July 28, 2000

Rocky's Right Hook: An Interview With An 18-Year-Old Latina Boxer

EDITOR'S NOTE: Raquel — aka "Rocky" —18, had her first fight on March 4 at a boxing club in Napa, California. She had only been practicing for two months. Even though she lost the fight, she had the entire gym chanting "Rocky! Rocky!" by the end of the first round. The fight was voted best of the night. The group home where Rocky lives asked that her real name not be published.

By Sheerly Avni

What's your best boxing memory?

My first real fight. When you're sparring they can't hit you hard, and you can't get hit hard. But in a real fight, you can show your best. You don't have to hold back.

Before the fight, people were telling me "You're gonna be nervous. You're gonna be scared. You're gonna be hella tired." But I just wanted to get in there-I wanted to get in the ring and see if I could do it. I would work the bags until I was so tired I almost fell down, and you know, I was just excited for the fight.

What about right before the fight?

I was anxious to get in there and start swinging. The other woman was bigger than me-and older-but I was ready. I jumped in and just forgot all my moves. I was just into it, and not thinking.... When I watched the video later, I saw how much I messed up.

But you guys won fight of the night, right?

Yeah, people were cheering. I think they saw that we had more heart. I didn't mind losing, I just really wanted to fight.

What first got you interested in boxing?

When I was a kid, my friends and my uncles would rent [boxing matches] on pay per view...I started watching them [when I was]10 or 11. I liked how they'd fight. I liked how they were in shape and everything and how they would last so long without getting tired and how they moved around. I saw the blood, but it didn't scare me. I just thought, "I want to learn how to do that."

Did you get into fights growing up?

When I got into fights I always won, especially when people would try to jump my brother. I remember once at the fair, there was these boys dogging us, and they were gonna rush my little brother. I happened to turn around and see it. I went out and dropped him with one hit. I knew I was swinging hard. I meant to do it but I didn't know I could.

And how did you start?

I was up here, at the group home, and I was asking the counselors to get me boxing, but they were lagging. So I ran. I went home on a homepass and I never came back. I got in an argument with my mom, and then I did some bad things. Got shot at a lot during the last month that I was gone, got into a fight...and then I got picked up and they brought me back here. This time, they let me start boxing.

Right away, people started saying, "Hey, you're good. You should keep going." So I did, and that's what I've been doing for the last four months.

Are you going to stay?

Yes, until I graduate and get my GED. They want me to stay until I'm 19 because they want me to do something with my life. I could've left. It's my choice to stay here though.

What's different this time?

Part of the reason is boxing training. It takes my mind off of other things. Last time I was up here I wanted to go home and use again, but now I got something better up here, something that makes me feel good.

Now that you're boxing, do you still get in fights?

I can't, because it's illegal. I'm a boxer and my hands are considered deadly weapons... and I'd get kicked off the team if I fight.Plus I'd get another charge and I'd have to go to Juvenile Hall or I'd get an assault charge as an adult hitting a minor. I guess now I don't need to fight, because if I'm mad or feeling bad I just go hit the bags. You gotta control your anger in the ring, because if you get mad you start throwing wild punches and you lose.

Do you think that's what happened to Mike Tyson?

Yeah, I think Tyson got mad. He felt like he wasn't gonna win, so he just had to do something to get his anger out. I'm glad he got kicked out, because [biting] is against the rules. Who knows? He might do it again.

How does boxing compare with street fighting?

It's more hard work to do it this way, because you have to learn the punches. You can't just do whatever you want.

Some people say women can't be as good as men in the ring because they don't have the body strength-do you think it's true?

Naah, that ain't true. It's just that women don't use weight so much. If we work out more, we are gonna get it. We're not just born with it, we gotta get it too. If we work out, we'll be just as good. I think guys say that because they don't want girls to be strong like them. They're just jealous because sometimes the girls end up being better than the guys.

What's your best combination?

My jab right hook.

What do you like best about boxing?

I like it because people are always telling me I'm good. Telling me I could go pro. The people up here, they're all behind me. This time last year, I wanted to go home, I wanted to start using again. But now I want to stay, because I got something better than that for me here. They say I should go pro, because I'm good at it. But there's other things in the world I might be good at. And I might want to find out what they are. I want to try.

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