By Davy V.
When it comes to Rochester, New York, names such as former world boxing champion Charles "The Natural" Murray, boxing trainer Frankie Verna Jr., Kenny Abril and Willie Monroe Jr., are just some of the many who have contributed to it's boxing history.
Well, you can now add another name to that list.
Mercedes Vazquez Simmons.
The Rochester native is the first licensed Latina female boxing promoter in New York State.
I have known Mercedes since I was a teenager, yet I never knew that we shared a common passion.
As a child, I remember watching boxing with my Dad.
My Dad passed away many years ago, and I miss him and think of him often, and when I remember the special memories I have of my Dad, many of them include watching boxing on TV and attending live boxing events with him.
I will never forget me and my Dad cheering for our favorite boxer, and three time world champion Alexis Arguello, when he beat Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Or being so upset that I cried, when Aaron Pryor knocked Arguello out, in Miami's Orange Bowl Stadium in what would become one of the best and most controversial fights in boxing history.
Since my children never met their grandfather, and all they know about him are the stories I tell them, in many ways boxing has served as a sort of "connection" to their abuelo, where now I share with them what my Dad, their grandfather, shared with me, a love for boxing.
After working around her very busy schedule, I was able to meet up with Mercedes Vazquez Simmons at one of my favorite spots in Rochester, Mt. Hope Diner, where we talked over breakfast about her love of boxing and about becoming New York State's first Latina female boxing promoter.
First of all Mercedes, congratulations on making New York State history, as the first licensed Latina female boxing promoter.
When did you first get interested in Boxing?
Watching boxing with my father and my mother and loving the sport. When I got older I started going to professional boxing events, going to Vegas and watching some really good fights, De La Hoya, Trinidad, going to those events. I think it's inspiring watching people work so hard and have that moment, you know that moment of glory.
How did you decide to become a promoter?
About three years ago I decided to look into being a promoter, somehow being involved and how could I bring it back to Rochester. We really haven't had a high caliber show or class boxing here in Rochester so that was something that I really focused on, was getting something in Rochester.
People have been saying that your fresh face is just what was needed to provide an infusion, a refreshing look to Rochester's boxing scene. What do you want to bring to your hometown?
I'll tell you that Marketing 101 is to make sure that you are constantly refreshing yourself, I think what's happened with boxing is that it allowed itself to become complacent, it was just fine the way it was and for years and years it worked but with so many different obstacles coming in, now you have different competition, different mediums that are now sort of diluting the marketplace.
I think with boxing as a whole, we need to revamp, we need a different marketing strategy that will bring in a younger generation and remind the older generation of how fabulous this was.
It's great to see Hip Hop artist 50 Cent get his boxing promoter's license, because it brings an entire new segment to boxing. This is the younger generation that doesn't know about the De Da Hoyas, the Trinidads etc., because it wasn't during their lifespan if you will, so this is bringing a new segment of viewers to the sport of boxing, so I think it's just a natural progression, it's just taking some time for it to happen.
You see companies refreshing their logos, getting a new image, celebrities do it, Madonna, how many times has she transformed? So it's just a matter of getting a revamp and giving it a new life and a new energy, and I think that's what boxing needs.
What obstacles if any, have you, first as a woman, and now as the first licensed Latina female boxing promoter in New York, have had to overcome?
This is a male dominated industry and I think my major objective is gaining the respect because I am a female and I'm running this promotional company, Pretty Girl Productions which will be putting events together.
I'm not new to management. I work for a large cable company and have a large sales organization, from working with Corporate level executives down to the janitor of the building, that's something that I do and I take pride in being able to work with different people from all levels, but I know that I have to prove myself.
I attended The Summer Throwdown, your first boxing event, where Rochester's own Willie Monroe Jr. and Kenny Abril put on great fights earning victories in front of a hometown crowd, and where history was made on a couple of different levels. First, you being the first Latina female boxing promoter in New York State, and also Irish boxer Patrick Hyland, who won his 27th fight, setting a record in his country of Ireland for the most undefeated fights. What goes into setting up an event like this?
This is several months worth of planning, at least four months. Selecting a venue, contracts, finding the right fighters, and making sure that they're compatible. We have logistical items with management teams, then we have the venue to contend with, so there's a ton of stuff. Then, most importantly, is how do you promote it, and be effective at promoting it.
There's a statistic out there that says major companies invest millions of dollars with maybe a two percent return, so we know that upfront there's risks, but if you put everything in perspective, it's worth it. The long hours, countless meetings at off hours of the day, it's all worth it. But it's alot of work that's involved. We want to give the public a quality show.
Historically, Rochester, NY news media outlets, channel 8, 10, 13, YNN News and Rochester's Democrat and Chronicle newspaper, overall have not supported boxing in Rochester. As a boxing promoter, what are your thoughts on this?
You know I have given this quite some thought as to why we didn't get the coverage, for example, at the weigh in.
I would hate to think that some of this stuff is racially motivated, being that we have overcome so many obstacles as just the human race, but often people will tell you that if it's not newsworthy they don't want to cover it, so they have these parameters and it's unfortunate, that Latinos, if there isn't any violence, if there isn't something connected with it, they (the media) don't cover it.
It's unfortunate, but it seems to be the trend. What I hope to do is to show that Latinos are able to put together a quality show that's absent of violence, that's absent of all these things, but as a Latino group it's that whole 80/20 rule. You have this whole population, only 20% of the population may be doing things that may be inappropriate and that's what they (the media) focus on.
I'm hoping to show them to shift the cameras, and their focus, from the negative to all the positive. Like the quality professional boxers we have, such as Willie Monroe Jr. and Kenny Abril, I mean these are awesome. As Rochestarians, Latinos and African Americans, we should be very proud of that.
Rochester as a whole, it's not just a minority thing, as Rochestarians, we should be very proud of our local athletes.
It's unfortunate, but I'm hoping things turn around, and I think all we can do is keep asking the media why aren't they there. I always tell everyone, use social media, use facebook to ask why isn't the Rochester, NY media supporting boxing in Rochester. Start pointing the finger and ask why aren't you guys here to cover this?
What advise can you give to other women interested in entering the Sports Entertainment industry, which historically has been run mostly by men.
I would say take the time and research. It took me three years to get to the point where I'm at now.
When I actually made the decision that this was what I wanted to do, I met with as many people in the industry as possible. I met with managers, and promoters. I met with New York State. I went to different states and saw how they ran their operations and then made the decision.
I think if you don't do that, if you don't do the homework, then you're in for failure. So do your homework.
And then finally, you're going to get alot of naysayers. Use that as your source of energy. There's going to be naysayers and there's going to be people that don't want you to do well in itself.
Take that negative energy and turn it into positive energy, and redefine what it is you want to do.
There are going to be obstacles in general, stay focused.
That's the main thing.
As a boxing fan, I am always looking for boxing related stories to write about, especially since mainstream media is not interested in covering them.
I can be reached at (585) 474-2316 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org