Michelle Joy Phelps is a highly motivated woman who has accomplished a great deal in her career. Although she began as a Maxim model, she quickly made a name for herself in the male-dominated field of boxing, a sport she has been passionate about since she was only 8 years old. Today, she is widely recognized as the Boxing Correspondent and Founder of the incredibly popular and highly regarded ‘Behind the Gloves’, a platform that has given her unprecedented access to the sport’s top athletes around the world.
So, how long have you followed and loved boxing?
I’ve been watching since I was a young girl. I can’t even recall the specific age, to be honest. I just remember the big boxing BBQs my family would have and be glued to the TV. I never thought I’d be in boxing professionally. Reflecting on my 11 years in this industry, I’m still a bit surprised about the direction my life took me.
In a male-dominated sport, you became a boxing reporter; how did you achieve this, and what hurdles have you overcome?
There were many. When I started, there were very few women. So the hurdles were awful. I went through a phase where no one wanted this new girl around and maybe assumed I was there only to meet a man. A few managed to break barriers and challenged the narrative and made a lane for the women that followed years later. I say “we” because there were a select few who really went through it. Our determination was challenged. And we prevailed.
Behind the Gloves has been and still is an incredible success, and to date, you’ve filmed over 8,000 videos. An outstanding achievement indeed. What changes have you experienced from when you filmed your first interview to today?
Youtube, when I began, wasn’t a thing, really. I mean, it was, but it wasn’t. When we were asked where our interviews were going, many publicists and networks didn’t understand. They didn’t know the Youtube space fully, and it was heavily frowned upon. Looking back, seeing how resistant many were to it, and now they themselves operate channels goes to show just what we were dealing with then to now. It was like learning about the internet for the first time; many didn’t get it.
Who has been your favourite boxer interview?
I can’t say there is a specific favourite. But whenever I’m out and about, and a fight fan recognises me, they say their favourite interviews are with Tyson Fury and Eddie Hearn. So I guess those are more entertaining, ha.
Tell me more about your childhood, schooling and career path in modelling?
I didn’t have an easy childhood. So I actually don’t recall many of my years growing up. A therapist would say it’s blacking things out. But that’s an entirely different interview with all that. But I do remember living in Hawaii for a few years. And then we moved back to California, where I finished high school. I was only a few months shy of graduating from X-Ray technician school when I dropped out to pursue this little feeling in my stomach that told me I was meant for something else. My parents weren’t too pleased, given the security that profession would have given me. But I moved to Hollywood and got introduced to a photographer who eventually introduced me to glamour modelling. The actual days when physical magazines were a demand. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t ideal. I was never thin enough. Never curvy enough. So I hated it. But then again, I was very insecure in my twenties, so maybe that was part of it. I followed my dream of being an actress, securing more minor roles in commercials and independent films and always being one call away from the “big role.” I do believe all that I learned from auditioning prepared me for what was to come… in boxing. There was a level of resilience I was developing, and I didn’t know it then.
What’s the best and worst part of your job?
The best part of my job is I get to wake up and do what I love. I get to have fun every day. I get to interview fun people and travel the world. Last I counted, I had visited over 34 countries. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d see 3, let alone over 34! I’m insanely blessed. I was once a waitress, bartender, massage therapist, medical assistant and receptionist for Red Bull North America. I did a lot of odd jobs. So now, it’s all a bit of a pinch-me-moment. There is no worst part. I built the very thing I love to do. But the biggest challenge, if we had to use that word rather than “worst”, is travelling. As much as I love getting to see the world, there’s the never being at home factor that you learn to yearn for. I missed a lot of birthdays, weddings, and special occasions and sacrificed my own personal life to get to where I am. That’s the hard part.
When did you stop your modelling career, and why?
I didn’t actually enjoy doing it. I did it for the exposure of being in magazines, and back then, being in Maxim was a big deal. I got to be featured in the mag many times, so that was cool. But I wouldn’t ever want to do it all the time.
What’s been your favourite fight to date and why?
I can’t say I have a favourite. In 11 years, I’ve seen many!
What fight would you like to see, and do you think it will happen?
Spence jr vs Crawford, but I don’t know if that ever happens. I hope I’m wrong, though. And I always wanted to see Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua or Anthony Joshua vs Deontay Wilder. But the fact that we are getting undisputed with Usyk and Fury makes my heart sing, ha. What an event that will be!
What are your plans for 2023?
I plan to challenge myself with new roles. In 2022 I worked on ESPN and CBS for the American Cornhole league, which was something so polar opposite from what I’m used to. But I am proud of myself for doing something so entirely out of the box for me and proving to myself I can do more than just boxing. I currently have another offer on the table in boxing that I’m considering. So we’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out. Aside from broadcasting, I plan to start a business in Hawaii. It’ll be more like an Ohana business. Ohana means family, by the way. It’ll bring us back to the very place we all loved. I won’t move back full-time, but it gives me more of a reason to visit.