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Interview from the Vault: Michelle Joy Phelps

This interview with Michelle Joy Phelps popped up as a Facebook memory. The interview was done a year ago, and if you are not aware of Michelle’s work, she has built up her Behind The Gloves brand from nothing and recently has begun working with the World Boxing Super Series.

MMA UK: Have you always liked boxing, did you get into it at an early age?

Michelle: I was quite young when I realised I liked the sport. I found myself gravitated to the TV when fights would be on, which looking back on it was maybe a bit odd for young girls. I remember my female cousins never wanting to sit and watch the fights the way I had.

MMA UK: What attracted you to boxing?

Michelle: I don’t have a solid answer to this question. Why does someone like peanut butter over Vanilla? I don’t know, they just do. I don’t know why I liked boxing over other sports, I just do.

MMA UK: Working in boxing, was it something you always wanted to do?

Michelle: No. Actually, everyone assumed I would get involved in baseball because I love baseball as well. Boxing sort of happened for me. It was something I enjoyed watching with family and friends but never, ever did I think I would be sitting ringside for the biggest fights in the world as media.

MMA UK: Before you got where you are today, what other jobs/work have you done?

Michelle: I initially moved to Los Angeles at 21. I dropped out of nursing school to pursue acting and modelling. I did commercials and print work, which was nice, but anyone in the entertainment field will tell you that it’s not easy to book a job and pay your bills all year. It was very inconsistent. So like thousands of other actors, I was a bartender, while pursuing my goals. I then enrolled in school to be a massage therapist. I did that for a year before getting into boxing.

MMA UK: So how did you get into working in boxing?

Michelle: I was approached by several online channels to cover events for them and do interviews, so I did. I also interned for a couple outlets to gain experience. But I noticed instantly there were very few women in the field, aside from publicists. It inspired me to start my own thing and so I did. That’s how behindTheGloves.com came about.

MMA UK: Your work on Behind the Gloves is excellent but how did you start it up and how hard was it, especially financially?

Michelle: it was tough. It still is. We rely heavily on sponsors to pay for the travel expenses and so forth. It took a while before money or opportunities with sponsors came about. Was it hard? Hell yeah. In fact, a friend of mine, Kugan Cassius and I were talking about this and we both agreed on one thing; if we had to give advice to anyone wanting to do what we do, we would both suggest going into another field. When I first came on the scene there weren’t as many channels. But now that there is, it’s harder to establish. There are 10-12+ cameras getting the same footage at events, so monetizing on our channels is less lucrative. If someone wants a hobby and to have fun, yeah do it. But to expect money overnight or even in the first 2-3 years? That’s where the challenge lies.

MMA UK: Did success with your channel happen quickly and was it a struggle getting it off the ground?

Michelle: Definitely a challenge. But I managed and I’m still managing.

MMA UK: Did you have to break down any barriers to become as successful as you are, boxing is after all mainly a male-dominated sport?

Michelle: Absolutely. Aside from a few other women, there weren’t many of us doing interviews with the athletes. Now, you see that more. Which is fantastic because it’s about time boxing have women on camera, much like the NFL and other sports.

MMA UK: If you had to say, the one thing that gave you your big break, what would it be?

Michelle: No clue. I still don’t think that day has come, yet.

MMA UK: In your chosen field who did you admire most, who you looked up to?

Michelle: In terms of journalism? Oprah. I have always loved her conversational style of doing interviews and that’s something I have always applied to my own work.

MMA UK: Do the job and the hours you work interfere with your home/social life?

Michelle: YES! [laughs] The first two years I travelled so much. I was home a week every 4-6 weeks. I missed birthdays, baby showers, holidays at times, and just overall me time. That’s why I scaled back a lot the last 18 or so months. I needed balance. I needed to date [laughs] which has been lovely to do and just live a little, outside of work. Plus, I am super close to my family and I just wanted to be home at my parents and see my nieces and nephews more.

MMA UK: Social media has opened up the sport in so many ways, giving a chance for Joe public to talk to their favourite fighter’s and comment on the sport. Plus it gives people like yourself to make a living out of the sport. Plus it gives everyone more or less instant access to breaking news. Have you suffered yourself with the other side of social media, trolling or online abuse?

Michelle: Oh yeah. Boxing is sexist, man! But you know what? I’ve grown a thick skin. I now joke and say it’s all ‘water off a ducks ass.’ I used to care but now I have a good laugh and just let it go. Why do I care what ignorant minded people think? If they don’t know me, or never met me personally, I couldn’t care less. But I’m fortunate because I get more love than hate. So it is what it is.

MMA UK: You were at the Mayweather Pacquiao fight I bet that was an unbelievable night?

Michelle: Yeah. It was amazing to sit through history being made. To feel the electricity. To have a pass with my name on it to have as memorabilia one day. It all makes me a bit emotional sometimes because I remember being in Las Vegas when fights were taking place and always dreaming about what it would be like to be at those fights, and now look at me. I do this for a living. It’s amazing and I’m humbled.

MMA UK: Have you worked on any other show which comes close to matching Mayweather Pacquiao?

Michelle: Froch-Groves II. That was phenomenal. Hearing 80,000 people cheer and sing sweet caroline? That gave me chills. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, even now. I guess the next time I’ll see that will be at Joshua vs. Klitschko, which I look forward too!

MMA UK: You have dabbled with acting, would you like to do a boxing movie, like Creed 2?

Michelle: Who wouldn’t! Of course. A friend of mine is producing the upcoming Ken Norton movie and he already told me I’ll have a small part in that, which would be cool.

MMA UK: If there is one thing you could change in boxing what would it be?

Michelle: The politics suck. There’s so much that goes on in boxing that we can’t discuss and fans call us out on it. But the truth is, we can’t talk about everything we hear or know. This is our job, just like people have rules at their jobs. You have to stay in your lane and respect your position.

MMA UK: Where do you want to be in two years career-wise?

Michelle: I’d like to be on a talk show, something that allows me to be myself covering sports or entertainment.

MMA UK: You work for Sky, how did that come about and what work do you do for them, and other than your own channel what else do you do in boxing?

Michelle: I’ve done work with BKB, Matchroom and Sky. I’m currently the U.S. Correspondent for Sky Sports’ podcast ‘Toe2Toe’ where I do a US News Roundup. I’ve also provided interviews for them, which gets posted to their website and on-demand. How did it come about? I met people over the years and I guess they just thought of me because I was approached one day. I do hope to climb the latter there since I love Sky. But what will be, will be at the end of the day. It may be elsewhere, who knows. I just want to be happy and continue to do what I love, and it doesn’t matter where or who it’s with at the end of the day.

MMA UK: Your rise in the sport has been relatively quick, 4 years, are you surprised its happened so quick, especially on this scale?

Michelle: I have a lot more to do before I ever consider myself successful. But I am proud of the work I’ve done and in the time frame of which it was done in.

MMA UK: Do you follow MMA at all?

Michelle: NO. [laughs]

MMA UK: Could boxing learn anything from MMA do you think, maybe around making fights, it’s so frustrating when the big fights don’t happen in boxing?

Michelle: I used to say boxing could take a cue from MMA when it comes to promoting female fighters. But slowly I am seeing promoters taking on female boxers and putting them on, so that’s a positive!

MMA UK: MMA has many more females working in the industry than boxing, people like Caroline Pearce, Megan Olivi, and much more besides, or it seems that way, is that a fair comment and if so is boxing changing with the times?

Michelle: Boxing is very old school. It’s the most old-school sport around, I think. I do see things slowly changing with time but definitely not nearly as quickly as MMA or other sports.

Quick Fire Questions

Favourite Film – The Notebook

Favourite Singer/Group – I don’t have one. I like all type of music except country or trans.

Favourite Song – don’t have one

Favourite Book – The Bible

Favourite Meal – Indian food or anything spicy as hell!

Food Hell – hate marinara sauce

The thing that irritates you the most- inconsistency and liars, I Hate those things. But also bad breath and bad drivers.

Michelle, thank you so much for the interview and good luck with everything