Those who follow boxing know that sport is as much mental as it is physical. It takes a special type of person to just find the courage to step into the ring and accept the fact that you will receive a punch in the face, but there is a more esoteric mental aspect to the game.
16-year-old Kelly Felix finds out with her own eyes. A senior riding in Sequoia, Felix began training at Gladiator Gym in Redwood City about five years ago and has since developed a passion for the sport. A former footballer, Felix now devotes himself to soft science.
âWhen I played soccer I wanted to be a professional soccer player,â Felix said. “Now that I box, I want to be a professional boxer.”
Felix said she took boxing seriously in November and started actively training to start taking fights. She discovered on her first attempt that boxing can be a cruel sport. Antonio Renteria, owner / trainer of Gladiator Gym, has scheduled a fight in the Atlanta Classic in Georgia – a tournament dedicated solely to women’s boxing.
It was to be Felix’s first official amateur fight. But after learning that there were multiple fighters in his age group and experience level, when they got there they were told there was only one boxer.
When the day of the fight arrived, the other boxer was nowhere to be found.
âWe found out on the day of the fight (Felix’s opponent was not present),â Renteria said. âIt’s hard to find fights for women.
Organizers quickly put Felix in the ring with an older, heavier, and more experienced fighter for an exhibition bout that Felix lost – if that counted. Renteria believes if it was a sanctioned fight Felix might have a better chance. The one-minute rounds, instead of two minutes, handcuffed Felix, who Renteria says is a slow starter.
âShe is methodical. I would have liked it to be a little faster, but it analyzes everything, âRenteria said. âShe gauges her opponent. She keeps control. She doesn’t go without thinking. His level seems much higher than his age.
âI was frustrated. I went there for no reason, âFelix said. “When I found out there was no fighting, I didn’t care who I was fighting, I just wanted to fight.”
It’s that kind of mentality that can lead a novice fighter through lean times. It is not always that easy. Renteria said he had lost two or three of his competitive team fighters who just didn’t want to get over the pandemic.
Felix, meanwhile, trained alone with a heavy gym bag. She also started participating in Renteria’s conditioning classes with her competition team.
Despite flying across the country for a fight that did not take place, Felix continued to work. Last week she had a sparring session with a boxer from Richmond and by all accounts handled her easily.
“[Felix] whip the girl, âRenteria said. âShe can pretty much beat 18-year-olds. His confidence is much higher than it should be.
There is this mental strength that comes to the fore. From fighting training to fighting and boxing politics, a fighter’s mental toughness can be an even greater necessity than physical talent. It takes a strong person to be successful in the fighting world and Felix is ââalready showing that he has the mental toughness to give boxing a try.
âTo follow this sport, you need work. Sometimes the job is easy. But consistency (for training) isn’t, âRenteria said.
FÃ©lix said: âAt first, I did it for fun; as a hobby, I guess. â¦ But I love sport so much.