By Bryanna Fissori
Mendez Boxing Gym in New York is known as one of the top boxing gyms in the country, producing countless champions at both the amateur and professional levels. On May 17th, two female boxers training out of Mendez found success in their respective rings.
One of these strong women never intended to compete, comfortable to train for fitness. The other was an experienced competitor who needed an assertive push to make it to the next level. Both female boxers were trained under the watchful eye of Coach Jose Guzman.
Rebecca Goldberg is a physician’s assistant who started taking boxing classes in order to lose weight and stay in shape. Not only did she enjoy boxing, but it turns out that she was pretty good at it. She started training about a year and a half ago, with absolutely no intention of competing.
“I kinda tricked her into sparring one day and she did good,” said Guzman. “I told her she should spar more. Then this charity (Fighers4Life) came looking for fighters for their event. I asked her, but she didn’t want to do it.”
Like most fitness boxers, Goldberg was hesitant to get hit or go through the grueling camps she had seen others do in preparation to compete, though she is no stranger to hard work.
“I asked her if she ever got tired or just training and working so hard with no goal. She finally gave in,” said Guzman. “She’s a very sweet girl and there is not a bad bone in her body. It was hard for her to hit somebody and to develop the instinct to do that. It’s hard. You get beat up every day and it can be emotional.”
There is nothing like your first fight camp. It is grueling both mentally and physically. Cutting weight, time management and workout recovery coupled with the mental stress of knowing that someone wants to punch your face in. These are just a few of things to take into consideration. Rebecca also has a full-time job, which typically doesn’t make camp less stressful.
“Then I found out that I wasn’t going to be at her fight because I had to travel to Nebraska with the national team,” said Guzman.
Goldberg had committed to the fight and was going to see it through despite not having her coach in the corner.
“I had no idea what to expect,” said Goldberg. “It is intimidating to perform in front of friends and family while getting punched in the face. When I started training it was just for fitness. Competing is totally different.”
Fighters4Life is a boxing promotion that hosts USA Boxing sanctioned amateur bouts for charitable causes.
“Rebecca competed against one of Heather Hardy’s girls and beat the girl up. A year ago, she didn’t want anything to do with stepping into the ring!”
“Jennifer is 7-1 as an amateur MMA fighter and she would do boxing on the side,” said Guzman. “She was talented but was just getting by without putting in the hard work. I met her about a year and a half ago. She moves well and has power in both hands. I thought I could polish her up to be a good fighter. It was her first boxing camp with a real trainer and she thought she knew everything. I’ve had close to 200 amateur fights and 21 pro. I told her to trust me and I would guide her and make her a champion.”
Lopez is not a professional in either sport. She bartends to make ends meet, but that lifestyle can often make it difficult to stay disciplined.
“A few months back I didn’t think I was going to compete in the New York Golden Gloves because I felt like I wasn’t ready and had a short amount of time to prepare and get in fight shape. I spoke to my trainer (Jose Guzman) and he said if I really wanted to compete I will have to give it my all and that’s exactly what I did.”
In a sport where lack of focus could have big consequences, Guzman wanted to make sure Lopez was serious about the competition.
“We were training her for Golden Gloves and she was getting lazy and staying out late. I told her that if she didn’t get it together I was going to pull her out. She started training hard. She cut 10 pounds in a week. In her first bout, she fought the defending champ from last year. I was hoping we wouldn’t draw her early. Jennifer had sparred her before and got a little beat up, but time Jennifer out-boxed her. She stuck to the plan of hitting and not getting hit. Everybody was surprised at how well she did.”
Out of 13 female boxers in her division at the Golden Gloves National Competition, Lopez took home second place.
“I’m proud of how much I’ve accomplished. Even though I’ve boxed for some time now, this was my first boxing tournament on a national level,” said Lopez. “Fighting back to back and making weight almost every day for a week was challenging but I gained new confidence and built lifelong new friendships with other fighters. I am beyond grateful for team metro and everyone who invested their time to help me, without them it wouldn’t have been possible.”
Both female competitors have a desire to continue fighting. Look for Jennifer Lopez to also continue her career in MMA with a new-found focus on striking. Now that she has a taste for boxing competition, Rebecca Goldberg hopes to be back in the ring and continue to grow as an athlete.
If you happen to be in New York, stop by Mendez Boxing to meet Coach Jose Guzman and watch champions being created one training session at a time.
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