Boxing? You crazy ah what?’ it was the response I got from my dad when I first told him that I wanted to be a boxer. Things were difficult with my family then, we struggled to make ends meet, my dad was a cane cutter and one of those traditional Indo-Trinidadians who didn’t understand why his daughter was joining a gym when she could be studying or working instead. I really wanted to do better for my family but at the same time I had a fascination with muscles. And so, my boxing chance came when I stumbled upon the Fine Line Fight Factory Gym (my home gym now). After making some enquiries about fees and schedule, despite my uncertainty (I didn’t know how I was going to pay the fees and tell my parents that I was joining a gym) my boxing journey began on August 24th 1995. Armed with a five dollar bill, some singles and a handful of coins I paid my fees and began my first weight training session.

I have shared this testimony with the girls and women I mentor and teach at my programme- Boxing Beyond the Ring (BBR), all the time. Actually, it’s this sacrifice which made me embark upon such a programme in the first place. An introductory programme to boxing and self-defense, whereby participants spend six weeks training under the guidance of qualified coaches, the aim of BBR is to educate people about the benefits of the sport, the fact that boxing is a sporting opportunity as well as a socially uplifting and developmental tool. It marries the physical and psychological training required to elevate self-esteem and improve confidence, to develop self-efficacy and to become equipped with self–protection techniques which can be employed when confronted with unwanted situations. It was my boxing back story which brought me to this new purpose which is the enhancement of other women and girls with boxing, my vehicle.
My boxing back story. It is a bittersweet saga of sadness yet success. An obstacle course with a trophy in the far distance- many of the women I mentor have their fair share of hurdles and many times their vision of reward is blocked. Boxing taught me how to jump over these hindrances and claim victory as sometimes your hurdles can be right at your doorstep. My first hurdle was the countless arguments with my dad (I only told him about my enrollment in the gym after I decided to participate in an in-house karate competition). My dad served his role in my journey, however, for his wrath propelled my fast growing resilience and determination. Within no time, my sporting appetite increased as kickbox-ing beckoned and being the chump I am for a challenge, I sidestepped my way into the class.
Life became disciplined afterwards but my commitment wasn’t only because of competition. Sometimes the benefits of sport come outside the realm of competition. Back then being a champion in the ring wasn’t my real focus, I just wanted to experience a fight in the square circle, I wanted to do something outside of my comfort space, I wanted to build character. This is a philosophy some of the older women in my classes observe. Like the fifty-something-year-old woman who enrolled in BBR because boxing and self-defence was on her “to do” list, it was a challenge she wanted to undertake in her lifetime. Boxing was on my “to do” list as well. I would fantasise, I would dream, I would envision myself climbing over the ropes, bouncing into the ring, executing my kicks and punches skillfully and then having my hand raised in victory, just like I had seen happen with the guys from the gym.
On March 28th 1998, a big part of this dream came through. I climbed over the ropes, fought my heart out, but my hand wasn’t raised. I almost threw a tantrum in the ring as they announced it a draw. It was my first clash with the darker side of sport, the unfairness and favouritism in the ring. As the crowd booed the decision, I was gently led out the ring by my coach and team mates and I realised that it could have been worse. When the coach of your opponent is the promoter and the referee of the bout, and the judges are the friends of your opponent, you know you did good with a draw.
Never give up; success comes after failure… A year and a half later I would have my chance again and this time I didn’t leave it to the judges. With some heavy punches, I forced the referee to save my opponent, and this time the glee was only too apparent as I clapped like a child in the ring. I will never forget that moment, it was one of the best ever in my career. That’s why I always implore the young girls in the gym to never give up on life. BBR includes a cast of many girls and women who have been served with some of the harshest realities as the programme partners with St Jude’s School for Girls, the Organisation for Abused and Battered Individuals (OABI) and other Women’s Empowerment organisations. This positive attitude in the midst of adversity is important in their advancement.
Pain is the prelude to perfect- it’s another saying I impart to the girls. My taste of international competition was painful at times (black eyes and hard punches). It was the moment when my father realised that come hell or high water, I was into my sport for better or worse. After losing a tough fourth-round battle to a world champion who weighed 16 pounds heavier, I came home and didn’t miss a beat- I trained against my coach’s orders. But my stubbornness would pay off when two weeks later I made my professional boxing debut and scored a second-round knockout.
Soon I became chronic when it came to training. Boxing and kickboxing became the centre of my world and while I dealt with different jobs, studies and personal issues, I found salvation in the gym. And that’s the thing about sport; it is a very constructive distraction away from life’s stresses. But in as much as boxing was a great distraction, it wasn’t an easy road. The humps, potholes, bumps and barricades were frequent and threatened to discourage me on several occasions. But with the faith, motivation and belief of my coach, Bharrath Ramoutar, I continued to trek the treacherous road. By then he had seen world champion written in my destiny, he had seen the discipline and dedication that even I wasn’t aware I showed. He saw when others didn’t. My mother’s blessings and the rest of my family’s support upheld me. Five years after my pro debut, I accepted the challenge for a world title and what a battle it was. The fight to get the fight was a Herculean task by itself. I remember the struggle to pull things together, the lack of funds, the naysayers, those within the boxing fraternity itself who laughed at us. Coming from a kickboxing background, being a cane-cutter’s daughter and being bold enough to contest for a world boxing title didn’t sit well with many.
After paying the fees necessary to sanction the bout, Ramoutar and I had only enough money left to buy one Gatorade. At the weigh-in, he was forced to literally beg the then chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Boxing Board of Control to allow the bout to take place. The rest only became history after a controversy erupted which the paparazzi and media grabbed wholesale. It felt as though I, a little 105-lbs fighter with heart, was up against an army. But where there is a will there is a way and on May 28th 2005, T&T had its first female world boxing champion. Despite attempts to discredit my accomplishment (hearsay that there was a previous T&T female world champion), my name was on the box record listing, with a T&T flag right next to it.
Unfortunately, my struggles didn’t end there as I was denied several accolades and it was funny since the persons who were voted in my place, would always come and apologise to me. And so there were many more chapters of hardship, bias and controversy which tarred my mission, my financial support, my boxing pathway and my name.
But in chaos there is always a silver lining. The young woman and assault victim with the optimistic smile agreed with this saying a few days ago at a BBR session at the gym. Indeed, my popularity and opportunities to improve the lives of others came as latent blessings in my journey. Fights came and went, I won some, I lost others. Then came the hiatus when there was no Boxing Board in place to sanction bouts so I refocused on kickboxing and copped the Pan-American title in November 2008.
Scenes of despair followed — unfortunately Jizelle Salandy, my co-boxer, died in a vehicular accident early in 2009 and scenes of new opportunities — a collaboration with promoter Boxu Putts aided my capture of a few more world titles and some more awards. But these feats didn’t save me from the criticism of the so-called boxing pundits despite the filled VIP seats for boxing bouts and a new interest by fans in boxing.
Eventually, my focus took a turn around and my involvement in the Defence Force Physical Training Instructors course (2014), the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic (TTOC), my involvement in Fine Line as a coach, athlete and administrator sealed and my enrollment in the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) certification paved a the road to BBR. It seemed like my destiny as my final assignment project for the International Coaching Enrichment Certification Program (a coaching education program facilitated by the United States Olympic Committee and the University of Delaware, and funded by the International Olympic Committee) morphed into my life project and purpose.
Today I am looking beyond the ring. While my boxing career has been punctuated with highs and lows what I hold dear to me are the lessons learned, the experience gained and the opportunities presented. My years through the sport has given me so much and has provided me with the platform on which I can truly seek to make a valuable difference to T&T. BBR is my win now, my new belt and I know it will be the victory for many women throughout Trinidad and Tobago.