the other stuff that she all of a sudden looks managed, instead of using her softer side.
Q: You’ve got a big birthday coming up, going on 40; what’s in the cards for Alicia Ashley?
A: When people ask I say, “well, I’m not getting slower”…I feel I still have so much more to learn. I still plan on fighting. I’m in the World Combat League, Chuck Norris’s league, so I started kickboxing again. It’s kind of going full circle because I want to start dancing again (not competitively), but want to take dance classes.
I have an after school program that I started. I go to a school in Bed Stuy and I teach boxing to teenage girls aged 12-14. That’s where it starts. I like teaching, it’s in my family, my father, grandmother, brother; we like giving back and whatever I know, I’m going to pass it on.