Posts Tagged ‘Bonnie Canino

11
Apr
15

Q and A with Boxer Federica Bianco

Q & A With Boxer Federica Bianco

Federica Bianco

Boxer Federica Bianco is making her pro debut on April 25, 2015 in Richmond, CA, Photo Credit: Shelly Vinson

On April 25, 2015 at the Richmond Auditorium in Richmond, California, a Bay area town near San Francisco, Federica Bianco will be making her pro debut at the age of 36 against a fighter named Laura Deanovic. They’ll be fighting on Squarevision Entertainment’s Night of Glory II, card with the top contenders in the Bay Area fighting for the new GBO belt. (And by the way, the promoters will also be donating a dollar from every ticket to the Race to Erase MS (multiple sclerosis research) charity—so if you’re in the Bay Area, you should think about supporting a worthy cause.) Federica came to boxing from the world of Brazilian capoeira. She got good enough to teach it, but started to get intrigued with boxing and switched over completely a few years ago. I got to know Federica in and around Gleason’s Gym, though her true boxing home is at Manhattan’s Church Street Gym. She’s been competing as an amateur with fights in and around New York City, and as far afield on Beautiful Brawlers’ cards and at Bonnie Canino’s 2014 National Golden Gloves tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where I got to Federica bang, and bang hard. As a boxer and someone who has developed a love affair with the sport, Federica helped arrange to bring IWBHOF hall of famer and boxing champion Lucia Rijker to Church Street Gym this past February. Rijker spent two days training and motivating participants in boxing and kickboxing in her unique style—prompting Federica to commit even more to the sport she loves. I had the opportunity to speak with Federica recently, and then through a series of emails, we ironed out a Q & A for Girlboxing readers. Here’s what Federica had to say.

  1. You have your first professional fight coming up at the end of the month?  What can you tell Girlboxing readers about the fight?  

I have been cuddling with the idea of going pro for some time, and I am really excited that this is happening! We’ve been trying to find a match for about a year. It is not easy: there is no money behind women’s boxing, so its hard to get an opponent from afar, or finding a promotion company that is willing to fly a debuting fighter out, and no local matches were coming up. My opponent has more experience, and is a bit bigger than me. But I saw her boxing and I think she has a style that will suite me well.

Federica Bianco

Federica Bianco getting ready for an amateur bout, Photo Credit: J. J. Ignotz

  1. In discussions we’ve had, you’ve stated that you are “not so young.” At 36, what is prompting you to step into the ring for the first time as a pro–at an age, when on the one hand many fighters are stepping out of the ring and on the other, when it comes to female boxers, many are still finding great success.

That’s right: I am no spring chicken! I am 36, and I only started competing a few years ago.  But, honestly, I am in the best shape of my life. Boxing is physical, but also very mental, so I think age helps: I know how to pace myself better than I would have 10 years ago, I am a more experienced athlete, I know how my body is feeling through training camp, I know what diets work for me to make weight responsibly, and I know how to control my emotions way better. So much more is known about sports medicine, and how to train responsibly, that the peak athletic age has definitely shifted ahead. In fact about a year ago I was looking at statistics about title holders: the mean age for boxing title holders for males, as well as for the WBC women title holders, is over 31! Two years ago the age cut for the amateurs was 35, and as I was approaching it, with such few chances for women to compete in the master division, it became clear that I would either have to hang the gloves, or turn pro. I could not keep up the level of intensity in the training that I am used to without a goal in sight (and I am not one to do things half way…). So “pro or couch?” was the question buzzing in my head. And I feel physically great, and mentally ever so eager to continue training and learning, and fighting. So the couch is not really an option – yet. Even as they increased the age limit to 40 for the amateurs, the thought of going pro was in my head. I am ambitious, I want to continue challenging myself, and so it is time to bring it to the next level, and turn pro. In addition to that, there are some things that were frustrating about the amateurs. There are a lot of tournaments I cannot do, either because they have different age cuts (like the New York Daily News Golden Gloves which tops out fighters at 35) or because I am not a citizen. I am Italian, (I am a permanent resident in the USA), and finding matches outside of tournaments was getting harder and harder: with so few women, we all know and have fought each other in each weight class.

  1. Having started out in capoeira, the Brazilian martial arts form with roots that go back centuries, you’ve brought a background of a pretty tough form into the ring.  What prompted the switch to boxing and what adjustments have you made between the two styles?   

I got to capoeira through dance and dance-theater, and then capoeira brought me to boxing – a pretty winding path. There are many different styles of capoeira, and a few years back I had to move from Boston to Santa Barbara for work, and my school of capoeira was not represented in SB. I started teaching classes, but of course that meant I was not getting the same workouts that I was used to training every day in a large and competitive group in Boston, so I picked up boxing for the conditioning (choosing boxing over other martial arts cause I did not want to try a style that would mess with my capoeira kicks). And it stole my heart. As a capoeirista, my best assets were aggression and fearlessness, and the same goes for boxing. I love capoeira; it is such a rich art, with profound cultural depth. I love the ritual, the instruments, and the sense of community. But ultimately, it is the competition, and the confrontation swayed me, and that is on another level in boxing – you are in the corner, looking at your opponent, and she is surrounded by all her own demons. Everything about boxing is clear and plain. Unlike most martial arts, the technique is simple: there are only a few punches! So the name of the game becomes perfecting them. You get in the ring, and in most cases it is clear who is getting the better of the other. Plain and simple. I love that about boxing. And every time you step into the ring, you face yourself. As for the adjustments, I remember going to my boxing coach in California and telling him my capoeira Mestre was complaining my capoeira started to look like boxing, and him saying “well, that’s weird, cause I am still waiting for your boxing to stop looking like capoeira!.” Of course they are very different forms, but it is interesting that among all martial arts and combat sports, both capoeira and boxing put a lot of emphasis on avoiding getting hit, rather than blocking, so they are end up being more ‘fluid’ so to speak, than other martial arts. Coming from a different athletic background in general helps at the beginning, then gets in your way for a while, and only later you start being able to integrate your diverse background in your new style.

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Federica Bianco stunning her opponent with a hard right, Photo Credit, Anthony B. Geathers

  1. You’ve been a trainer and with your boxing have switched more and more into a role as a fighter?  What has this given you in terms of your understanding of the sport, and more importantly, your feelings as you commit yourself to competing on the professional level?

I love teaching and training, but I love being a student best. For me it is really all about improving and learning, that is what I like to do: I am a student for life! Of course though, looking through a coach’s eyes helps tremendously as a fighter! I enjoy every opportunity I have to coach and corner fighters, it sharpens my eye and my brain, so that I can become a smarter, and more tactical fighter! The feelings of a fighter though are always hard to deal with, and I am not sure that seeing them from the other side helps at all. Being conscious of the process does not always make it easier: as a fighter you really just want to rely on your coach for emotional guidance, and a good coach will know how to work your energy to keep emotions in control. And then again, as hard as fighting is emotionally, it is that fear, that uneasy sensation, and the fact that it dissolves as the bell rings, that draws us to fighting. 10421272_871329859575991_920216048370414717_n

  1. You had the chance to work with Lucia Rijker having helped set up her training seminars this past February at Church Street Gym in New York City. Please share your experiences and how it has affected your boxing as you look towards your first pro fight?

Meeting and working with Lucia has been one of the best things that boxing brought into my life! I met her in California for a few training sessions when I still lived there: a present from my husband. Of course I knew her from her fame – my first coach handed me Shadow Boxers [the 1999 film by Katya Bankowsky] the moment I expressed interest in competing – and my expectations were oh so high in meeting her. Well, she fulfilled and exceeded them all. Her coaching is great, but better than her boxing coaching is her vision of the sport, and of a fighter’s experience. She obviously witnessed her own journey in a very conscious way, and has such terrific heritage to share. That is why I really wanted to bring her to NYC and share her with my teammates! She taps into the kinesiological and the spiritual aspects alike. And again, boxing is mental, at least as much as it is physical. Each time I worked with her I was reinvigorated, empowered, and more focused and centered than before. I consider her a friend and her positive energy and encouragement (her motto “be your best self”) mean so much to me!

  1. As with many female boxers you also have a entire life outside of the ring?  What are your other passions and how do you integrate them with your training and the competitions you participate in?

Well in my “other life” I am a scientist – an astrophysicist. I am a postdoctoral fellow at NYU [New York University], and mostly I study exploding stars. It’s a lot of fun: I get paid to do research, which in a way means I get paid to play around and solve puzzles to improve our understanding of the Universe! Of course it is a demanding job, so juggling that with boxing is not easy – I don’t get a lot of hours of sleep, but if you really want to do something you will find the time and way to do it. Luckily my job affords me a flexible schedule and the possibility to travel, as I need to for boxing. It is interesting that both my careers are in male dominated, very competitive fields. I guess I like the challenge.

  1. Having watched you fight last year at the National Golden Gloves, I know how tough you are in the ring and have a good chin. What is your fighting style and what do you expect of your performance in your pro bout?

I do have a good chin and I am a stalker in the ring. I like working inside in phone-booth, toe-to-toe fights. I am excited to fight with smaller gloves, and no headgear: together with a good chin I have good power, and the pro style suites me better than the Olympic style of touch-and-go.

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Federica Bianco working her opponent towards the ropes. Photo Credit: J. J. Ignotz

  1. For readers who may not yet have sparred or fought competitively, what advise can you offer as they embark upon their journeys into boxing?

Keep an open mind, and if you are eager to improve yourself, there is no better environment! I have seen many people stepping into the gym thinking they will be professional fighters, and just hating it in the ring – either hating getting hit, or hating hitting the opponent. And I have seen people that were reluctant to exchange leather, only to find out they loved it and could no longer live without it!  Sparring and fighting are truly nothing like one would guess not having done it. There is no rage, it is not emotional – at least for me, it is very rational in the fight, I find myself as lucid and focused as I ever am.

  1. Once your down with boxing professionally — say ten years from now 🙂 — what’s next for you in the sport?

I enjoy the ride, it is hard for me to think ahead by years: my life keeps surprising me! But I love teaching and coaching, and I especially love how I see boxing empowers women. I would love to be involved in raising some women fighters. For ticket information to attend Federica’s pro debut, please click on the link: SquareWarriors.com

08
Sep
11

My dinner with Mischa Merz!

My dinner with Mischa Merz!

Mischa Merz

Former Austrialian national champion Mischa Merz and author of the book, The Sweetest Thing: A Boxer’s Memoir has come to New York to meet up with old friends and promote her book.  She’ll be reading a chapter tonight (September 8th) at the Sidewalk Cafe (94 Avenue A @ 6th Street) in the East Village beginning at 6:30 PM.

Mischa will also be reading in at her Bookstore Boxing event along with author Binnie Klien, documentary filmmaker, Leyla Leidecker and for the “main event” a women’s boxing exhibition featuring WBC Super Bantamweight World Champion Alicia Ashley and 2008 Golden Glove winner Camille Currie.  The event will be held at BookCourt  (163 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY) on Sunday, September 11th beginning at 7:00 PM.

Last night, I had the opportunity to meet up with Mischa at Gleason’s Gym and after a workout we headed over to Rice Restaurant on Washington Street for some well deserved dinner!

Generous with her time as always, Mischa talked about the process of writing her book noting that much of the book “wrote itself” because as she put it, “I have the luxury of this great reality I can write about.”

For those Girlboxing readers who have not read Mischa’s book, it is a personal journey through the world of women’s boxing in the United States at a particular place and time — and ends with an epilogue about the  2010 Women’s World Championships in Barbados.

In talking about how she came up with the concept for the book she wanted to write a contemporary history of women’s boxing so that the flashes of brilliance found in such fighters as Bonnie Canino wouldn’t be forgotten.  “In another five or ten years it’ll be like trying to dig out people that are just lost,” she said.

This germ of an idea expanded to become a more personal journey through the story, and as she says, a lived experienced. “The book was more about spending time with people and training with people I’d admired from a distance,” adding that in writing the book, “it was a matter of producing, it was a matter of tying it up.  It was a very tight deadline I had 6 months to write it and live it.  I spent 5 weeks here fighting, writing up notes every night in cafes about what was happening and then from August to December I had to turn it into a manuscript.”

The book is also a sojourn through a personal passion best stated in the preface to her book:

My relationship with boxing has been like one you would have with another human being.  I have loathed it and adored it.  It has both invaded my dreams and turned my stomach.  I have resolved to reduce its significance in my life only to see my passionf or it intensify.  Boxing is my man. Even my husband will tell you so. (ix)

Sitting across a dinner table, Mischa is no less passionate about the sport. Talking about the 2010 Women’s World Championships in Barbados she said, “Barbados really was a dramatic seismic shift in my mind.  It was like every where you looked the women boxers were really great: explosive, technical, hitting hard.  Many women don’t know that they can be much more explosive, but these women were amazing. There were 300 or so and they were fighters, not just women, but great fighters.”

When Mischa isn’t taking fights or working as a boxing trainer in Melbourne, Australia, she writes.

“As a journalist, I continue to write about women’s boxing, but I like to write about other things as well, not get stuck too much.  I’ve discovered another potential book, but it’s much more Australian.  It’s about an aboriginal boxing gym, in Melbourne.  It’s history is actually connected to the Black Panthers movement here, and the [American]  civil rights movement, was its inpsiration.  That movement has been completely derailed in Australia. The gym has got the boxing at its core, but the ripples go beyond. It’ll be more of a historical book, but again, I may need to write it in the same way, by being inside.”

Having spent a lovely evening talking about boxing – not to mention a fabulous meal, we headed off in our separate directions.  If you can make it through the water logged streets of New York, do try and catch her reading tonight @ the Sidewalk Cafe and for you Brooklynites (or folks who just love a great time), do try and make it BookCourt on Sunday evening.  Otherwise, R-E-A-D Mischa’s book, its great!

 




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