Chilean Boxing’s Small MiracleNext time you think you’re a bad ass, ask yourself if you’d compete in a gym that doesn’t have heat. It was 50 degrees outside but it was a damp night and felt a lot colder. I asked the photographer from the local TV station why they didn’t turn the heat on and she said,
“This is a poor area. The gym doesn’t have heat.”
Oh, by the way, there are 14 matches and the last one is Miracle Kim Sandoval, the one I came to see.
I was in Concepcion this month at a conference on women defying stereotypes. Since I’m president of a company that makes applications to teach math and English, I was mostly interested in the talks by women in technology, science and entrepreneurship. However, there was a 16-year-old speaker, Kim Sandoval, who is the women’s boxing champion of Chile and a silver medalist in the South American championships.
It turned out that Ronda was one of her role models in getting into combat sports, and Kim lives in Santiago, so of course we had to have lunch when Ronda was in town last week.
Kim La Pequena Maravilla Sandoval , or as Ronda nicknamed her “Miracle Kim” because she’s a small miracle is super popular in her community. How popular?
When she was the headliner at an event in a local gym that went past midnight in one of the worst urban neighborhoods in Chile every single person stays, despite the lack of heat.
Kim’s mom, Jacquelyn, has organized this event. The family has very little money and from what I overheard, they get very little backing from the boxing federation. When I asked someone in the crowd why that was, he shrugged and said they don’t like her mother because she advocates for Kim, speaks out when she feels the athletes are not getting adequate support, and that old guys running the sport don’t like a woman that speaks up. Boy, did that sound familiar!
The event was a bit of a small miracle in itself. I’ve seen amateur boxing matches in Los Angeles and North Dakota. You know how it is, you go watch things your friends’ kids or in or that your friends are coaching. Payback for the many friends I have dragged to judo tournaments. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’d say the level of boxing overall was similar to what I’d seen in tournaments in the U.S. As with any event, some boxers were noticeably better than others. Nobody was seriously injured and a lot of young boxers got experience. Except for the lack of heat and the lights going out at one point, and staying out until, I presume someone found a circuit breaker, it was a good event. Organized and well-run. It seemed to be put on by the people in the community with just about zero official support except for a couple of referees and a couple of police officers there for security .
I could totally relate to Kim’s mom’s realization that her daughter needed something, in this case more competition, and just creating it out of thin air.
Still, this kid is only 16 years old, her opponent is 28 and teaches boxing. 2 hours before her fight, in a freezing gym, Kim is hanging around the one, tiny propane camp heater someone brought, and talking with her friends. She goes over to encourage a friend who lost his match.
At first, I’m not sure if she is not taking this fight seriously enough or if she is doing the exactly right thing. Like I always told Ronda, you see these people warming up all day at judo tournaments and their first fight isn’t for 6 hours. By the time it comes up, they are exhausted. The smart thing is to relax an start getting ready 30-45 minutes before you come up.
Sure enough, 45 minutes before her fight, Kim heads to the locker room. When she comes out, for her match, it is clear who the fan favorite is. I’ve never seen her box.
Well, I know very little about boxing but 3 rounds later, it’s clear who the winner is. After tearing into her opponent and winning a unanimous decision, Miracle Kim insists that Jacquelyn join her in the ring and the whole crowd joins her in singing her mom happy birthday.
Mark my word, watch this kid. She’s coming for you, training there in your fancy gym with that pansy ass shit like heat and lights that work.If you'd like to see some video from her fight, scroll down
——-When I’m not at boxing matches, I’m making games.
Random fact: We made this bilingual game to teach math in classrooms where kids might speak English or Spanish but about 10% of people say they play it to improve their Spanish. Play it on the web or download it for your iPad from the App Store.