The young woman moved steadily around the room, eyes narrowed, lasered in on the target ... total concentration. The whap of her punches echoed through the room, exclaiming that this was no simple cardio workout.
But that is how it began.
Amanda Ramirez walked into a boxing gym in College Station, Texas, looking for a fitness workout when she was an undergraduate at Texas A&M. Now, a graduate of A&M, Class of 2011, Ramirez is one of many locals training for a moment in the spotlight this weekend in the 71st annual Regional Golden Gloves tournament at the El Paso County Coliseum.
The 23-year-old El Pasoan, now doing post-graduate study at UTEP, began her boxing journey simply enough.
"It started with exercise," she said with a smile. "Then it became a thing. I went into a gym in College Station about four years ago. I was just looking for a cardio fitness workout. But it turned out the gym had real fighters. The guy who owned the gym had been an amateur and he helped get me started. I started sparring about two-and-a-half years ago. They just told me my technique was good ... that I should box."
Pausing, smiling again, Ramirez added, "It wasn't until I got with Herman that I really stepped up my game."
Herman is former heavyweight professional boxer Herman Delgado.
"I just went to a dentist when I came back from A&M because I wanted a mouthpiece," she said. "He turned out to be Herman's dentist so he gave me his phone number.
I don't think Herman knew I was serious."
Delgado, who now trains fighters, said, "I didn't know how serious she was. I thought she was just looking for fitness. But once I got into the ring with her, started having her work the mitts, I saw she had a lot of potential. So, we went to work."
Ramirez, whose uncle was the late El Paso boxing legend Jake Martinez and whose aunt is Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico, has made her way along in the sport like anyone else -- taking the hard knocks that walk hand-in-hand with boxing.
"I boxed in a couple of smokers (club fights) in Houston," she said, smiling once more.
How did those come out?
Laughing, she said, "I got my butt kicked a couple of times; got a couple of bloody noses. In order to get better in this sport, you've got to get your butt kicked."
She has been working with Delgado about a year-and-a-half now. She entered last year's Golden Gloves right after beginning her work with him.
"I lost last year," she said. "But, I learned from my experience. I know I need to be more aggressive, go forward."
Delgado, who put together a 12-9-1 record as an undersized heavyweight -- including bouts with current world champion Vitali Klitschko and heavyweight standouts Hasim Rahman and Ike Ibeabuchi -- likes the improvement he has seen in his young fighter.
"She's made some mistakes, but she's always acknowledged her mistakes," he said. "She listens. She doesn't ask why. She's made great improvement and she's been an inspiration to the other fighters. She helps motivate them when they see how hard she works. She works so hard. I never even have to ask her, 'Did you run?' I know she did."
Ramirez said, "I don't mind the work. You get to actually see the results. I can tell I'm more fit this time. I'm definitely stronger."
Of course, in boxing there is that ugly vulture forever circling your time away from the ring -- making weight.
"I'm trying to come in at 136," she said, shaking her head.
Delgado chuckled and said, "Keep her away from Chico's Tacos."
And Ramirez said, "You wouldn't believe how much I crave things. I live at home and my mom always has cookies around. I went to Buffalo Wild Wings with friends the other day and they were eating wings, and there I was, eating my salad with extra cucumbers."
It is all part of the journey, all leading to that adrenaline-rushing moment when you step through the ropes and under the bright lights of center ring.
"It's really fun ... really a rush," she said. "It all happens so fast, but it makes you want to get right back in there. School will always come first, though."
Ramirez has a degree in sociology with a minor in psychology from Texas A&M. She is currently studying to get into graduate school with a different major, switching to speech pathology with the goal of becoming a speech therapist one day.
That is the main goal, the main target, the main journey.
But, along the way, she is hard at work -- running, training, sweating, popping those mitts -- seeking that adrenaline rush that joins hands with that rough and tumble world of boxing.
In the Ring
-- What: 71st annual Regional Golden Gloves boxing tournament. -- When: 7 p.m. Friday; 3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. -- Where: El Paso County Coliseum, 4100 E. Paisano. -- Tickets: $10; $5 youth, seniors, military. -- Of note: Amateur boxers from throughout the region compete in the Junior Olympic, Novice and Open Classes. Champions in the Open Class will represent El Paso at the state tournament in Fort Worth.
-- Who: Amanda Ramirez. -- Hometown: El"Paso. -- Weight class: 136 pounds, lightweight. -- Of note: Graduate of Texas A&M with a degree in sociology; currently studying at UTEP, seeking to enter graduate school in speech pathology; just beginning her boxing career, losing her lone Golden Gloves bout last year; graduated from Franklin High School.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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