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Redwood Bark

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Champions Never Quit

Champions+Never+Quit bold red paint, atop a mural of two professional boxers, read the words, “Champions never quit.” The mural, along with the three powerful overlaid words, resides at the D.F. Boxing Club’s gym in Richmond, where senior Iris Contreras trains five days a week.

Contreras currently holds the title as the second best 125-pound female boxer in the United States, with a record of 25 wins out of the 35 matches she has competed in.

Following in the footsteps of her father and older sister Julia, Contreras began boxing at the age of 13 and in 2014 maintained an 8-0 sparring record, competing against some of the best Junior Olympic and Youth USA boxers.

“Pretty much, I go in the [boxing ring] with a clear head and just go out there to do what I was trained to do,” Contreras said.

Next year, Contreras hopes to participate in the 2016 Olympics.

“I know it’s going to take a lot of devotion but I will try to make it there. And if I don’t, most likely I will end up going professional next year,” she said.

To allow more time to focus on her boxing, Contreras transferred from Redwood to San Andreas last year. One of the main reasons she chose to attend San Andreas was for their no homework policy because she had struggled to maintain both her schoolwork and training schedule at Redwood.

Contreras spends four hours every weekday at her father’s boxing gym, from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m, first teaching an hour long children’s class and then practicing her own skills.
“It does get physically tiring at a point, since I am here every single day,” Contreras said. “On Saturdays I usually go to sparring, so I only have one day to rest in the whole week. Sometimes I feel like I need a break, but it’s what I like to do. And there are no breaks in this sport.”

Contreras started teaching children’s classes two years ago, when her father became the owner of the D.F. Boxing Club’s gym. The age of students ranges from 8 to 14, and although she has taught some girls, the classes are mostly comprised of boys.

According to Contreras’s devoted coach and father, Filemon Contreras, who was once a professional Mexican fighter himself, boxing is the main passion for his whole family. Everyone in her family has been involved in the sport.

Contreras attributes a large part of her success to her father.

“Having my dad as a coach is kind of an advantage. He pushes me really hard, and I feel like if I had another trainer it wouldn’t be the same,” Contreras said. “I probably wouldn’t train as hard as I do now because I have my dad pushing me everyday to do better.”

According to Contreras, female boxing is a newer phenomenon that has grown in popularity in the past few years.

“There weren’t many girls [when I started], but now there are a whole bunch, and it’s a good thing we are making it grow,” Contreras said. “It’s fun getting to be with the other girls and spar each other. Now, women’s boxing is known a lot more than it was before.”

While boxing does have a reputation for violence, Contreras said she does not feel angry at her opponents. Rather, she feels that boxing in general is a therapeutic way to let out her pent-up emotions.

“All the anger I hold in sometimes, I let it out here,” Contreras said. “It’s not really towards the people, but just letting it all out feels good. There’s not really angry thoughts going through my head. It’s just a sport.”

According to Contreras, it is common boxing etiquette to hug after a match.

“It’s like outside the ring we are friends, and inside we do what we have to do. When the fight’s over, we hug each other and say ‘good job,’” she said.

Although Contreras broke her nose in her second match ever, a fear of injuries hasn’t held her back from continuing the sport.

“My muscles do get sore and I end up getting hurt sometimes, especially on my arms. But it doesn’t really keep me from coming to the gym,” she said.

Contreras added that she can see her hard work pay off most of the time, and when it doesn’t pay off, it only pushes her to train harder and spend more time at the gym.

“I’ve stuck with it for so long because it keeps me physically fit,” Contreras said. “Boxing has been there for me for a really long time and giving it up isn’t something that’s going through my head.”

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About the Contributor
Annie Forsman, Author