Categorized | Brooklyn Life

Between the Ropes

By Lauren Nicole Mariacher

Asher trains an amateur boxer at Gleason’s Gym.

Asher trains an amateur boxer at Gleason’s Gym.

When the bell rang after the women’s 114-pound championship bout at the Golden Gloves Finals at Madison Square Garden last month, Alexis Asher walked back to her corner knowing she had been beaten. She sensed that her opponent, Christina Cruz, had taken command inside the ring. She had floated across the canvas, throwing punches at every opportunity, working Asher for four, two-minute rounds. The feeling of defeat stood in matched contrast to how she felt almost exactly a year before, in the same ring, at the same event. That night Asher was sure she had become a champion. “I won,” she thought to herself. There was no question.

In the months following that fight though, Asher would learn things about herself as she reflected on her performance. She would begin to understand what brought her to boxing and why she needed it, as would the woman who beat her.

***

In the center of a sold-out WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden a referee points to each of the five USA Boxing judges sitting at tables adjacent to an illuminated boxing ring. The judges nod their heads in response. They’re ready.

“Every time they do that, that’s when I say to myself, ‘All right, can’t back out now’,” says Keisher “Fire” McLeod-Wells.

Seconds before she touches gloves with Alexis Asher for the first time in the 114-pound Championship fight of the 2008 Daily News Golden Gloves tournament, McLeod-Wells stands in her corner with her left foot in front of her right, her front knee bent slightly. She leans forward, like a sprinter waiting for the gun to go off. The blue glove on her right fist is raised to her chest and holds steady, while her left simulates quick jabs by her waist.

McLeod-Wells is at Gleason’s Gym seven days a week, either working or training.

McLeod-Wells is at Gleason’s Gym seven days a week, either working or training.

McLeod-Wells, 31, is 5 foot 8 inches and weighed in at 111 pounds. She is, in her own words, “all legs.” Her Golden Gloves-issued blue satin shorts loosely hang down to just above her knee. Below her knee she wears knee-high white tube socks that make her legs appear even longer. “They’re optional,” she says. “But I like wearing them. They’re my signature piece.” Worn on the upper half of McLeod-Well’s thin frame is a blue muscle shirt that reads, “Daily News Golden Gloves” across the front. Surrounding her face is leather headgear, a requirement in amateur boxing.

The bell rings and McLeod-Wells pushes off her right foot and moves to the center of the ring. There she meets Asher, the defending champion at 114 pounds.

Alexis Asher, 25, is 5 foot 2 inches tall and also weighed in at 111 pounds. “I usually have great trouble making weight,” she says. “I’m not one of those naturally skinny people. I had to run my ass off to make weight. Like seven miles a day. But after every fight I automatically go back up to 124 pounds.” Asher’s shoulders are square and form a perpendicular angle with her neck. In Golden Gloves tradition, her attire matches McLeod-Well’s from head to toe, except that it is yellow. Her stance is compact. She stands slightly crouched over with her fists in front of her face. “You better be pretty fast if you’re going to keep your hands down,” she says. Her fists remain at her face for less than two seconds into the first round before she starts throwing jabs. The first few hit nothing but the air around McLeod-Wells’ midsection. McLeod-Wells counters with what boxers refer to as “one-twos.” First she jabs with her left, and then quickly follows with a right cross aimed at Asher’s face. McLeod-Wells always aims for the face. “Pow-pow,” she says. “That’s my style.” She does not extend the compliment to her opponent.

Gleason’s Gym in Dumbo.

Gleason’s Gym in Dumbo.

Alexis, she says, doesn’t have a style. McLeod-Wells, who trains at Gleason’s Gym in Dumbo, is looking to win her fourth Golden Gloves title. “She just fights with a lot of punches. I want to say it’s like Mike Tyson, but Tyson was more technical. She doesn’t really have technique. It’s like game plan just goes out the window.”

Asher admits she’s still finding her style. “I have a defense¾hands-up boxing,” says Asher, who also trains at Gleason’s. “I don’t feel like I have my own personal style yet though. I’ve had people tell me I fight like a Mexican. I ask what them what they mean and they say, ‘Well you’re tough and you like to work the body.’ ”

Asher may lack a style, but she does have a plan for the fight. She will, in her own words, “cut off the ring and stab to the belly.” She will try to keep McLeod-Wells against the ropes, where she will “apply pressure,” throwing steady punches and keeping as little space as possible between their two bodies. “She’s a better boxer from afar,” Asher says. “She’s got the reach. I have to jab twice for every one of her jabs. I feel like I’m a lot stronger than her but she’s got her reach.”

Ten seconds into the first round, Asher thinks, “My plan is working.” McLeod-Wells is up against the ropes and Asher’s fists are working like legs pedaling a bicycle. When her left fist lands, her right is right behind it, following the incline up to McLeod-Wells’ face, or straight across to her midsection. “Her punches don’t even hurt me,” says McLeod-Wells. “I can’t feel them.”

Asher’s fist cycling does not last long. McLeod-Wells quickly regains her distance and circles around the ring, landing a few left jabs before popping back up on her toes and shuffling to another spot on the canvas. “Stick and move,” she tells herself. “Just stick and move.”

***

McLeod-Wells wakes at 6:30 a.m. She dresses in bold outfits, maybe even throwing a flower in her hair before heading downstairs and out the front door to the J train.

The ride to work at Gleason’s takes almost 40 minutes. She is first to arrive. She walk up unlocks the door to the 72-year-old sweatshop, turns on the lights and the treadmills, and settles herself into the chair at the front desk. Sometimes she glances out the window, toward the buildings that stretch into the Brooklyn sky on Front Street. One sticks out more than most though.

“That’s where Alexis lives,” McLeod-Wells says. “She’s got one of those fancy high rise apartments.”

Alexis feels no need to be apologetic. “I worked hard for this place,” she says of her one-bedroom home, which she also uses for a personal-training side business. “Some of my clients come here. I would say I have six regulars. I used to have 14 and a lot of them worked at Wall Street. I would charge them $100 an hour, now I dropped it to $60. I honestly have a lot of people I train for free though.”

She also teaches a beginner boxing class at Chelsea Piers and trains some of the boxing clients one-on-one. “Some want to be boxers, but they are bankers,” she says. “They want to feel like boxers and they enjoy having their ass whooped. They like it when I’m mean to them. It was hard at first because everyone was like, “Little girl, you’re going to teach me how to box?”

McLeod-Wells has no interest in training boxers. “I’m not in it for the money like some girls at the gym,” she says. “I just want to box.”

***

When she was 17 years old, McLeod-Wells wasn’t sticking, only moving. She graduated from Samuel J. Tilden High School in the East Flatbush and moved out of her parents’ house in East New York to Harlem. “I had trouble at home,” she says. “I didn’t get along with my stepdad. I needed to get out.”

She enrolled in the theater program at Lehman College. “I signed up for a couple courses,” she said, “but I didn’t last too long.” She looked for modeling and acting jobs and attended auditions and casting calls she found through friends or classified ads. Over the next eight years, McLeod-Wells landed print jobs modeling for Essence and Jane Magazine and played roles in national television commercials for Kentucky Fried Chicken and Visa, among others. She played a killer’s girlfriend on “Law & Order” and a hostess in “Sex and the City.”

But being around performers began to wear on McLeod-Wells. “I had anger issues with myself and with others, especially in the entertainment world,” she says. “I became very depressed with not booking every audition, people making promises, being fake…basically being ‘Hollywood.’ I was completely turned off and bitter.”

Her depression deepened, she says, and she ultimately was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “I was admitted to a psych hospital,” she says. “I don’t remember my stay there well. I was highly medicated. I felt like a zombie most of the time and I was happy to leave when I did.”

After she was released from the psychiatric hospital, she resumed pursuing her acting career. Being a performer, however, required strict measurements, a challenge even for the naturally slim McLeod -Wells. “I was always in the gym working out, doing the treadmill and all that regular stuff,” she says. But fitness bored her; she hated “regular” gyms like the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan. “It’s cold there and people are just running around drinking smoothies,” she says. “No one looked like they were actually working out.”

She left Chelsea Piers and starting working out at the Kingsway Boxing Gym on West 28th Street and Fifth Avenue. “It was cheaper than regular gyms,” she says. Modeling and acting gigs had failed to provide a steady income and she reasoned a good body might give her an edge in auditions. So at the age of 24, she started learning to throw punches, if only to keep in shape. She had been training for four months when Lee Shabaka, regarded as the best female boxing coach in New York City at the time, approached her and said, “If you train with me I guarantee you I’ll make you a champion in a year.”

***

McLeod-Wells lands an uppercut.

McLeod-Wells lands an uppercut.

For half of the first two-minute round, McLeod-Wells is keeping Asher no closer than an arm’s length away. When Asher crouches and comes forward, McLeod-Wells takes one or two steps back, standing straight up and leaning back on her heels before shifting her momentum forward and throwing tight, almost mechanical jabs at Asher’s head.

Then, at the one-minute mark, McLeod-Wells finds herself in the corner. Asher closes in, accelerating her wrists and throwing nine consecutive undercuts into McLeod-Wells’ belly. Asher appears intense on the outside, but calm in the inside, she says, a quality that she has learned through boxing. “It has made me a better person,” she says. “I stopped doing drugs and stopped drinking. When I moved here I was smoking pot four times a day. Boxing has made me more disciplined as a person and I was not disciplined at all. I’m growing up.”

She was born in Austin, Texas, in a house surrounded by “huge trees” and a “crazy garden” out front. “Mom let her hippie landscaper do a native theme so we have all the local plants, unlike all the neighbors who have plain cut lawns,” she says. The hilly neighborhood was filled with oak trees, sagebrush, prickly pear cactus, bright red Indian Paintbrushes and Bluebonnets that Asher says are “the most striking blue.”

Her father, Nicholas, is a Ukrainian philosophy professor and her mother Sheila, who grew up in Salt Lake City, is a lawyer. They met during their freshman year at Yale and married after Nicholas earned his Masters degree from Oxford University. Sheila was a student at Harvard Law School at the time. Alexis was born on June 20, 1982. Four years later came her sister, Elizabeth.

The Ashers moved to Germany when Alexis was 7 years old, then to France when she was 11. They stayed in France for two years before moving back to Austin. “My dad just loves France and he decided he wanted to get a job over there,” Asher says. Back in Texas, Asher and her sister started school at the St. Stephens Episcopal School, a preparatory school that stretches over 370 acres of dry earth just northwest of Austin.

She was, as she puts, a “badass” at St. Stephens. “I was basically in detention everyday,” Asher says. She earned As in the classes she liked and skipped the ones she didn’t. She performed well in foreign languages, but hated science and math. Phys. Ed. didn’t interest her either, and during those periods she would go to the art room and paint. “I was an art dork,” she says. “In high school it was like I wanted to rebel, but then I’d get screamed at. My dad was mad. We had a lot of holes in my wall.”

Her sister Lizzy was the family jock, but on weekends the girls would go rock climbing together. “My dad got us into it,” she says. “I was competing, but I was never as good as Lizzy. She’s studying at Dartmouth now, but she’s a really good climber so she travels a lot to compete.”

Asher looked up to her younger sister. “I needed Lizzy,” she says. “I was a brat.”

***

Asher hits McLeod-Wells with a left jab.

Asher hits McLeod-Wells with a left jab. Courtesy, The Daily News

Asher straightens up out of her crouch after her ninth undercut and McLeod-Wells finds her way out of the corner. “Those punches don’t count,” says McLeod-Wells. She is sure that Asher’s undercuts aren’t clean and direct enough to be counted by the judges. “She’s wasting all that energy for nothing. But the average person watching from the outside thinks, ‘Oh, she’s tough.’”

McLeod-Wells continues to circle and move, circle and move; she’s just being calm. Asher leans forward and punches McLeod-Well’s chin, stretching her arm out until it is completely straight just to reach her. In that same moment, McLeod-Wells’ torso opens up and her left arm swings up and hits Asher in the forehead. Asher takes a few steps back, jumps up and down on her toes and shakes her shoulders. Then she lunges forward at McLeod-Wells and jabs with her left. McLeod-Wells bends her knees and pulls her forearms up on either side of her head as Asher comes inside with a right uppercut followed by a few hastily thrown overhand lefts and rights.

McLeod-Wells steps back with her left foot and throws a left cross that hits Asher in the forehead right where the Everlast label is stitched into the yellow helmet padding. The punch stops Asher’s attack. Asher, who has been bending her knees throughout the first round so that she looks to be two feet shorter than McLeod-Wells, brings her fists up to her face and straightens up. She steps toward McLeod-Wells and begins throwing punches, forcing her opponent’s backside to the ropes. This time, McLeod-Wells won’t go. She holds her fists up to protect her face, squats down and pushes her weight into Asher, forcing the fight back into the center of the ring.

Now, in the center of the canvas, McLeod-Wells shows her style. She takes a moment to stand up tall and catch a breath before bending her knees and pumping her left fist at her side. She stares at Asher, waiting.

“Hold back, then bam,” McLeod-Wells tells herself. She hits Asher in the face with a left jab and follows it with a right cross. “Clean. One-two. You’ve got to let the judges see that. They’ve got to see what you’re doing and they can’t see it if you’re throwing too many punches at once.”

She steps back and Asher comes at her full force. She throws a few overhands until McLeod-Wells is in a corner. Asher rotates her arms under and starts another round of undercuts, capped off by a left cross and a right jab that never reach McLeod-Wells. The referee steps between the women, looks at Asher and says a few words. “He told her to keep them up higher,” says McLeod-Wells. “They were too low. See, those don’t count.”

Asher hears something different. “He was telling us to keep fighting,” she says. “We were too close together.”

The referee steps back and the blue and yellow gloves go at each other a handful of times before the bell rings at the end round one.

McLeod-Wells walks to her corner, spins around to face the center of the ring and relaxes both arms on the ropes as Shabaka squirts water in her mouth and tells her to keep the fight in the middle of the canvas. She’s breathing hard, but she isn’t tired.

In the opposite corner, Asher cocks her head and replays the first round in her mind. “You’re always scared beforehand like, ‘How much is this going to hurt?’” she says. But after the first round, her fears have faded away. “Okay,” she tells herself. “This doesn’t hurt that bad.”

McLeod-Wells lifts her elbows off the ropes and the bell for the start of the second round rings. Her corner team turns their backs and return to the floor, as she raises her right fist to the ready position and resumes her pursuit of a fourth title.

***

In the three-bedroom, Bushwick apartment that McLeod-Wells shares with her husband, Darryl Wells, trophies, championship belts, and medals from past fights and tournaments adorn a corner between the kitchen and living room. The corner isn’t the first thing McLeod-Wells sees when she walks up the stairs into the apartment, but it is the last thing she sees before she leaves in the morning and heads to work at Gleason’s.

From time-to-time Wells will remove one of his wife’s belts from its designated spot in the shrine and take it to a local hardware store for polishing. In December of 2007, the short walk to the hardware store ended in a trip to the hospital for Wells, who was struck by a plumbing company truck that cut-off oncoming traffic to make a left turn and hit him in a crosswalk. The impact shattered Wells’ knee.

Eventually, the belt was polished and set back in its gleaming corner. Wells, who married McLeod-Wells in one of the boxing rings at Gleason’s on Oct. 14, 2007, knows how important the awards and their upkeep are to his wife.

Before boxing, McLeod-Wells says she was never a champion at anything. She grew up in Brooklyn neighborhoods that she says were all the same. “Predominantly blacks and Latinos,” she says. “Everyone was using drugs or selling it.” Her house was decent though, she adds, and “most of the time pretty comfortable.” She shared a bedroom with her twin sister, Teisher, and the two girls clung to each other when things around them got tough.

As much as she tried to avoid trouble, trouble sometimes found her.

Walking home from elementary school one day, a group of girls followed her and jumped her. They wanted the JanSport book bag that her mother had bought her, and they got it. The girls kicked and punched her until she let go of the bag. “When I reached home I told my mother about the incident and she asked me if I fought back,” McLeod-Wells says in “Prelude to a Fight,” an hour-long documentary produced by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation in 2008. “If she ever heard that I didn’t fight back she would say, ‘I’ll whip your ass myself when you get home.’” The next day, McLeod-Wells’ mother walked her to school and asked her daughter to point out the girl who jumped her. “I pointed her out,” she says. “My mother walked up to her and the other girls involved and said, ‘Excuse me, you’re the one that jumped my daughter? Why don’t you fight her right now one-on-one? Matter of fact: Why don’t you all take a turn and fight her one on one?’ The girls were scared. None of them wanted to fight. They all walked away. And I never got my book bag back.”

***

Now, in the second round, McLeod-Wells’ opponent is not walking away. Just as Asher’s fists initiated contact in the first round, they do so again in the second. She throws a quick left jab at McLeod-Wells, who uses her right glove to stop the punch. McLeod-Wells answers with a left cross and then an overhand right, as Asher’s fists pick up speed and start cycling again, pressuring McLeod-Wells toward the ropes. “When she gets close she just starts rambling and throwing punches,” says McLeod-Wells. “She can keep going and going and going.”

By the time she graduated high school in 2000, Asher had discovered that she had become her own best motivation. “In college I kind of decided that I wanted to do well,” she says. She was admitted into the honors program at the University of Texas, where she studied international relations and Russian studies. Asher, who speaks five languages¾English, French, German, Russian, and Spanish¾was finally succeeding academically. But something was still missing.

She needed an escape from school. She told her mother she wanted to take belly-dancing lessons. Her mother said no. Asher persisted. “Somehow I convinced her and I took the class,” she says. “and I loved it.” As she took more and more classes, Asher became more drawn to dancing. “I decided I wanted to do it professionally.” But once again, she met resistance. “My teacher said no because I wasn’t ready, so I got mad and went to a restaurant and said I wanted to audition and they let me work there. The older belly dancer took me under her wing.” If the restaurant was busy Asher could make $200 in one night. Maybe $60 on a slow night. The money didn’t matter, when she twisted her hips and twirled her arms, shaking the sequins and beading on her midriff-baring outfit, she escaped from her studies, her parents’ rules, and the ordered world around her.

***

McLeod-Wells circles to the left and then moves toward the center as she tries to fight off Asher’s attack. She stays on her toes and conserves her punches, initiating a jab or uppercut only when she has enough time to execute it with style. She will step back, away from Asher’s flurries, bounce up and down on her toes a few times, and circle her fists by her waist until she sees an opening. When she does, she takes a step toward Asher, still keeping about three feet between their bodies, bends slightly at her waist, and launches her long arm into Asher’s chest. When she lands the punch, she immediately jumps back and continues to circle. Moments before the bell rings, Asher bends at her waist, drops her head toward the canvas, and throws two blind overhand punches. But McLeod-Wells stands tall and stays on her toes, as the women trade unproductive punches before the second round ends.

***

The third round starts just as the previous two. Asher comes out of her corner, fists in motion. “There she goes starting out with the body shots again,” says McLeod-Wells. Asher lands a series of undercuts and the referee stops the fight. He looks at Asher and points toward his own waistline, signaling that her punches are landing low. He steps back and McLeod-Wells circles around Asher, to the center of the canvas. Asher circles too though, and again uses her fists to pressure McLeod-Wells into the ropes. McLeod-Wells uses her right to force Asher back. But Asher keeps coming, hitting McLeod-Wells below the belt with a series of undercuts before throwing an overhand right that hits her opponent in the forehead.

She senses that McLeod-Wells has to turn it up. “She’s trying to get me on the ropes,” Asher says. But halfway through the round, the number of punches drops. The women spend more time circling each other, and catching their breath.

As she slowly circles, McLeod-Wells’ arms are still following her feet after six minutes of boxing. She switches up her “one-two” combinations, throwing an undercut followed by a cross or using a jab and then an undercut to fight off Asher and keep herself out of the corners for the remainder of the third round.

McLeod-Wells is throwing fewer punches, but the ones she does throw still pack power and Asher can see the fight in her face: “She’s like ‘Die!’”

***

After college, Asher moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, where her and her sister trained to compete in international rock climbing competitions. Asher worked at a nutrition store, but money was tight. “We were bums that year,” she says. “Lived out of our car for a little bit.”

The sisters trained and competed for a few months, before Asher suffered a climbing accident that she still has trouble talking about. “I had a really bad accident and I don’t want to compete in climbing ever again,” she says. She quit climbing and returned to her studies, participating in a one-year internship at the United Nations in Geneva. She was restless when she returned from Geneva. “I don’t ever want to be somewhere, unless I completely want to be there,” she says. She decided to move to Brooklyn and live with her grandmother.

She was looking for a job when she heard about the rock climbing school at the Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex on the West Side of Manhattan. “I wanted to work for the rock climbing wall there,” she says. “But they ended up hiring me as a floor trainer. After that I just kind of fell in love with training.” As she hung around the gym more training clients, she began participating in some of the sports programs the complex offered, including boxing. “I started doing it to get in shape,” she says. “But it’s like the classic thing. You start boxing, and then you want to spar, and then you spar, and then you want to fight.”

***

At the start of the fourth and final round and for the first time in the fight, McLeod-Wells throws the first punch. Asher immediately reacts with a left jab and a right cross that hits McLeod-Wells in the left cheek. “She came out hard,” says McLeod-Wells. “She must know she’s behind. That was a good shot.” Asher lands a series of punches to McLeod-Wells’ head as she backs her into a corner. But McLeod-Wells throws a hard overhand right at Asher and backpedals to the opposite side of the canvas. Asher pressures her into the ropes, but this time she gives McLeod-Wells a little too much room. She leans back against the ropes and then comes forward, using her momentum to sends a left jab into Asher’s chin.

Both fighters are throwing more punches now and McLeod-Wells’ feet continue to follow her fists, as she recites her original plan in her head. “Stick and move,” she tells herself. “Just stick and move.”

***

The Gleason’s Gym motto hangs on the wall.

The Gleason’s Gym motto hangs on the wall.

Watching McLeod-Wells’ feet jump rope over the chipped concrete floor at Gleason’s Gym is like watching a choreographed dance routine, except that nothing about it is planned. McLeod-Wells does not think when she jumps; she just jumps. Before she starts throwing punches at heavy bags or other fighters, she spends 10 to 15 minutes swinging a speed rope underneath her feet while her eyes gaze out into the crowded gym, as if it were empty. She starts by jumping off both feet at the same time, and then switches to alternating her feet, shifting her weight from her left foot to her right as she twirls the handles at the end of the rope. About three minutes into her jumping, she swings the rope in front of her and criss-cross her wrists so that the rope forms an “X” before it passes underneath her feet. Toward the end of her routine, she propels herself higher into the air and accelerates her wrist speed, so that the rope swings underneath her feet two times before she touches the ground. As she speeds up, her kinky ponytail bounces over the Gleason’s Gym motto printed on the back of her muscle shirt. It reads: “Now whoever has the courage, and a strong and collected spirit in his breast, let him come forth, lace up his gloves, and put up his hands.”

When she left Kingsway Boxing Gym and started training at Gleason’s, McLeod-Wells felt like she finally fit in. “When I was at Kingsway, it was still mostly white-collar boxing,” she says. “It’s a little bit more low-key than at Gleason’s. I’m so happy I went to Gleason’s. You can see blood on the canvas in the ring there.”

***

There has been no blood on the canvas during McLeod-Wells and Asher’s fight. Asher’s fists keep coming. But McLeod-Wells looks more alive in the fourth round than she has in the first three.

One minute into the round, the women clinch as Asher tries to force McLeod-Wells to the ropes another time and McLeod-Wells pushes her back and breaks free. Asher’s left arm comes forward from its cocked-backed position, heading toward the right side of McLeod-Wells’ head. McLeod-Wells sees the punch coming and breaks from her straight up position, bending her knees and falling forward at her waist so that Asher’s left flies over her head.

McLeod-Wells takes a few steps back, brings her left fist up to her left shoulder and swings it down diagonally at the left side of Asher’s head. Asher absorbs the blow, bending her knees slightly and crouching down before taking a few steps back from McLeod-Wells and straightening up. The women keep the fight along the edge of the canvas. Asher works the body. McLeod-Well’s throws one-twos at Asher’s head.

The bell rings. Both women drop their fists. Asher takes a deep break and raises her fist back up to McLeod-Wells, who touches gloves her gloves and embraces her.

They return to their corners with no doubts about the judges’ decision.

“I won,” thinks Asher. “I’ve gotten robbed before, but I think won.”

“I know I won,” thinks McLeod-Wells.

The referee walks along the edge of the canvas and reaches between the ropes for the judges’ scorecards. Asher and McLeod-Wells remove their headgear and gloves.

The referee calls the fighters to the center of the ring, where he takes both their hands up and waits for the announcer.

“The women’s 114-pound Champion is…” says the announcer, holding the crowd in suspense. “The blue corner!”

McLeod-Wells throws both fists up into the air. A wide smile spreads across her face. She blows a kiss into the crowd. She turns to Asher and hugs her one last time.

“There was no doubt in my mind,” says McLeod-Wells.

“I really had to beat her,” thought Asher. “She was the favorite. She’s been around longer. I had to punch punch punch. Keep going. Don’t stop. Didn’t I do that? I’m not surprised, I’ve gotten robbed before.”

***

Asher doesn’t know what exactly drew her to boxing. “There is no real reason why. It just is,” she says. “It’s one of the few things where I drive myself. I push myself to train hard.”

The fear Asher experienced when she was rock climbing disappears in the ring. “I’m definitely aware that I could get hurt but I just don’t care,” she says. “You feel kind of like it’s an escape. I think everyone needs to escape from life once in a while. I feel blessed that I have a great life, but I have a lot of issues with not loving myself. Since I started boxing I’ve felt so much happier.”

She will graduate from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in midtown Manhattan in July and wants to expand her training business. “I can’t wait for July,” she says. “Then I’m going to do everything out of home. I’ll have a whole consulting business and my own website.”

When McLeod-Wells thinks about her future, she can only imagine doing one thing. “I will turn pro and do it until I no longer can,” she says. I was meant to do it. I didn’t find boxing. Boxing found me.”

###

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This post was written by:

Bilal Haye - who has written 79 posts on The Brooklyn Ink.

Bilal Haye is a reporter for www.thebrooklynink.com

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3 Comments For This Post

  1. Dina Says:

    I love boxing - what a good workout for your body and your mind! There are some pretty cool boxing gyms in NYC. I agree that boxing can actually improve your self-confidence.

    [Reply]

  2. Justwondering Says:

    Where can you train in Brooklyn (I need a place that’s affordable and I can’t find one)? I am new to boxing.

    [Reply]

    dave reiter Reply:

    t;ry starrett city boxing club in bklyn ask for jimmy opharrow president

    [Reply]

  3. NYC Rhymology Says:

    It’s the fall, where is y’all?

    [Reply]

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