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Marlen Esparza: for revolutionizing women's boxing

To mark International Women's Day, Univision honors 15 incredible Latinas who are innovating in fields from sports to science.

This spring, boxer Marlen Esparza made the decision to go pro, after winning an Olympic bronze medal and 12 consecutive amateur national championships.

In her second professional fight she made a controversial decision. Instead of the usual two minutes for women boxers, she sought to box three-minute rounds, just as men do. Some think that women need to take additional security measures due to a higher rate of concussions, but Esparza disagrees. She thinks a third minute is important to be able to enter into a rhythm, and to better dominate an opponent. “If the men go three minutes to showcase what they do, I think the women deserve three minutes as well,” she said.

Challenging norms is nothing new for her. Esparza started boxing when she was 11 because her dad was a boxing fan, but she had to beg him for training. Many people made jokes, but nothing stopped her. "I was born to break barriers,” she says. Her style is aggressive: she always throws the first punch. Esparza was the first American woman to qualify for the Olympic Games in women’s boxing, for London 2012. As part of her training she runs every day. Sometimes it’s four miles at a steady pace, other times two miles as fast as she can. It’s always different. When she works out in Houston, her hometown, people recognize and join her. “I'd hate myself if I quit just because my journey gets difficult. So I get stronger and I fight. I don't want to, I have to,” she says.

Emma Gonzalez
For calling B.S. on the NRA
Marlen Esparza
For revolutionizing women's boxing
Germaine Franco
For bringing Mexican music to the big screen
Rita Moreno
For redefining what it means to be 86
Alianza Nacional de Campesinas
For bringing marginalized farmworker's voices into the #MeToo conversation
Diana Trujillo
For getting us closer to Mars
Princess Nokia
For infusing rap with punk rock, feminism and 'Afrolatinidad'
Candi CdeBaca
For fighting gentrification in a changing Denver
Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski
For breaking barriers in the exploration of space and time
Cristina Martínez
For daring to talk about undocumented restaurant workers
Geisha Williams
For leading California into a green energy future
Elizabeth Guzman
For taking her immigrant story to the Virginia legislature
Reyna Montoya
For encouraging undocumented youth to dream and heal
Maria Hinojosa
For putting Latino stories front and center
Gabby Rivera
For being the first queer Latina to write for Marvel Comics

Coordination: Jessica Weiss, Olivia Liendo and Allie Jaynes.

Illustrations: Grace Berríos and Jackie Albano.

Web design and development: Juan Jesús Gómez.

Editorial: Nathalie Alvaray, Tamoa Calzadilla, Juliana Jiménez, Douglas Gómez and Rogerio Manzano.

Photo Editing: David Maris.

This story was produced in collaboration with Univision Contigo, Univision's social responsibility team.