An inside look at the Syracuse University Boxing Club's journey to nationals

An SU senior narrates her own experience at the competition and describes the feeling of stepping into a ring.

The days leading up to the USIBA Boxing Nationals were tiresome. Some days I would go to the gym at noon, workout for an hour, go to class, go back to the gym, run a few miles, then do a two-hour boxing workout. Other days, the team focused on sparring, or shadow boxing. It basically started to consume my life, even showing up in my dreams.

"It was a mixture of feeling like you want to cry, throw up, and beat the absolute crap out of the person in front of you."
— Ediva Zanker

But training was nothing like stepping into the ring for the first time. You train for months, but you only have six minutes in the ring to prove yourself.

On the day of the fights, Tony Chao, Tomas Smith, Ty Cothern, Samantha Usman, Iona Turcan and I all stood outside the Motel 6 with the other competitors. It was bitterly cold at 7 a.m in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I received my USIBA Boxing Nationals passbook, and then I waited for my physical. The Doctor took my blood pressure and told me it was high, most likely because I was nervous, so he checked it again.

They ran through the questions you would expect to be asked at a physical. “Have you ever been concussed? Is anything hurting you?”

Then one of the judges checked my weight and wrote it down.

Everyone from the Syracuse team had all made their weight class, which was our first small victory. Girls and guys from the other teams ran laps around the Motel 6 hoping to burn off another pound or two before their official weigh-ins. We left for Benny’s Family Dining, where we shoved eggs and buttered toast down our throats while nervously waiting to hear about our brackets.

When I found out I was going to fight a girl from the University of Michigan who had won a fight and lost zero, I immediately became petrified. Our coach Phil (Benedict) could tell that I was worried, but told me not to watch her warm up in the corner.

But it was already too late.

I saw that she had long arms, which made me concerned about her jabs. My skin was sticky with sweat, but not from working out. Just from nerves. Phil patted my back and told me not to worry and to focus. My coaches’ words rang in my head. “You wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think that you could do this.”

I stepped into the ring feeling an anxiety that was unlike anything I have ever felt. It was a mixture of feeling like you want to cry, throw up, and beat the absolute crap out of the person in front of you. My adrenaline was at an all-time high. Everyone watching the fight below disappeared before me, and all my attention went to my opponent’s dagger eyes.

As soon as the first bell rang, my opponent ran straight for me with jabs and twos straight to my face. I sort of blacked out during the round. All I remember is trying to push her off of me. The ref called a standing eight count, which I didn’t even think I needed. I slipped to my left and right and got a few good hits in, but stumbled over my own feet trying to back up. The ref called yet another standing eight count.

I don’t remember why the ref stopped my fight exactly, but I know it was for my own safety. I was embarrassed, angry, and disappointed in myself. All I wanted was to finish the fight. The worst feeling in the world is standing in the center of the ring with the ref in the middle of you and your opponent holding up your opponent’s arm. After being checked by the doctor for a concussion, I knew I could no longer contain my absolute disappointment in myself.

It took me hours, if not the full day, to get over the fact that I lost. But instead of harkening on the fact, I watched the other fights, paying attention to how I could improve, how I could beat her next time. I put my energy toward my other team members, wanting them to win more than I even wanted myself to win. My teammates fought their hearts out.

The last fight of the night was Tomas Smith’s. Just as we had almost given up all hope, he won the championship for the 201-lb weight class. His teeth and lips were red with blood, but I have never seen anyone so happy in my life.

The drive home, our coach could not stop talking about how proud he was of every single one of us, and I could tell he meant it. Going to nationals as one of the first female boxers hopefully makes strides for the boxing team. I want boxing to get the same recognition that football and basketball do at Syracuse, and I hope that more females compete with the same fearless determination as my teammates.

I’ve always been the type of person to go after what I want. I didn’t care that I would have to train hard every single day for three weeks straight, or that I would be one of the first females from Syracuse University to be sent to the USIBA Boxing nationals. I just knew that I could do it.

My coach always told me, “I know that you’re females, but you are fighters first.” He never gave us different training than the males. Instead he always treated us as equals, which is why I kept going back to boxing for three years.

Whatever your weight, gender, or size, boxing is about so much more than just physical strength. Boxing is about being a smart fighter. And even though I lost my first real fight, I know that next time I’ll be a smarter fighter. For now I just love knowing that I can do anything I set my mind to. 

Inspiring Article for everyone

It was a wonderful and an inspiring article. Boxing is mainly a male dominated sport and even a small achievement by male boxers garners accolades but the same if done by female boxers is gone unnoticed.
I liked the article for the fact that you were not afraid to share your loss. It shows your brave side.
Not only the story but the article too is great.

Ediva! This is a really good

Ediva! This is a really good read. I feel like I was right there with you.
The decision of the match is unfortunate, but I'm glad you're willing to bounce back from the experience and are already thinking about you're next fight.
I'm personally super proud of you!

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.