Although known as a tough, lightning-speed jabber, U.S. Olympic boxer Marlen Esparza wants to make a decidedly feminine debut Monday in London.
The 23-year-old Houston native puts on makeup and perfume before a fight, makes sure to exfoliate and hydrate her skin, and is the new face of Cover Girl cosmetics.
“If you look good, then you feel good,” Esparza, ranked No. 6 in the world and No. 1 in the U.S. flyweight division, tells PEOPLE, “and if you feel good, then you fight good.”
As women’s boxing appears for the first time on the Olympic stage, here are five things to know about Marlen Esparza:
1. She showers and primps before every match:
Along with warming-up and prayer, Esparza’s pre-fight ritual includes a quick cool shower, applying a light base of makeup with some blush and mascara, and then donning her good-luck charm, her USA bandana.
“I always wear it when I am fighting and sometimes when I am training,” she says. “It helps keep the sweat out of my eyes.”
2. Her style icon is TV talk show host Ellen Degeneres:
“I love Ellen because she owns herself and her style. She does what she wants and has her own image, not one like anyone else, which is what I like,” says Esparza. “Like if everyone is wearing read, I will wear blue, and she is like that too.”
3. She gets beauty advice from big sis, Delila:
Her sister clued her in on a nighttime beauty ritual that includes cleansers and exfoliators that help hydrate her skin. One of Esparza’s biggest pet peeves is dry skin.
“I always carry lotion in my bag for my hands and legs,” she says.
4. Men who want to date her should beware her long-time trainer, Rudy Silva:
Right now, Esparza has a rigorous training schedule and doesn’t have time to date.
“I sometimes say I am in a relationship with boxing,” she says.
But if you want any chance at all with her, you’ll have to impress her coach, who once stood up “waiting at home with my dad until I got back (from prom) that night.”
5. She loves junk food:
The 5’3″ 112-lb. beauty had to pack on another 6 lbs. to fight in the Olympics, but she had to do it all with healthy eating, not with her beloved chocolate, brownies, Hot Cheetos, and Mexican food.
“I love pretty much anything that is bad for you,” she says. Instead she eats a lot of chicken and vegetables, with protein shakes in between her workouts.