Patricia Manuel, a 25-year-old boxer currently training for the Olympics, might just happen to be one the most inspirational people out there. On June 12th of last year, the Gardena native won the 2009 National USA Championships and became a member of the USA Boxing Team along with gaining a #1 ranking. Now, she is training harder than ever to become the first female to ever represent the United States in the upcoming 2012 Olympics. A determined athlete never willing to compromise herself, Manuel discusses her passion for boxing, the road to the Olympics, and the hardships of being a butch woman in a discriminatory environment.
When did you start boxing?
I was fifteen when my friend took me to a white collar boxing gym. I tried it, loved it, and told myself: “when I’m seventeen, I will box.” So two years later, I went down to the LA Boxing Club, started boxing, and never looked back.
Isn’t that a little late to start for someone of your level?
Women are not encouraged as much to start boxing by their families… even though that rule often doesn’t apply to Los Angeles and Texas. Male boxers start at around eight or nine, and females just sort of find their ways in there.
How was your first introduction to boxing?
Man, the level of training was much more intense than anything I had ever done before! I was so sore the first week that I couldn’t move at all… but it’s a good pain! It quickly had a lot of good effects on me. I initially started boxing to lose weight, since I had hit a low point and weighed one hundred and eighty pounds. I dropped thirty pounds after the first three months, and started learning a lot about nutrition.
Is that why you didn’t want the milkshake I offered you?
How did the boxing affect your life as a high school student?
Boxing actually helped me a lot in high school. I was doing very poorly and my grades were sliding. With boxing, I just changed my focus and the dedication from that translated. It’s like finding a purpose in life, since I didn’t know where I was going before. You know when you’re little and you find that cartoon you really like? That’s the way I feel whenever I do boxing.
So what does the road look like for you in terms of making it to the Olympics?
The process for qualifications starts in October with the first tournaments to qualify for the trials. Then, you qualify for the U.S. Championship, then for the U.S. Olympic Trial, and then finally for the U.S. Olympia. There will only be twelve girls selected in the world, and that probably includes only one American representative. But I believe in it wholeheartedly.
Who inspires you?
My trainer, my family, my friends, and my teammates. I have met so many amazing people in my life and I want them to be proud of me. I want them to see someone who stands strong as they are: a butch woman. I might not let my hair down but I can represent the United States at the Olympics.
What has been and still is the most difficult aspect of your career?
The discrimination that I feel. Not from people or from coaches, but mostly from organizations. I had a great year in 2009 and won the U.S. Championship, but got no press. All of my male friends and other females have gotten coverage, but I got ignored. I don’t want to make any conclusions, but females are based upon their looks and mine is definitely not mainstream. I look at the girls around me getting the press coverage – more power to them – and I don’t fit. The media always has these lines about these girls who box, but there are always some quotes about her beauty. It’s great, but it’s about the sport. It’s about the level. If you can believe it, this is actually the first interview I ever got!
How can readers contribute to your success?
Even with my abilities and my goals, I’m still looking for a sponsor… [short silence] But there’s going to be a point where they’ll have to notice me.