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.
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.
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.
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.
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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