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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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Entering the large square space of A&G Boxing, it has the gritty ambience of those gyms that were part and parcel of Hollywood boxing movies of the 1950s, The high ceiling and the fluorescent lighting, the mirrors, motivational boxing posters harken back. Most striking, however, is an entire wall of Alcoser's greatest hitters. An 8 x 10 glossy of an intense young fighter has a legend in black marker ink: "1999 Golden Glove Champ, Gina 'Lights Out' Dominguez." Another young boxer proudly poses with her trophy; underneath, an inscription reads — "2006 Golden Glove Champ, Lupe de la Cruz." Below her, a color portrait of young African American boxer Natalie "Mo Money" Mosley, a 2012 Golden Gloves Champ, smiles in a clenched fist stance.

If there is a rising star in the Team Alcoser universe, it is Monica Alvarez. Watching her workout is exhaustive, as she moves from the heavy bags, jump rope, the freestanding punching bag, the stationary speed bag, and finally into the ring with Alcoser to spar with the mitts.From a corner of the ring, a boom box blasts out a mournful ballad by Adele that reverberates throughout the gym as the pounding sound of a half-dozen boxers working out add a staccato beat.

Later, the 23-year-old woman boxer sits at the edge of the ring and relates her coming to the gym.

"I started here in August, 2010," Alvarez said. "Actually, my brother found this place. I came here for the fitness purpose. I was also a troublemaker and I wasn't on the right track." At first she didn't want to do the workout, but all that changed within the first months when she started training with Alcoser. "He gave me the discipline and confidence that I can actually achieve something," said Alvarez. "He saw a lot of potential in me and put a lot of work in my training. I thank him for introducing me to the sport, giving me the discipline to push and motivate myself."

And it has paid off in spades. Alvarez began fighting in the 141-lbs division, but trimmed down to compete at 119-lbs in just two years. "I'm a two-time LBC local championship," Alvarez said. "I'm a 2011 Golden Glove champion, and I will be competing in GG 2013. My goal is to get a jacket. I will be fighting in the LBC state championship in Houston. God willing, if I win I will go to the nationals in Washington State. My goal is to get ranked and go to nationals. And ultimately take it as far as I can go."

Boxing heroes? "I love Manny Pacquiao. I admire his style. That fact that he's short, and I am too, shows that we can. My coach is a hero too. He's been like a father figure for me. He cares for me and all the other fighters. It's not just about the boxing in general but about life and he also has a lot of heart."

On the wall near the ring, Muhammed Ali stands defiantly after delivering the knockout punch that has left Sonny Liston on the canvas. Just as important to Alcoser is the history of San Antonio boxing. On the wall above the speedball, he points to two SA boxers have been part of boxing history. He relates that The Ring magazine's famous list of Fights of the Year includes two San Anto boxers: In 1979, Mike "Cyclone" Ayala fought Danny "Little Red" Lopez before a capacity crowd at the Hemisfair Arena. Twelve years later, in the same arena, Roberto "Pikin" Quiroga exchanged blows against "Kid" Akeem Anifowoshe that ended in a unanimous decision in Quiroga's favor. Akeem collapsed and had emergency brain surgery to remove a blood clot. [Quiroga was murdered in 2004].

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