Last Update: Thursday, December 05, 2013
|A Young Boxer With A Long History|
|Written by Mike Terry|
|Thursday, 29 August 2013 08:20|
Roxie Verduzco Is Showing Talent As A Fighter, Which Is Not Surprising When You Consider Her Family History
Don't be fooled by her innocent expression. Roxie Verduzco, 11, of San Fernando, shows promise of becoming a top-flight boxer, having won seven amateur youth tournament belts.
This sleepy summer afternoon at the Young Champions Boxing Gym in San Fernando has been shattered by the onslaught of dozens of little bodies jumping rope and punching bags, trying to follow the shouted instructions of coaches on where to place their hands and feet and how to properly throw a punch – even if the 14-ounce glove looks as big as the person wearing it.
There are boys and girls in here getting instruction on conditioning and-self defense. And in about a half-hour they will be watching someone their age and size that's pretty good at it.
Iyana Roxonie Verduzco – "Roxie" to her friends and fellow pugilists – stands all of 4-9 and weighs (if you can believe it) 75 pounds. The 11-year-old left-hander, who is entering the seventh grade, is almost unrecognizable in her large headgear and oversized training gloves when she begins to spar with an 11-year-old boy who's a little taller and of the same weight.
But as you watch Roxie for a couple of rounds, who has taken time off since her last bout, it's obvious that she has the heart, soul and desire of a boxer. She got into the sport "because my family was in boxing," Roxie said. "My mom is a trainer, and so is (her stepfather), so that's how I got into it. At first I thought it was strange, but then I realized you could go to different states and countries (through boxing)."
Roxie may not yet know or understand how deep those family roots go, or how special they are.
Her mother Gloria Mosquera, a former kickboxer who co-owns the gym, is the niece of famed fighter and martial artist Benny "The Jet" Urquidez, a champion kickboxer who once held six world titles in five weight divisions.
His sister was Lilly Urquidez Rodriguez, a world champion featherweight boxer and bantamweight kickboxer. Lilly, who died in 2007 at 59, was the first women to fight on an all-woman pro card California, and the only female boxer in the California Boxing Hall of Fame. She also fought in New York's Madison Square Garden on an all-women boxing card broadcast by ABC's "Wide World of Sports."
Lilly was the first American woman to win a kickboxing championship in Japan. She also opened and operated a gym in Sylmar for all comers, and in particular at-risk youth. And Lilly was married for 36 years to William "Blinky" Rodriguez, himself a champion boxer and kickboxer.
She was more than just a terrific athlete, loving mother, and force for social change. At the time of her death, odes were written to her, the "Lilly of the Valley."
Roxie may develop into her own type of boxer. And as you watch her in action now, and it makes one wonder what she could be if she does maximize her full potential.
Her eyes fixed on the bobbing and weaving target in front of her, Roxie rapidly fires right jabs and mixes in lefty power shots. If the young man is surprised by her skill he doesn't have time to dwell on it, as Roxie steadily pursues him. And when her opponent corners her and throws his own combination of punches, Roxie keeps her hands up to protect her head and absorbs the body blows.
You can sense her calm. You also sense no fear. And at the end of each one-minute round, Roxie goes back to her corner, listens to instructions and tries to implement them in the next round.
By the way, those dozens of boys and girls who were raising the roof earlier with their exuberance and energy? They've all stopped to watch.
"I've got about 60 kids who come here (to learn about boxing)," Gloria Mosquera said, "and 90 percent said they came here because of Roxie."
Becoming A Winner The legend of Roxie is starting to spread beyond San Fernando. She has fought 13 times in youth bouts since 2009. She has won nine times, and collected seven amateur belts, the latest coming this year from a Silver Gloves Tournament in Chino, CA.
There is not yet a tremendously deep pool of girl and amateur competitors. But there are 2,173 females, ranging from ages 8 to 34, who are registered with USA Boxing, a leading amateur body that created it's women's division in 1993. That is a 71 percent jump from 1999, the first year USA Boxing started registering girls and women boxers.
With more evolving opportunities in amateur and professional fighting for women, from the Olympics Games to MMA, it will be fascinating to watch the progress of Roxie and others like her if they want the sport to grow as they do.
What's evident about Roxie is the athletic gifts she has for the sport, ranging from her assured footwork to hand-and-eye coordination and hand speed.
"I started doing this since (about age 5-6) but when I was little I used to play around with the bags (about age 3)," Roxie said. "And it got serious when I turned 7."
Gloria Mosquera said the talent was present early.
"We have video of her sparring at two years old with little boys," she said. "She's already weaving and they're nowhere near her. She already had the right concept."
"Blinky" Rodriguez, who presently serves as the executive director of Communities In Schools, Greater Los Angeles/ San Fernando Valley, in North Hills, remembered how difficult it was at first to watch his wife compete in boxing.
"That time at the Garden, I had to walk around in circles," he recalled. "It was only a fourrounder. But she was fighting Lady Tyger Trimiar, a legit welterweight at 147. And Lilly was 126-pounds, a featherweight.
I was scared to death. Between every round I would just walk around the arena." There are no such qualms about Roxie even when she spars with boys. Blinky is quite enamored with her, describing Roxie as "a pistol."
"She reminds me of Lilly in that she is inconspicuous," he said. "It doesn't stand out that she is a fighter; she has a humble spirit. She probably doesn't realize the depth of family and lineage. But she knows she has 'it.' I believe it is innate in her. But work ethic is so important, and she works hard. I've seen her compete, and she's got that steadfastness. She comes with that 'I'm gonna win' attitude in the ring.
"It comes back to 'are you prepared to prepare, do you take it seriously?' That is so critical. Roxie comes out of a family with a long history in the sport, and she takes it serious. You can't coach heart; you got it or you don't. We know if she gets beat, it's not because she beats herself. She has a bright future."
Still, her mom – who still practices and teaches kickboxing, and has operated gyms the past seven years in Santa Clarita and now in San Fernando – didn't want to rush Roxie into fighting. Her oldest daughter, now 24, boxed as an amateur when she was 17 and it was, at times, hard to watch. "She was up against 33-year-old women," Gloria Mosquera said, "so it was a little more intense."
Along with athleticism and lineage, Roxie has another blessing. Her stepfather Rodrigo Mosquera Sr., who married Gloria nearly three years ago and co-owns the San Fernando gym with her, is a well-respected trainer who's worked with many boxers, including 2008 Olympian Shawn Estrada who is currently undefeated as a pro super middleweight (16-0, 14 KOs).
"Well I knew how to block a punch and throw a punch," said Rodrigo Mosquera, who boxed as an amateur flyweight. "When I saw her in the beginning, it was fun. Then as we were teaching and developing her, you could see the work coming through. She wasn't getting hit. She has a talent for it.
"And she'll develop more talent as she ages and moves up in weight. Even at this level you can see that she has it. She has form and technique."
Roxie has also caught the eye of another expert.
Virgil Hill (50-7, 23 KOs) was a 1984 Olympics silver medalist who became a four-time world champion at light heavyweight and cruiserweight. He fought greats like Tommy Hearns, Bobby Czyz, Leslie Stewart and Roy Jones Jr. during his 23 years a pro, and was recently elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He is helping out at the gym this day, working with the youngsters.
When asked about Roxie, Hill couldn't stop raving. "She is truly a phenomenon," Hill said. "She is a natural, something special. For the years to come, people are going to be surprised at her ability. She's got good movement, hand speed, ring generalship, she's strong…when you see her it's just incredible."
Not A Showoff
Because of her skills, it would be easy for Roxie to become arrogant, even a bully. But, she said, she is very careful not to attract any attention to herself at school.
"I don't fight at all," she said. "(Her parents) tell me not to. I'm really shy at school. I'm probably the quietest person there.
"If someone [was] picking on me or punching me, I'd have to defend myself. But I don't like to show off."
Roxie will fight next at a youth boxing show her family is putting on at their gym on Sept. 8. They would like to pair her against another girl, but she may have to be matched with a boy with a similar skill level.
Whoever steps in the ring against her should beware: this is not some ordinary girl just getting started, pin wheeling her arms wildly and hitting nothing but air. This young boxer will know what to do, and how to do it.
In fact, this may be the time to box her. Because who knows how good Roxie will become with more experience, training and physical development? It won't just be the kids at the Young Champions Gym that will be watching.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 29 August 2013 08:30|