CNN’s O’Brien Gets Into the Fight Game


CNN anchor and correspondent Soledad O’Brien recently talked to Multichannel News programming
editor R. Thomas Umstead about her Sept. 25 “Latino in America” documentary In Her
, which shines a light on female Olympic boxing hopefuls.

MCN: How did you come upon the concept of female
boxing as the subject for the ‘Latino In America’ documentary?

Soledad O’Brien: I was on a plane and was reading a
profile on boxing for the upcoming 2012 Olympics (the
first Olympics to feature female boxing as a sport), and
I remember being stunned that all of the women they
were profiling were very young Latinas. So we decided to
start researching, and all paths lead to two women, Marlen
Esparza, who was a five-time national champion, and
Christina Cruz in New York. We found that these women
had compelling stories.

MCN: Why is boxing so appealing to these women?

SO: Since we started doing the documentary, we realized
that there are a lot of African-American [female
boxers] as well, but what they all have in common is socioeconomic
status. A lot of boxers are black and Latino
and come out of humble circumstances. I think for the
Latina women, many of them told us their dads loved
boxing or they were put into boxing as community service
because they got into scrapes at school. I think it
was a cultural thing — Latinos love boxing, and whether
you’re a girl or a boy and you were hanging out with your
dad, you were going to watch boxing.

MCN: Were there any major revelations that surprised
you in putting together the documentary?

SO: Every other story I’ve seen about women’s boxing often
revolves around some sort of circus atmosphere, so
we wanted to show that this [Esparza] is an athlete that’s
on her way to the Olympics. Also what surprised me was
the degree to which she had great support — in fact that’s
where the title comes from. Marlen told us that as a boxer,
who’s in your corner matters. She said you can have thousands
of people screaming around you, but you should
be able to hear your coach’s voice above them. To me that
was a very apt metaphor, especially for Latinas because
there are so many pitfalls — look at the dropout and pregnancy
statistics — you really need someone in your corner
to make sure that you’re going to succeed, whether
you’re talking about boxing success or life success.

MCN: This is CNN’s second ‘Latino in America’ documentary.
Give me your take on the performance and
feedback from the first one (which aired in 2009).

SO: I think the results were very good. Th e biggest problem
I see for Latinos in terms of stories is that there’s not
enough coverage. My goal is to do many more stories
about Latinos, and not just about Olympic-caliber boxers.
Every issue should have a place on the news, and not
just immigration stories. I was very proud of our first ‘Latino
in America’ doc, and for this one people will be able
to focus on a great story about an amazing woman who
is going to most likely represent America when it comes
to the Olympics.