Fresh Faces: Casey Morton
Perhaps getting punched in the face is the easiest experience Casey Morton has ever lived through.
The undefeated flyweight fighting out of San Francisco, CA, was born on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. She grew up traveling in and out of foster care, group homes and other type of programs. Her family was torn apart due to family issues with her siblings shipped away to different locales.
“It was a little bit rough growing up, I come from humble beginnings. It was just constant moving. I was constantly the new kid, always moving from foster homes, group homes, the older I got, I got a criminal record. I was a repeat offender,” the 33-year-old explained. “I would go in and out of juvenile hall, correctional facilities, or I was homeless, in the streets or couch surfing, house surfing. Constantly in physical fights, it was pretty much like that growing up.”
Morton didn’t find solace until she found a path to her spirituality, made her way to the mainland and found the sport that would change her life.
“God is a big part of my life. It was about God giving me light in a very dark hour. I had a very negative upbringing, I created a very negative life and I got to the point of my life when I didn’t want to live like that anymore. I wanted to become a better person. I wanted a way out. For me to get out of the lifestyle I was in it had to be a divine intervention. That is when God became my world. I gave my life to God and I did everything right. I went back to school; I found a home here in the Bay Area. I found work I feel very passionate about, I do outreach and counseling but I still felt empty. Something was missing internally and I just couldn’t get it. I kind of hit the wall, I was doing everything right and this is life? This is it? I needed an outlet. I thought about a hobby. I knew I needed to put my health first so I thought about sports. So I said maybe I’ll try fighting. I found a home in boxing.”
Before finding her new home in the Bay Area of California, Morton went clear across the country with a one-way ticket, the clothes on her back, a backpack full of memories and her will to better herself. She found a job in Florida and began to make a settle down but in less than a year she realized the Sunshine State was not for her and got the itch to move to California. She bought a truck and a road map and was on her way.
Reading a road map was not her strong suit and she ended up in the north part of the state when her destination was Los Angeles. She fell in love with the city and decided to stay. Fulfilled with her day job as at-risk youth counselor, Morton felt she needed more in her life.
Along with her spirituality Morton found her salvation in boxing.
“At first I didn’t want to box, I thought who just wants to punch? I wanted to elbow, knee, and kick. I tried Muay Thai, I signed up at a Muay Thai gym near where I was living,” she says about her discovery of the sport. “I tried that for three weeks and I didn’t like it. I didn’t tell anyone I was going to leave. On my last night there I was thinking this wasn’t for me, I didn’t like the rhythm, it just wasn’t for me. The night I was going to leave, the boxing coach there at the time kind of approached me. He asked me to work with him on the mitts. In that moment for the first time in my life I fell head over heels in love with the sport. For the first time in my life I felt I as meant to do something great, to do this sport right here. I felt at home. I felt all that I have been through led me to this point. This is it. I became obsessed with this sport. To this day my coach can’t keep me out of the gym.”
After two and a half of months of training, Morton had her first amateur fight. In a nearly eight year amateur career Morton amassed more than fifty fights but more impressively she participated in a number of tournaments, many times traveling to the competition on her own without a coach.
“I went to about thirteen tournaments by myself,” she says. “I would meet coaches there and ask them to corner me; I would wrap my own hands. It was just about sharpening my tools, prepping myself for when my coach would come.”
Boxing did not come easy for the eloquent Morton but she knew it was something she wanted to do regardless,
“I didn’t have the mindset of if I was good or not, it was, ‘this is it, this is my home. I am going to become a world champion, I have no idea how or when or in what fashion but I will find a way.’ It was an ugly beginning, I would only have men to spar with and I would get beat up. I think for the first month I was peeing blood. People thought I was crazy because I just kept coming back. There were countless nights after practice I would run into the bathroom and cry. I just wanted to figure this out so bad and just kept coming back and coming back. Eventually I got better. From then to this point it was has been a very interesting journey.”
Morton went pro in October of 2014 with a unanimous decision over long-time veteran Blanca Raymundo.
“It was probably the most exhilarating amazing experience of my life. I dreamed about these moments for so long in the dark. It is here so it is an indescribable feeling. That is how I describe my debut. I couldn’t believe it was really happening.”
With respectable experience in the amateur ranks, Morton was surprised how different in her mind the professional game was.
“I feel like it is a completely different sport. When I finally connected with my head boxing coach Jairo (Escobedo) we were fortunate that fights kept falling through because it would give us more time to get in tune with each other,” she explained. “It is so much different fighting with head gear and the point system in the amateurs. I am thinking points but I think the difference is the headgear. It can change your entire performance especially worrying about a no-contest, a cut, a head butt. Also now you are throwing punches not to score points but to hurt the other person.”
Interestingly while training in the Bay Area, Morton has hooked up with a controversial figure within the sports world, Victor Conte. Mr. Conte is best known as the founder and president of BALCO, a sport nutrition center. BALCO is credited for developing a number of controversial performance enhancement products which were practically undetectable at the time. Mr. Conte was charged and served time in 2005 for conspiracy to distribute PEDs. Since then Mr. Conte has become one of the biggest anti-doping advocates in the sport and now runs Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning (SNAC) while sponsoring a number of boxers including Morton.
“I am very fortunate to be very much involved with SNAC. Victor has become like a mentor,” she says of the polemic figure. “He is a big role model and a mentor for a lot of us. He worked with Nonito Donaire, Andre Berto and others at the time and I was working out at the same gym. I had no idea he lived in California. I remember reading an article about him and he inspired my life. Here is a man that has done wrong and he could have done anything with his life but he chose to get right with God and become a better person. Everything he does regarding nutrition and sponsoring athletes, it is all restitution for him. He wants to feel he is righting the wrong he has done. Who would be a better anti-doping advocate than Victor Conte? He is dedicated to cleaning up the sport. The type of training that we do is to show he can create monsters clean without having to use any bad substances but just oxygen and water. He teaches us about proper recovery and rest. How to counterbalance the damage boxing does to our bodies. I was fortunate to be around him. My strength coach is kind of head coach for his program. Mike Bazzel was kind of enough to keep me on.”
Morton agrees the time we are in now in the world of boxing and especially in female boxing is a special one, “I am very excited and I think this is a very exciting time for female boxing. In 2012 it was huge although they only gave us three weight classes but the fact that women were finally allowed to box in the Olympics. I was having a conversation a couple of days ago about there has been countless women fighters that have paved the way for us today. It wasn’t too long ago that women weren’t allowed to box in gyms. My point was women have always been boxing. I think we are going to continue to see monumental changes as it progresses forward. It is exciting to see the new generation coming forward. Whether I can be a direct part of that or a supporting part of that, I need to continue to focus on what I can.”
With only seven fights under her belt, Morton (4-0-3) is conscious she has a bit of a ways to go to become a major player in her 112-pound weight division, but she is ready for what is in store.
“At this point in my career there is no specific person that would make my career. We have to continue to get the proper ring time and when we get there, and then I think the opportunity will present itself,” Morton stated. “It could be person A, person B, person C, I am very fortunate to be within a weight class that has a lot of great competition; it is a very exciting weight class. I am honored and excited to go against any of the other girls once it presents itself.”