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American Girl

She wasn’t quite two months old the last time a boxing card occurred at Long Island’s Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Thirty-one years later, Alicia ‘The Empress’ Napoleon will make history as the first female prizefighter to step between the ropes at the recently renovated and reopened arena, squabbling with Mary McGee over proprietary rights to the vacant IBF World Super-Welterweight Title.

Standing a petite 5-foot-5, Alicia’s imposing stature is defined by her burly yet shapely physique which has drawn gender-equivalent comparisons to Mike Tyson who, coincidentally, headlined the last Coliseum boxing show. “I’d like to dispel the myth that muscles are for men,” Napoleon stated defiantly in a recent feature for Allure magazine. “Strong is the new sexy.”

As a little girl growing up in suburban Long Island, however, Alicia’s thoughts regarding her naturally solid build differed significantly from the philosophy she acquired later and advocates today. As a “tomboy” with “thunder thighs,” she remembers being the object of schoolyard taunts or else, just as damaging to the formation of a child’s self-opinion, cruel and deliberate social alienation.

Athletics would prove to be the realm wherein a lonely and misunderstood kid could not only seek solace but offer the opportunity to excel beyond all expectations, those of others or oneself. Baseball was her first sport of choice. Napoleon developed a passion for the national pastime which inspired childhood dreams that she would one day wear the uniform of a professional team. It was a crushing realization that society would never allow this to happen for a woman.

Though she would later gain an appreciation for drawing from the genetic well of her parents’ artistic and entrepreneurial proclivities, their divorce was a further source of frustration and disillusionment. Alicia spoke to PopSugar TV for their series Conquered about those turbulent times, how her father chose to be more involved with his Hell’s Angels compatriots than with his own daughter and her relationship with her mother being physically and emotionally combative. The denial of confidence-building encouragement left her filled with “a deep hurt and rage, like a hot fire just going through your body that you want to explode like a volcano.”

Excursions into karate and wrestling provided Napoleon outlets through which she could tap into her fury, channeling life’s myriad vexations along powerful currents which would illuminate in the most tangible of ways the ongoing argument of nature vs. nurture. “An angry woman is not what the world wants to see,” she expressed. As a visceral counterpoint, she added, “Anger fueled my dreams.”

At the age of 18, those dreams would lead Alicia into a Manorville boxing gym where she would discover her heart’s desire. “It was a joy to go through the pain,” she said, “because I knew there would be growth at the end.” The existential evolution hastened by Napoleon’s amateur boxing career was supplementally rewarded by two New York and one National Golden Gloves titles, a Platinum Gloves championship, three Metro titles, one belt apiece in the NYABC and Empire State Games competitions, and two National bronze medals.

Napoleon made her professional debut north of the border on August 15, 2014 with a sixty-seven second knockout of Monique Duval on an all-female card at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Gatineau, Quebec. It took nine months to secure another match, this time much closer to home, and Alicia scored a third-round TKO over Melinda Lazar at Resorts World Casino in Queens, New York. Five weeks later at BB King’s in Times Square, Napoleon bested her personal record for quickest knockout in only her third fight with a 19-second dismantling of Natalie King brought about by an estimated 25 unanswered power punches straight out of the gate.

After beating a badly overmatched Latashia Burton into submission after three rounds (Burton preferred remaining on her stool to being sent to slaughter), Alicia fought her first 10-rounder on January 29, 2016 against the Hungarian whirling dervish known as Szilvia Szabados who has become familiar to American audiences for her recent fearless yet ultimately futile efforts against Claressa Shields and Layla McCarter.

It should come as no surprise that Szabados toughed it out the full distance but Napoleon won every round on all three judges’ scorecards and took home the WBC Silver Super-Welterweight Title as additional compensation.

Apparently not content with the punishment she had already absorbed at Alicia’s hands, Latashia Burton came back for more nine months after their first dustup. It took Napoleon eight rounds this time out but she notched another stoppage of Burton. A six-round unanimous decision over Kita Watkins at Queens’ 5 Star Banquet Hall put Napoleon in line for a shot at her first world title. Two to be exact, the UBF and WIBA Super-Middleweight Championships, both unclaimed as of then.

Amenable to meeting undefeated Tori Nelson (15-0-3 going into their bout, including a 2014 TKO win over Mia St. John) on her home turf, Alicia was outpointed by her more experienced foe in Springfield, Virginia last December. Napoleon took her first professional defeat in stride by remarking, “I don’t believe in losses. I believe in lessons.”

This Saturday, in a non-televised preliminary feature on the undercard of the PBC on Fox broadcast from the Nassau Coliseum, 23-3 ‘Merciless’ Mary McGee will put Alicia to the test and find out firsthand, for better or worse, the depth and breadth of the lessons Napoleon learned. The IBF World Super-Welterweight title belt they will be battling over has evidently stayed locked in the vault since then-champion Paola Gabriela Casalinuovo of Argentina made her last defense (and presumably retired undefeated thereafter) in November 2014.

A resident of Gary, Indiana and 12-year pro, McGee went 19 fights and nearly five years before being handed her first loss by Brooke Dierdorff (who also owned two victories over Mia St. John) and has suffered only two subsequent defeats, decisioned consecutively by Holly Holm and WBC World Lightweight Champion Erica Anabella Farias in 2013. Both Mary and Alicia boast impressive KO ratios (63% for Napoleon as opposed to McGee’s 43) and neither have been dropped much less stopped, a claim one or the other may not be able to make come Sunday. Napoleon promises to be in “Alicia-zilla” mode when she arrives ready to wreak havoc at the Coliseum which is a stone’s throw from her stomping ground of Lindenhurst.

Saturday afternoon, a busload of Napoleon’s supporters will roll down the Long Island Expressway, originating from their meeting place at the Overthrow Boxing Club on Bleecker Street in New York City where Alicia is a personal trainer and has been brought on as an ownership partner. Like her mother before her, Napoleon has dabbled in modeling work, posing for print ads and layouts in national publications. She has also added an acting credit to her resume by appearing in a bit part as a boxing trainer (naturally enough) in the Netflix series Gypsy starring Naomi Watts and Billy Crudup.

Inspired by Basquiat and Picasso, Alicia creates her own imaginative expressionist works by punching large canvases with paint-soaked sponges strapped to her boxing gloves. Several of her murals were displayed recently in a Miami art gallery.

It has been a wild ride for Alicia Napoleon, from an angst-ridden adolescent with only her broken dreams to keep her company to a potential world champion prizefighter who has attained hard-won faith in the concept that any ambition which can be conceived may also be achieved.

Acknowledging that her journey of personal and spiritual growth is one that continues to challenge her, as it should, Alicia emphasizes that “I feel like I finally got myself to a level where I am fearless and I am to be feared.”