Jamaican born Alicia “Slick” Ashley is the current Super Bantam Weight Boxing Champion of the world. She has to date held five world championships and at 48 years of age, has been entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for the oldest boxing champion ever.
On Oct. 29 this year she reclaimed the WBC title after fighting Ireland’s Christina McMahon (7-0) at Aviator Sports & Events Center in New York City. Some 13 months ago she lost to Jackie Nava in Mexico.
However, her initial dream was to become a dancer. “I started off as a dancer at the tender age of six. My father was a dancer, so I was following in his footsteps. I was born in Jamaica and migrated to the states when I was 11.”
Ashley received a dance scholarship and studied at Martha Graham as well as Alvin Ailey. At the same time, her oldest brother was studying karate and wanted her to get into it. Ashley had no interest in Karate until she got injured when she tore her meniscus. No longer able to dance, she turned to karate for exercise. Being a natural performer, she began doing competitions and later on transitioned to kickboxing. Her first match was against a boxer. “I really didn’t know what to do when she started punching me because I was so used to using my legs; I was flustered! I really started boxing just to get better at kickboxing.” Ashley competed in both boxing and kickboxing for five years, until she began receiving opportunities in boxing that convinced her to go professional.
Fast forward to the numerous world titles and records, when asked whether or not competing is still fresh for her, she answered, “I’ll tell you that it never gets old at all. People are saying, ‘Well, now that you’ve won this title, are you ready to retire?’ My answer is no, not at all. I actually don’t feel as if I’ve accomplished anything as yet. It feels new each time; different belts, different accomplishments.”
However, with five title reigns, what more is there for Ashley to accomplish? She explains, “Well, I’ve won five world titles, but who knows me aside from those who really follow boxing? I’m actually more well known in other countries like Mexico than I am in the United States. I’m televised and headlined everywhere else except the United States. I’m just now getting more well known in my homeland of Jamaica because I’ve been nominated as Sports Woman of the year for the past few years, but they’ve never seen me fight.”
Ashley attributes this lack of showcasing in contrast to her male counterparts to promotional practices. “There is a tendency to not showcase females in a majority of sports; not just boxing. However, in boxing there is still the old boys club that only focus on the men in boxing. The younger grass roots promoters, however, are more willing to promote women in the sport.”
She also discussed how this plays a role in the economics of boxing. “When I’m here, I have to sell my own tickets, not just for me, but also for my opponent who may be from another state or country. I have to cover both of our purses, which means that if I want $10,000, I have to sell $30,000 worth of tickets. This is due to the fight not being advertised and televised. It is more monetarily lucrative to fight outside of the country because its televised and sponsored by companies like Corona.”
She continued, “There is the idea that women fighting don’t draw a crowd, but we see that argument debunked with the recent Rousey vs Holms fight. We’ve also seen it with Laila Ali and Christy Martin. What needs to happen is a female boxing match included on every card to get people used to the idea of female boxing. I can tell you that female boxing matches are just as exciting, if not more exciting than the guys!”
Looking at what’s next on the horizon for her boxing career, Ashley said, “I’m still viable in the sport and I’m looking forward to fighting more regularly. There’s a few world titles I’m interested in. I would like to go back to the heyday of when they were unifying titles. I would love for the sanctioning bodies to make that happen. I like the big names like the WBA, WBC and IBF. I would like to consolidate those titles. Also, there are six of us here at Gleason’s Gym that are world female boxing champions. We’ve formed a sorority of champions named the Royal Six that consists of Ronica Jeffrey, Sonya Lamonakis, Keisher McLeod, Alicia Napolean, Melissa St. Vil and myself. We are promoting an all female boxing event that we are shooting for either the month of May or June 2016. Lastly, I would love to fight in Jamaica; that’s my ultimate goal for 2016.”