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Posing Nude in a Boxing Ring

Marlen Esparza

Marlen Esparza

What It’s Like to Pose Nude in a Boxing Ring

Find out why U.S. Olympic boxer Marlen Esparza says it’s one of the best decisions she ever made.

It sounds like a nightmare you can’t wake up from: showing up to work completely naked, as a stranger takes photos of you for millions to see. For U.S. Olympic boxer Marlen Esparza, the experience was 100% real.

Last summer, Esparza was asked to pose in the 5th annual edition of ESPN Magazine’s Body Issue (you know… the naked one), but she didn’t immediately jump at the chance. In fact, she was totally freaked out by it. “My first response was ‘no’ and nothing could change my mind,” she says. “I didn’t feel comfortable with being nude in a photo shoot!” Because here’s a hard, uncomfortable truth: Esparza is an amazingly accomplished athlete who kicks ass, wins championships, and spends hours in the gym like it’s, well, her job. But even Olympic athletes can feel anxiety about body image and being judged for not looking “perfect.”

As the first American woman to represent the United States in the 2012 Olympic debut of women’s boxing (where she took home the bronze), confidence came easy to Esparza in the ring. But naked confidence was a different story. “I’m not the type of person to focus a lot on my body,” says Esparza. “I work out for a living so I am fit, but I was very self-conscious about the idea of being nude in front of a camera for pictures the world would see,” she says. She elaborates on her insecurities: “I really like my back, but it doesn’t match up with the rest of my body. I feel like, because of my sport, I am a bit disproportioned. I was more worried about looking odd,” she jokes.

This article originally ran on Women’s Health. Click here to see the full article with more photos and tips from the Olympian.