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Arts & Culture

Hit like a girl: women boxers in a man's world

Photo: PHOTOS BY JOSH HUSKIN, License: N/A

PHOTOS BY JOSH HUSKIN

Coach Alcoser: once reluctant to train women, he's now a believer.

Photo: , License: N/A

Paloma Campos (left) and Mónica Álvarez going toe-to-toe.



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And wouldn't you know it, two women boxers, Claressa Shields and Marlen Esparza, were the only boxers on the USA Olympic boxing team to return with medals. The men disappointed and returned empty-handed. Flyweight Esparza, a Latina from Houston, garnered the first bronze Olympic medal awarded a woman in boxing while teenager Claressa Shields from Michigan won the first Olympic gold medal for a woman boxer.

The irony of the situation is not lost on Al Alcoser, whose small A&G Boxing Club is a stone's throw from the corner of IH 35 South and North St. Mary's. The small building once housed a mom-and-pop corner store. The faded sign, a ready-made, easily went from A&G Grocery to Alcoser & Gonzalez Boxing Club. An old-fashioned screen door facing the street often attracts passersby and recently a tour bus turned around when they saw the boxing ring inside and the sight of boxers jumping rope.

For Alcoser, 57-years-old, who heads Team Alcoser, it is a dream come true. "When I decided to train young women in boxing, I was met with rejection," the slightly balding trainer with an intense gaze on his ruddy complexion said. He had trained other boxers, male and female over the years, including the then very young Oscar Diaz and his siblings.

"I started out in the late 1970s and 1980s with kickboxing. And then I got married and raised a family. In 1988 I decided to come back as a boxing trainer. I started female boxing in 1990. Everyone kicked me out of their gyms, saying they didn't want any females. I told them that females are here to stay. Since then I've been with female boxing."

His decision to start his own club paid off. He is now considered San Antonio's "godfather of female boxing." And while the gym offers pro and amateur training for both male and female, Alcoser's dedication has been to bring young women to be part of the boxing experience. "I'm not looking for championship boxers, but boxers who are truly dedicated to finding a goal in this training," said Alcoser. "Every fighter comes to me because they weren't treated right or trained right elsewhere. But there are only a few of those. Most of my fighters I start from the ground up. I have had GG champs, LBC champion [Local Boxing Committees]. I've had female professional fighters, but because I'm in the medical field, I can't get away."

After a Saturday morning workout, several young women boxers spoke about their personal goals and how working together as a team under Alcoser has resonated both in and outside the ring.

"I got here a year and a half ago. I was looking for a gym and they were the only one that answered my call," boxer Paloma Campos said. "I came here because I want to be a police officer and I also want to box. It's helped me with everything. It's a good sport. It takes my stress out.

My teammates help me a lot. If it weren't for them I might not be here. My coach is the best. He gets after us but it's for our own good. The way he cares for us is way better than other coaches. Many of them just care about the sport, but coach really cares for us first." Campos, age 20, will fight for the third time in this year's Golden Gloves. She is quick to point out that women have come a long way in boxing. "Times change. It's good to have females in boxing. If males can do it, we can too."

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