Beauty and the Beast
By Ray Kilgore

 


The first thing you notice about Nikki Lafountain is her striking beauty and radiant smile; but inside the ropes, her good looks take a back seat to a beast like nature as a boxer.

No Fear
Lafountain's workout sessions are no different than her male teammates. She works the heavy bag for several minutes non-stop, moves to the speed bag, and gets ready to spar, not to mention she runs twice around Como Park before coming to the gym. On this day, she's getting ready to spar with teammate Brad Patrow. She looks a little nervous, and before she enters the ring, she says, "I know I might get my butt kicked, but at least I am willing to get in there and try."
The sparring session with Patrow isn't bad; in fact it's quite good. At first, Lafountain is nervous, and not letting her hands go. Head coach, John Johnson yells, "Nikki you gotta pick it up, work the body, don't just cover up counter him." By now several of her teammates join in and yell instructions at her. Round two is much better for Lafountain, she's more confident, throws combos, and gives Patrow angles, and lands a hard shot that sends him down; well not really down, but he falls as a way to let her know it was a good shot but he wasn't impacted by the shot as evident of his laying on the canvas smiling.
Round three Patrow lands several good jabs which causes Lafountain's nose to bleed. She doesn't seem worried about the bloody nose, and finishes the round looking better than she did in the first two. After the session, Johnson tells her she did well, but then lets her know things that need improvement such as: when she's in a defensive mode, let her hands go, and to stop thinking so much. Like a good student, she listens and asks for more ways of improving next time.


All Woman
Johnson says when Lafountain first started coming to his gym at age 15, he told her, "If you want to fight like a girl, play a girl sport" and she shot back, "But I am a girl!" making it clear that don't assume because she's young and is female, she doesn't have the heart of "a real women" although she admits she has to "break the girl's sprit," before bouts.
As a boxer, she has eight bouts, but seems to deal with the same issues international fighters Oscar De Hoya and Laila Ali dealt with: having to prove she can fight despite her looks. "I've been in the ring with tough girls. If I know I am going to get beat up, I don't care. I gotta do with I gotta do" she says looking serious. She adds her first "women bout" took place in Chicago, and she describes fighting the ringside women's champ who looked like fighter Ann Wolfe in terms of her muscular build. The champ was 31 years old while Lafountain was 17. Coach Johnson says Lafountain held her own the first round, and did well the whole bout but lost a close decision. The next day, she boxed an exhibition bout with a woman who had 20 bouts and Lafountain won.
As with many women boxers, Lafountain faces is finding good female sparing partners and opponents. Like pro boxers, Christy Martin and Lucia Riker (who's Lafountain's favorite fighter), Lafountain spars with males because she can't find any females and is the only female boxer at Rice Street.


So young
Lafountain boxes at 132 pounds, and says when she's not training, her weight only goes up to 135 pounds. Amazingly, when shestarted boxing, her weight was 160. Her introduction to boxing begin when fighter Antonio Johnson seen her hit the speed bag in her family's garage, and suggested she go to the gym and learn to box. She was 10 years old at the time, and took Johnson's advice and has been boxing every sense.
Lafountain says her parents are very supportive of her boxing career, and come to most of her bouts. She says with pride, when she started at Rice gym, her mother would be at there almost daily giving her advice on how to improve. Lafountain has a 40 minute drive to Rice Street gym, but says she stays there because she gets the best training possible, and the "world champs come here." Coach Johnson says she is improving greatly, and he's working on helping her "switch up and give her opponents something they aren't expecting."
When not boxing, Lafountain is a Jr. in High school but admits not liking it; Se wants to attend college and study law enforcement, an inspiration she got while in the 8th grade after submitting an essay about a true life crime story. With her looks and charming personality, you'd think she'd be popular at school, but she says she doesn't have many friends, and the ones she did have, she stopped hanging with them for no real reason.
In terms of her boxing goals, her plans are to box this Friday and win and then advance to the women's tournament in Florida in November. She hopes to turn pro in her early 20's and provide fans with exciting fights.


Final Thoughts
Grammy Award artist Aretha Franklin has a song whose lyrics say, "Everybody is somebody's fool" but not Lafountain; not only isn't she anyone's fool, those foolish enough to think she's not a serious boxer because of her beauty, all they have to do is step between the ropes and they'll see the beast come out in this "pretty girl."

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