Atlanta’s Corporate Fight Night is not your ordinary boxing event. Neither is Terri Moss, the world-champion fighter who promotes it, an average woman. At her tiny gym off an alley in Decatur, Georgia, some extraordinary relationships — and life-changing experiences — have their genesis.
These days more and more women are turning to boxing workouts to increase their fitness level. The thousand-calorie burn (for one hour of hard boxing work) is a compelling draw, but a few women hear the siren call of something much bigger and more powerful.
Recently I spoke to two women who will have their very first official boxing match on June 7th at Atlanta’s Corporate Fight Night. One is 23 years old and in the first difficult year of her career. The other is 43 years old and a new empty-nester, a woman looking at life from a different stage. Both women face the same ring, but very different challenges.
Kelsey Smith is a Pre-K teacher just finishing her very first year of teaching. She had a boxing fitness class in high school that she enjoyed, and after college she looked up the nearest boxing gym in order to get started again. Decatur Boxing Club turned out to be nearest, but it was boxing trainer, promoter, and champion fighter Terri Moss who helped her make the transition from one class in high school to training for an actual USA Boxing-sanctioned bout.
Like many women, Kelsey, who is blogging about her journey into boxing at Road To Fight Night, is intrigued by how different boxing training is from a simple rote workout. “Every single workout session is different from the last,” she notes. “Watching from afar, boxing training looks like just a bunch of shadowboxing and hard hitting. But close-up, I’m starting to see how every element of a workout has a specific purpose and goal for growth. As I grow, my training grows with me, bringing new challenges every day.”
Kelsey never hesitated when Terri Moss invited her to consider fighting at ACFN. “I want to take every chance to box that I can get! When I first heard of ACFN, it sounded like fun but I had never thought of competing before. Soon, however, I realized that I wanted the chance to test what I’ve been doing in the gym. What good is learning all kinds of defensive and offensive moves, if you never get the chance to put them together in a fight against someone else?”
During the midst of her training, however, she found herself caught in a anguishing dilemma, and was forced to decide whether to stick with teaching, or resign. “I was so anxious with indecision that I couldn’t focus on boxing, and I barely even thought about my upcoming fight. I still went to the gym, but I spent the majority of my time feeling disheartened.”
Kelsey’s family and the boxing community worked together to support her. “I was touched by how the cool women at the gym reached out to me to lend an ear, give advice or just tell me that they believed in me,” she said. “That meant a lot…”
So much, in fact, that she’s beginning to see boxing as a long-term commitment. I asked her if she thought she would continue to box after ACFN, or if this was just a one-off, something to do once before moving on to something different. “I definitely plan to continue boxing after ACFN,” she replied. “I know I’ll keep coming to the gym no matter what, but I also imagine that I will want to compete again.”
Lisa Belcher has a different story.
She’s a 43-year-old behavioral scientist in the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This year she became an empty nester. “Without the challenges of day-to-day parenting, I found that I wanted to try something new – something I could get really excited about,” she related. “One afternoon in January, I drove down New Street at East Decatur Station and noticed a faded, wooden sign that I had seen a hundred times before as I was taking my daughter to school across the street – BOXING. For some reason, this time, it inspired a real curiosity in me.”
She walked in and instantly loved the old-school feel, the upbeat jazz playing continuously in the gym, and the infectious energy of Terri “The Boss” Moss, and she signed up for Decatur Boxing Club membership that same day, even though her prior experience with boxing was having watched the movie Rocky back in 1976.
“I hate to admit it, but my very limited experience with boxing had led me to think of it as a sport that seemed heavy on strength and power, but less so on technical skill or talent. Coming into the gym, I thought I might have some potential because I am big and pretty strong, and I have an athletic background.” You can almost hear the wryness in her voice. “I was humbled quickly, and have remained so. I see very clearly the many skills that are needed to be a good boxer, and I have so much respect for these athletes, as well as the women that come for the boxing fitness classes who will never have a bout but who I know very well have to muster up a lot of courage just to walk into that gym, much less into the ring.”
Lisa has met with more resistance than Kelsey, with regard to her boxing. “Some seem to judge it rather negatively, which has been a first for me as an athlete,” she comments. “Others are incredibly intrigued and impressed. But almost everyone I have told, with the exception of other boxers, has communicated some concern or fear of injury. It has made me wonder if male boxers are met with this same concern.”
This hasn’t stopped her, however. So far in her 5 month journey she’s lost 20 pounds, and she says she feels incredibly strong. Her training process has been smooth, but the mental challenges loom the largest. “I’m still not sure I want to box ACFN! I was pretty hesitant when Terri first told me about it, and it took a little while to make the decision to do it. The reasons I wanted to do it were all about trying something new, having a challenge to motivate me to get a little (or a lot) uncomfortable both physically and mentally, the great community of boxers at DBC…”
In addition, both boxers are raising sponsorship money for their fights to support a charity of their choice.
Kelsey is fighting for the Atlanta Children’s Shelter, which offers free quality education for homeless children. Lisa will fight for Friends of Dekalb Animals, a non-profit group whose goal is to save the lives of at least 50 animals per month from DeKalb County Animal Services, a high kill facility.
A tremendous “thank you” goes out to Terri Moss and Decatur Boxing Club, who offered me my first (and second) fights at ACFN, as well as these two strong, fabulous women — Kelsey and Lisa — who are getting ready for their first matches there as well!