NPR logo

'I Am A Boxer': Fighter In The Ring, Lady Outside It

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/146016510/146051999" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
'I Am A Boxer': Fighter In The Ring, Lady Outside It

Sports

'I Am A Boxer': Fighter In The Ring, Lady Outside It

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/146016510/146051999" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
  • Franchon Crews applies her lipstick backstage before her championship fight at the USA National Tournament in Colorado in June 2011. She won. "I'm not doing it for the camera. I got my team, my city, but at the end of the day, it's me in there. It's me."
    Hide caption
    Franchon Crews applies her lipstick backstage before her championship fight at the USA National Tournament in Colorado in June 2011. She won. "I'm not doing it for the camera. I got my team, my city, but at the end of the day, it's me in there. It's me."
    Photos by Sue Jaye Johnson
  • "I'm a very flamboyant person," Franchon says. "I'm the girl with the big personality so when I speak you are going to listen. I hope to use that to change the world and change people's lives."
    Hide caption
    "I'm a very flamboyant person," Franchon says. "I'm the girl with the big personality so when I speak you are going to listen. I hope to use that to change the world and change people's lives."
  • Franchon was a contestant on American Idol. She swore that if she didn't make history singing, she was going to do it boxing. She is ranked No. 1 in the country. Here, she entertains her teammates at a tournament. "I'm not going to let anybody stop me.  Boxing is part of my life, it's not my life."
    Hide caption
    Franchon was a contestant on American Idol. She swore that if she didn't make history singing, she was going to do it boxing. She is ranked No. 1 in the country. Here, she entertains her teammates at a tournament. "I'm not going to let anybody stop me. Boxing is part of my life, it's not my life."
  • Franchon, in red, trades punches at the International Duel in Oxnard, Calif., in November 2011. "I'm a champion in life, so that's what gets me through."
    Hide caption
    Franchon, in red, trades punches at the International Duel in Oxnard, Calif., in November 2011. "I'm a champion in life, so that's what gets me through."
  • Mikaela Mayer is one of eight women competing for the lightweight title. "I like the fact that I'm feminine outside on the streets and I may not seem like a boxer, but really I am a boxer, and I have that side to me. I can be a woman and an aggressive athlete."
    Hide caption
    Mikaela Mayer is one of eight women competing for the lightweight title. "I like the fact that I'm feminine outside on the streets and I may not seem like a boxer, but really I am a boxer, and I have that side to me. I can be a woman and an aggressive athlete."
  • Mikaela won her final bout at the Golden Gloves National Tournament to secure her place in the Olympic Trials. She says she was a "bad kid" growing up — until she started spending Friday and Saturday nights at the gym.
    Hide caption
    Mikaela won her final bout at the Golden Gloves National Tournament to secure her place in the Olympic Trials. She says she was a "bad kid" growing up — until she started spending Friday and Saturday nights at the gym.
  • Tiara Brown says guys in the gym get jealous of her body. "I have abs of steel. And then I have these sexy, luscious lips. And then I've got these guns on my arms. I'm a boxer, and I'm a girl boxer."
    Hide caption
    Tiara Brown says guys in the gym get jealous of her body. "I have abs of steel. And then I have these sexy, luscious lips. And then I've got these guns on my arms. I'm a boxer, and I'm a girl boxer."
  • Tiara weighs in the morning of a fight. Boxers cannot be over the weight limit, or they will be disqualified.
    Hide caption
    Tiara weighs in the morning of a fight. Boxers cannot be over the weight limit, or they will be disqualified.
  • Tiara at the International Duel in Oxnard last year. "Boxing makes me believe that I can do anything. I feel like boxing is in my blood. When I am not boxing, I feel like a part of me is missing. I am in love with it. I could be married to boxing."
    Hide caption
    Tiara at the International Duel in Oxnard last year. "Boxing makes me believe that I can do anything. I feel like boxing is in my blood. When I am not boxing, I feel like a part of me is missing. I am in love with it. I could be married to boxing."
  • Bertha Aracil is one of 24 women who will be competing for three spots on the first U.S. Women's Olympic Boxing Team. "Boxing is not a soft sport. I don't believe it's a violent sport, but it's not a soft sport. You gotta have guts to go in the ring and throw a punch and receive one."
    Hide caption
    Bertha Aracil is one of 24 women who will be competing for three spots on the first U.S. Women's Olympic Boxing Team. "Boxing is not a soft sport. I don't believe it's a violent sport, but it's not a soft sport. You gotta have guts to go in the ring and throw a punch and receive one."
  • Bertha fights N'yteeyah Sherman at the Police Athletic League Tournament in October 2011. "You gotta think before you throw a punch. You can't be angry. When I'm in the ring, I'm thinking all the time, 'How can I beat this person and win?' I'm relaxed and I'm looking for my opponent's mistake. As soon as she makes a mistake, then I'll take advantage and get her."
    Hide caption
    Bertha fights N'yteeyah Sherman at the Police Athletic League Tournament in October 2011. "You gotta think before you throw a punch. You can't be angry. When I'm in the ring, I'm thinking all the time, 'How can I beat this person and win?' I'm relaxed and I'm looking for my opponent's mistake. As soon as she makes a mistake, then I'll take advantage and get her."
  • Bertha often travels to tournaments with her infant niece and nephew, and tends to them between fights.
    Hide caption
    Bertha often travels to tournaments with her infant niece and nephew, and tends to them between fights.
  • Bertha loves to cook for her large Cuban family. "Cooking relaxes me, it makes me happy."
    Hide caption
    Bertha loves to cook for her large Cuban family. "Cooking relaxes me, it makes me happy."
  • Julia Irman won the German National Championship three weeks after giving birth to her son. Here, she poses with a young fan. "In a couple years, I want to have another child. A girl. A boxer like me."
    Hide caption
    Julia Irman won the German National Championship three weeks after giving birth to her son. Here, she poses with a young fan. "In a couple years, I want to have another child. A girl. A boxer like me."

1 of 14

View slideshow i

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. This summer at the Olympic Games in London, women will compete in the boxing ring for the very first time. And next month, some of the top female American boxers will gather in Spokane, Washington to vie for a spot on the U.S. team. WNYC's Marianne McCune spoke with some of the hopefuls are about why they love this traditionally male sport.

MARIANNE MCCUNE, BYLINE: Women who box love it for the same reasons guys do. Boxing requires intense physical and psychological discipline, the ability to overcome fear and anger.

BERTHA ARACIL: I think boxing is therapeutic. It keeps you under control. You know? It controls your body.

MCCUNE: This is Bertha Aracil, 29 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPOON BANGING AGAINST SURFACE)

MCCUNE: She loves to cook.

ARACIL: And I'm an amateur boxer.

MCCUNE: When I met her she was living in a basement apartment in the Bronx with a man and a woman she called her husband...

ARACIL: So strong, poppy.

MCCUNE: ...and her wife.

ARACIL: Hello?

MCCUNE: They were cooking for a band of nieces, nephews, and sisters - part of a big family of Cuban immigrants.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILDREN PLAYING)

MCCUNE: Aracil is 5 foot 9 with jeans, boots. She says her many tattoos tell the story of who she is. She points to a pit bull and a strawberry.

ARACIL: I love strawberries.

MCCUNE: As a teenager, Aracil was the pit bull. Like a lot of guys who box, she was a street fighter first until she got locked up for five years.

ARACIL: Before I started boxing, I thought you have to be in the ring and be angry to actually win, you know. But you can actually win a fight and don't have, like, nothing malicious in your mind, nothing, you know. You can actually be calm and happy and win. That's what I like about boxing, because I can't believe I can actually fight in the ring and think. When you beat somebody, you're better than them. That's what's satisfying me. I want to be better than you.

MCCUNE: So, any good boxer derives that kind of satisfaction. Here's what's different for a woman: she's taking on a challenge no one expects her to.

GLORIA PEEK: OK, here we go. On the bell.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL RINGING)

PEEK: I think women are one of the fiercest competitors there are. But they've been taught to suppress a lot of things.

MCCUNE: Coach Gloria Peek is with USA Boxing.

PEEK: It's not ladylike. It's not ladylike to do this, this and that.

(SOUNDBITE OF WOMEN TRAINING)

MCCUNE: Peek is in a California boxing gym, helping train a diverse group of fighters that Bertha Aracil will have to beat in order to make the U.S. Olympic team.

PEEK: Change the speed on her a little bit.

MCCUNE: Peek started boxing in the 1970s, against many odds.

PEEK: My mother dressed me up so pretty in these little dresses and everything like that. And I'd come home with my dress torn, bleeding and all that 'cause I'd been in a fight. My mother's like, Gloria, what were you doing? Fighting. This guy got all in my face, threw a punch. I let him know that I wasn't afraid of him. No, no, it's ladylike to be afraid. Why? Nobody has an intelligent answer.

MCCUNE: Now, she calls boxing the last great domain of men.

PEEK: I think of it as like the gladiators and, you know, the immortals and the gods - that was always men. And now all of a sudden women have stepped into it.

(SOUNDBITE OF PERSON HITTING HEAVY BAG)

MCCUNE: Women like Mikaela Mayer, who's here wailing on a heavy bag. Mayer will compete against Aracil to represent the U.S. at 132 pounds. She's tall, with cover-girl looks, and says she wears heels as often as possible.

MIKAELA MAYER: I like the fact that I'm feminine outside the ring and on the streets and, you know, I may not seem like a boxer but really, you know, I am a boxer and I have that side to me. And I can be a woman and I can be an aggressive athlete.

(SOUNDBITE OF PERSON HITTING SPEED BAG)

MCCUNE: Tiara Brown is on the speed bag - another opponent for Aracil.

TIARA BROWN: I'm a boxer. I want to be treated like the guys are treated, like a boxer. I don't want special treatment because I'm a girl. No.

MCCUNE: On the other hand...

BROWN: For one, I have a big old juicy booty and it's shaped like a cherry. I have abs of steel. And then I have these sexy luscious lips. And I've got these guns on my arms. I'm a boxer, and I'm a girl boxer. (Singing) My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard and, dang right, it's better than yours, dang right...

ARACIL: I love looking at women go in the ring and box. I think that's real sexy.

MCCUNE: We're back in Bertha Aracil's basement bedroom.

ARACIL: To go in the ring and switch up and be strong and can take punches and receiving them, it's showing me my strong side, like, my fearless side. Nothing soft when I'm in the ring. I can be in there and be aggressive and fight, and get out of there and be sweet.

MCCUNE: The three tough and sweet fighters you just met will compete against each other and five other women in the lightweight division for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. For NPR News, I'm Marianne McCune in New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF PERSON HITTING SPEED BAG)

MARTIN: Our story is part of a series produced with WNYC in New York and the New York Times. Sue Jaye Johnson co-produced the series and her photo essay on the women boxers appears in today's New York Times Magazine. For more, go to NPR.org.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.