For USA Boxing‘s Olympic Lightweight Trials Champion Queen Underwood, talent, determination and sheer courage have won the day in the Olympic Tripartite Commission’s decision to give her the last lightweight boxing berth available to the American continent in this year’s historical debut of women’s boxing at the 2012 summer Olympic Games in London.
Queen will join her teammates and fellow Olympians, Marlen Esparza and Claressa Shields in representing the United States this year.
Also getting the nod were Canada’s fabulous boxing talent Mary Spencer in the middleweight division and Brazil’s great flyweight champion, Erica Matos.
All three women were tremendously worthy of the honor not the least of which for their incredible skills as boxers.
In Queen Underwood’s case there is also something extra.
Her personal story is one of triumph over odds none of us should ever have to face or even consider. She is a survivor and a role model for punching through and finding a way to grapple with the demons that can haunt a person late into the night or otherwise push them into a spiral of self-abnegation and decline. Queen chose another way–and in that choice we are all the beneficiaries of an enormous talent not only in the ring, but in life itself.
In the game of life as in the ring we often roll with whatever the shots are. Sometimes they are to the gut and sometimes not, what’s great to know is that life has the capacity to surprise and to reward greatness when it counts.
Note to readers:
I will be a one-armed bandit for a while as I am about to undergo the “knife” so to speak for arthroscopic shoulder surgery on June 20th.
It’ll mean I’ll be out of the box for a while, but I will attempt to post, albeit, one-armed. That will likely be next week, but sooner if I can manage.
While I can’t say I’m jumping for joy about all of this, I do look forward to walking into Gleason’s Gym to spend many a happy hour at work on the double-ended bag.
My surgeon is Dr. Andrew Feldman who has otherwise had a lot of “practice” on New York Ranger’s hockey players (he’s their team physician) so I’ve got to figure he’ll be ready for the “show” when he works his surgical magic on my labrum and tendons tomorrow.
Sometimes it is something grand like a fight and sometimes just the tick-tock of the clock till the end of the work day.
When I get anxious, I like to think of things in three-minute intervals, plus the sixty-second rest.
It’s a way of organizing my thoughts which otherwise race around in what my old Dharma teacher used to call a monkey mind.
If I set the clock, I can think of things in finite terms. I can count out each second, or count out other things such as the number of sit-ups I can do in three minutes or the number of words I can write, or the amazing amount of tasks that can be completed in between the buzzers.
Imagine, one can actually pretty much empty a sink full of dishes, or run down four flights of stairs, grab the mail from the mailbox and come back upstairs and find that the clock hasn’t even hit yellow yet.
At other times the clock provides order out of chaos. It quells the what-do-I-do-now panic of momentary indecision, or worse, the I-can’t-get-started rut can be kicked into gear to a set menu of things to achieve–even if that just means taking an interval or two to calm down.
I bring this up as person facing deadlines and the stress that accompanies that. Thinking of the clock and the ding of the round though is helping to soothe me. In breaking things down into the tiny snippets of time I am reminding myself that no matter how daunting something may seem, it is only ever made up of moments; moments that follow one upon another each carrying its own weight and import.
Much as when I train, I can set aside so many rounds for one thing followed by a set number of rounds for another.
In their totality the time winds up to be the same as what had been originally allotted, but somehow in breaking it down into smaller bits, one can see and touch the progress as so many things that have already been accomplished.
Exclusive Interview with Sonya Lamonakis set to fight on June 14th @ Roseland Ballroom!
Gleason’s Gym’sown scholar and favorite female heavyweight Sonya Lamonakis (6-0-1) will be returning to Dibella Entertainment’sBroadway Boxing in a rousing six-round rematch against Tiffany Woodard (4-6-2) on June 14, 2012 at the storied Roseland Ballroom.
Lamonakis and Woodard have met twice before. While Lamonakis has won both fights, their last outing also under the Broadway Boxing banner at Mechanic’s Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts in August 2011 resulted in a split decision win.
Lamonakis and Woodard, August 2011
While Lamonakis has been hard at work prepping for this bout, she’s also been finishing up the school year at the Family Academy school in Harlem. In between her busy schedule, Sonya agreed to do an interview with Girlboxing.
1. You’ve got a fight coming up against Tiffany Woodard on June 14th as Roseland Ballroom in NYC as part of the Broadway Boxing series. Your last time out with Tiffany you won by a split-decision over six rounds. What is your game plan against her this time out?
This will be our trilogy. She is a tough opponent not to be taken lightly. We are both coming off a draw and want a win. I plan on working angles and combinations. I will be more active than the last time I fought her.
2. You are 6-0-1 now, that’s quite an achievement. What are you looking to achieve with a win against Woodard?
A win! Again, I’m coming off a draw and I need to get that W and get ready for a title fight in the future.
3. What has your training been like for the fight? I know your semester is winding down, but you are still working full-time as a teacher in Harlem. How are you able to make things work?
Training has been a little crazy.
I fired my trainers and will have Buddy McGirtin my corner. He worked with me about two months ago when he was here training a fighter for a big fight for about a month. Unfortunately, he went back to his home in Florida and I was lost without him. I attempted to work with “Blimp” Delon Parsley and Lennox Blackmore, but neither of them were to aggressive with my training and took it too lightly. I felt I was not being taken seriously enough and needed a change.
Work is winding down and the summer is here. I am delighted to greet it. I do my best to balance my career and my hobby. I always put my students first. One Saturday a month I set up a trip for my students to take them out of the city on a hike, or adventure so they can breathe some clean air and work on confidence, self-esteem, and finding themselves.
4. Kaliesha “Wild Wild” West issued a press release with her father and trainer Juan West stating that while women work as hard as men in the fight game, they are not catching any kind of breaks for fight promotions or TV air time. I know that you’ve had a great relationship with Lou DiBella and Broadway Boxing here in New York, but do you feel that Kaliesha has a point? Are things really tough right now for female pro boxers trying to gain the experience, recognition and opportunity that comes with televised fights?
Unfortunately, women are not getting what they deserve. I have never been told or heard that my fights are boring or are not worthy of television. I dream of the day that I will fight onESPN Friday Night Fights, or even Showbox, or HBO Boxing. For now, I am thankful that Lou allows me on his cards and always gives me TV time on SNYand MSG. It’s baby steps for women. Even as an amateur I had to fight against the odds to create a path for the women to get where they are today. I am proud to be part of the movement that opened up women’s boxing at the amateur and professional level.
5. You’ve only fought two fights since last April, one in August one in January–can you tell us what’s been going on in the women’s heavyweight division and why there seem to be so few fights?
Boxing is an expensive sport. The promoters want to make money. There is not a lot of money in women’s boxing. With the more wins I get the harder it is to find opponents. There are a lot more heavyweights but not ones that want to fight me. They ask for a lot of money and my promoter can only pay so much. It’s not like Lou is making $100,000 off my fight. I sell tickets to cover my purse and my opponents. I’m waiting for an offer from a woman on her card so I don’t have to worry about tickets and I can be the guest on a show.
6. Sonya, you are an inspiration to so many people not only as a boxer, but as a teacher and in your work against bullying. Your personal story is also one of redemption, hope and faith. Tell Girlboxing readers about your work in the community and how it is affecting the lives of young people?
Teaching school and guiding children is something I’m good at. I am positive role model for the children academically and personally. I attended colleges and received masters degrees and hold five different New York State Education Certifications in a variety of fields. I’m also an athlete and the students can relate to me. I love all my children and find the good in each of them. I do my best to instill values and morals in them that will lead to towards successful lives. I tell them that if they want to have choices when they are older they need to have an education. Without an education you have no choices to make. You have to take whatever job you can and do your best to survive. As an example, remember that episode on the Cosby’s when Bill gave his son fake money and had him pay bills until he ran out quickly. At that point he wanted more things, but he had no money left. So without an education, your choices will be limited, but with an education you can go anywhere.
7. One last question — with the debut of women’s boxing at the 2012 London Olympic Games, what do you feel most proud of?
I feel proud to be a part of the movement that accomplished this mission. I attended meetings, competed in the Nationals, signed petitions, advocated for the women and being an amateur boxer allowed me to be part of the debut of women’s boxing. I look forward to the Olympics and hope that it opens the doors for more women in the future of boxing.
Kaliesha “Wild Wild” West(15-1-3, 4-KOs) is the current WBO female bantamweight champion having most recently defended her world title in April against the Argentinian fighter Claudia Andrea Lopezin Baja California, Mexico.
What she isn’t getting is the kind of support and boxing opportunties a fighter of her skill and caliber should be getting.
Kaliesha was featured in a recent MUST SEE Transworld Sport video in which she explains the dilemma of what it means to have to fight hard to fight. Please watch it.
The following is a press release issued by Kaliesha and her father Juan West — I am publishing it in full because this is powerful stuff.
Kaliesha West & her Father/ Trainer Juan West Press release: Jerry Hoffman Boxing friends, Women’s boxing is being stymied in America by promoters who refuse to throw them a bone. No TV fights, very few undercard opportunities, and a constant dismissal of the potential interest and consequently dollars that would be generated if a major player in the business were to make a commitment and embrace the female boxing scene. MMA makes that effort. Boxing does not.
Hope you will enjoy this 13 minute piece on current World bantamweight Champion Kaliesha “Wild Wild” West who fought in Monterey a couple times earlier in her career.http://youtu.be/dIKfx1Fls7M
Somehow, California is blessed with other female boxing greats who remain unknown to fight fans. Tremendous Northern California talents such as Ava Knight, Ana Julaton, and Melissa McMorrow have won World Titles by traveling into hostile Mexican and European venues to upset the local promoter’s fighters…but the recognition and notoriety that would be afforded to men World Champions accomplishing the same triumphs remain mute.
The “Old Boy Network” of established American promoters continue to keep women’s boxing off the fight fan’s radar by design. Their intent is not to offer opportunities and open up new potential markets. Golden Boy, Top Rank and other promotional companies who can make a difference refuse to do so, for fear of looking “soft” among their colleagues. It’s time for them to man up and seize the challenge and enjoy the benefits of expanding the scope of the sport, operating in the “interest of boxing” rather than self serving male dominated discrimination.
Women’s boxing is an Olympic sport for the first time, but it’s unlikely any American will medal at the London Games this summer. If American women were to be promoted in their own country, aspiring females would be inspired with potential returns for their dedication.
The noted pro boxers above have achieved Championship status despite prejudice in their own back yard. Their accomplishments overcome the long odds against them. They are compelling and entertaining fighters with talent who remain anonymous in the public eye, because the entities who could easily elevate their status, refuse to do so.
Holly Holm v. Anne-Sophie Mathis II — The Reckoning
Anne-Sophie Mathis KOs Holly Holm with a “stunning right” on December 10, 2012. Credit: Chris Cozzone
Much has been written about the oft described “stunning right” delivered by Anne-Sophie Mathis (26-1, 22 KOs) that KO’d Holly Holm (30-2-3, 9 KOs) at 1:39 in the seventh round of their International Boxing Association (IBA) and WBAN Welterweight title fight.
Boxing writers dubbed Mathis’ victory the upset of the year, though many pointed to Mathis’ fifth round hit and subsequent 6th round shot that sent Holm down to the canvas as having clearly rocked Holm before she ever made it to the seventh round. Holm was knock into the ropes, but got up before the final straight right that put her back through the ropes and finally prompted the referee, Rocky Burke to stop the fight.
Anne-Sophie Mathis who is a KO artist of the first order and proved that over and over again in her victory over Holm. What many have questioned is whether Holm was prepared for the onslaught in the run up to their December battle–but more importantly, have questioned why both the Ref and Holm’s corner let her continue after the 6th round when she was so clearly rocked and still wobbly in the early part of the 7th.
The two are set to meet again on June 15th in what is being billed as Holly Holm v. Anne-Sophie Mathis II — The Reckoning. The fight will be no doubt be a momentous battle and we will see for ourselves what the ensuing months have brought both fighters in terms of preparation and mental toughness as they go at it again.
Mathis has been quoted as saying, “I haven’t changed anything since our first fight. I’ve continued working to improve my technique and mental approach. I study my opponent so I am as prepared as possible. I don’t disrespect anybody but trust in myself and my work.”
Holm, seeking redemption in the ring has said, “I could have fought the rest of my career, never losing again, but I wanted to fight her. It was a rough fight for me and I’ve battled my demons over that night. If I didn’t believe in myself, I’ve already lost. Nobody is going in there fighting for me.”
In what looks to be an attempt to forestall any controversy, the New Mexico Athletic Commission announced three well-respected and seasoned judges who will officiate at the bout. All three will come in from Las Vegas: Duane Ford, Dave Moretti and Lisa Giampi. Among them they have judged such world title bouts as Larry Holmes-Muhammed Ali and more recently Manny-Pacquaio-Juan Manuel Marquez II.
Tom King of the New Mexico Athletic Commission stated, “They are among the most qualified officials in boxing,” when the announcement was made.
The referee chosen for the bout is Jon Schorle who in his 20 years in the ring has refereed a total of 27 title fights.
Cecilia Braekhus retains her titles in 10-round bout by UD!
Weigh-in for Cecilia Braekhus (R) and Jessica Balogun ahead of their June 2, 2012 WBA/WBC/WBO Female Welterweight Title Fight, Credit: Photo Wende
Cecilia Braekhus, the WBO, WBA and WBC female welterweight champion came out blazing to score a unanimous decision over contender Jessica “The Hammer” Balogun(22-1) through ten hard-fought rounds of action at the Herning Kongrescenter in Herning, Denmark last night.
The judges scored the bout 99-92, 97-93, 97-93 in favor of Braekhus who exhibited much better boxing skills than her opponent. The previously undefeated Balogun, from Aachen, Germany, was a game opponent, however, who kept on coming despite Braekhus’ evident dominance. This led to some rounds that have been characterized as “messy,” but Braekhus’ superior ring generalship kept her in control of the fight to take the win.
Braekhus, a Columbian-born fighter who resides in Bergen, Norway, is considered pound-for-pound one of the best female boxers in the world. Her record stands at a perfect 20-0 with five wins by way of knockout. In recent outings she has defeated such boxing luminaries as Jill Emery(2011) and Chevelle Hallback (2011) with similar results.
Back in 1992, I traveled half way across the world for a rambling six-month journey through the Far East and South East Asia.
The trip was seminal in my life at a time when I really needed something of that magnitude to set me straight.
What made it easy in many ways, once I’d actually bought the round-the-world ticket was the blessing of a particular friend who knowing me for a lifetime had quietly urged me to break through my own barriers even if it meant facing a chasm that seemed mighty large indeed. She’d also offered me sanctuary in her home in Texas, one I did not need, but appreciated more than I could ever say.
My friend Geneva and I met when we were twelve.
It was the summer of 1966 and we were both campers at Camp Webatuck–a bright star in the firmament of “red diaper baby” camps that accepted all comers with open arms providing an integrated, non-denominational, non-sectarian oasis in the heady days of the civil rights movement. We became instant friends and in the intervening years between our three fabulous summers together hung out when we could, taking long subway rides between the Upper West Side of Manhattan where I lived and the far reaches of East New York, Brooklyn where Geneva lived.
We also talked on the phone whenever we could–sharing out secrets, our fears, and our love for this or that song or rock star. When we were 13, Geneva introduced me to the music of Laura Nyro–something we have shared ever since, uniting us into a small coterie of New York women of a certain time and place that “got” everything she had to say and more.
In the ensuing years ours has been an odd friendship of close flurries of daily contact interspersed with years of silence until one or the other of us had a eureka moment and dialed the phone or dropped a letter in the mail–as if mid-stream in what has become our lifelong conversation.
Geneva married young and had a son–while I married late and had a daughter. This last also gave us the shared experience of motherhood to link us–“finally,” she was to say.
We’d also both had struggles, illnesses and the like–but Geneva in particular, having become a geologist by trade and moving down to Texas of all places, fought through more it seems with a life threatening surgery that left her a little disabled, but never broken, and in fact had given her the temerity to embrace even more of what life had to offer.
We managed to see each other several years ago when I was able to swing a business trip down to Houston–and to say that joy reigned is to understate the obvious. We’d been communicating ever since with emails, letters and occasional calls — and finally this past Christmas she’d made it back up to Brooklyn to see family and me.
Our day together was great a one, yakking up a storm, eating good food, nosing around bookstores and taking in a movie. To me it meant that nothing had changed in the long arc of our lives as friends as our time together was vintage.
Out of it we planned a trip to Portugal, an entire week walking Lisbon and Faro–two old friends basking in the images we would trade as our eyes feasted on the architecture, art and people we encountered, not to mention the particularities of every bookstore we happened upon.
Geneva, however, won’t be making it.
With her usual understated and competent aplomb she is battling the demon of end-stage lung cancer with little chance to live out the month.
If a life can be said to be a battle where only the fiercest hearts are honorable and true, than Geneva’s course has been the exemplar of such understandings. She has walked her walk with her head held high–pushing back at the injustices of the world to ensure that it can be the sort of place she could be proud of.
As she has put it, “I am a black woman in Texas…what do you think that is like?” Still she perseveres, pushing, fighting, cajoling, talking back to television sets, Huff Post headlines, random conversations she overhears on the street, and the stupidity of narrow thinking she gently goads in the people she calls friends. And then there’s the classic Geneva in the constancy of her refrain: “Just because it says so in the newspaper, doesn’t mean it’s actually true!”
What she never does is complain. Not ever. Not about her spinal surgery that left her unable to turn her neck and in varying degrees of pain, nor about her diabetes or high blood pressure or the myriad of other health issues that plagued her over the years. No, everything has been taken in stride–even when she couldn’t walk along her beloved rocks any more that stand as monuments to the miraculous in the deserts of the southwest.
“My mind is my camera,” she’d say. Her way of acknowledging limitations.
I think now that she had some prescient knowledge that was impelling her to visit places she’d never been — and in their absence to consider the meaning of those places as so many individual strands in the warp and weft of a lifetime.
I’d been thinking a lot about our friendship in the run-up to our trip. We’d spoken a month or so ago about it. Sorting through which places we’d go to and which we wouldn’t. It got me to thinking that our lives are journeys with certain souls joining us with their presence for brief moments, while others manage to ride the bumpy waves of change that make up the complexities of the full ride. That we’d managed to persevere is something impossibly wonderful as she is always a true fellow-traveler who makes my life better every time she says “Hi, this is Geneva.”
Just as she gave me Laura Nyro all those years ago, Geneva is now giving me her death.
She is intoning the rituals of a brave, lovely soul fighting the good fight to her last. Would that any of us could show such grace as we embrace our end.
Oy … so here’s the story. Back in December my shoulder started hurting after boxing. I didn’t think too much of it and let it slide for a while.
By February I noted serious “ows” when I swam–so I stopped doing that, but kept boxing, avoiding things like the right cross. By March it was still hurting and making “popping” noises so I saw an orthopedist and after getting an MRI got the diagnosis: A torn labram. Specifically, I was diagnosed with a SLAP Tear (Superior Labrum from anterior to posterior), a tear where the biceps muscle tendon connects with the labram in the shoulder joint.
Labram Tear (Credit: Healthandfitness101.com)
Here’s a good explanation from About.com: An injury to a part of the shoulder joint called the labrum. The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint, similar to the hip; however, the socket of the shoulder joint is extremely shallow, and thus inherently unstable. To compensate for the shallow socket, the shoulder joint has a cuff of cartilage called a labrum that forms a cup for the end of the arm bone (humerus) to move within. A specific type of labral tear is called a SLAP tear; this stands for Superior Labrum from Anterior toPosterior. The SLAP tear occurs at the point where the tendon of the biceps muscle inserts on the labrum.
The MRI also showed tendonitis of the supraspinatus tendon (the tendon at the top of shoulder) and bits of inflammation in a couple of other places).
Next up was a course of physical therapy — and no more boxing for the duration.
I worked with a terrific therapist name Eddie who patiently took me through a myriad of stretches and strengthening exercises.
Twice a week I lay on one of the tables while I had a heat pack applied to my shoulder that felt GREAT–for a few minutes. Next up was a massage and gentle manipulation to try to improve my range of motion–and get me out of pain.
After the heat and massage came the hard part: lots of exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and improve range of motion which I had already begun to lose. The biggest problem was my shoulder was feeling even more unstable–meaning lots of popping when I moved it plus it hurt even more after PT was done. In other words, not a great sign.
So … back to the orthopedist I went only to learn that I was also developing a frozen shoulder, meaning my shoulder was stiff and losing range of motion big-time.
I’d already known that I hurt when I tried to move my arm up and to the side or across my body–but the shocker was realizing that I couldn’t scratch my back anymore on my right side. I had also started to wake up in the middle of the night in pain, and trying to put on a sweater was becoming a challenge (not to mention hooking a bra!).
In other words my favorite shoulder Yoga pose was a pipe dream and I could no more do the pose than launch into space.
Options?? Well pretty much only one if I want to gain back the use of my right shoulder — arthroscopic surgery to repair the labram tear, clean up the “junk” around it and to “unfreeze” those parts of the shoulder capsule that are impeding range-of-motion.
Arthroscopic means that the surgery will be performed through 3-4 small incisions around the shoulder using a camera and specialized surgical instruments. Depending upon the severity of the repair, tiny ceramic screws may also be inserted to help stabilize the shoulder joint.
Surgery typically runs from one to two hours and may also entail repairs to the biceps tendon depending upon the amount of damage.
Recovery is another challenge. Immediately post-op, patients wear an ice-pack on their affected arm for 72-96 hours and pretty much keep the arm immobilized in a sling for upwards of four weeks. PT starts pretty early though and patients usually start a course of exercise from about the second day or so.
The prospect of surgery is miserable to say the least — but given that I can’t even run because the motion hurts my arm gives some indication of its necessity. As my surgeon said, if I want to be active at all, I kinda’ have no choice and given that I DESPERATELY want to box again, onward I march into a summer in recovery mode.
My surgery is scheduled for June 20th at NYU/Hospital for Joint Diseases. I’ll let you know how it goes from the other side.
For further information on Labral tears here are a few good resources.