By MIKE SMITH
At the USA Boxing National Championships in Spokane, Wash. last week, a duo of local fighters made good, establishing themselves as two of the top amateur female fighters in the country.
Krystal Dixon, fighting out of Champs Boxing Club in New Rochelle, emerged as the top 178-plus pound amateur in the country with a win over defending champion Denise Rico while her gym mate, Natalie Gonzalez, came away with silver medal in the 106-pound bracket.
Dixon, who was competing in her first-ever national championship, came out strong against Rico, flashing the leather to earn a 3-0 decision in one of the more entertaining championship bouts of the tournament. The New Rochelle native had an especially good second round, which saw her batter the defending champ with a flurry of a dozen unanswered punches.
“This was just about the best she’s looked,” Champs Boxing Club trainer and founder Ryan O’Leary said. “The other girl had a lot more experience, but Krystal came out like she was the champ and won the gold.”
Dixon’s impressive performance belied some of the butterflies she felt before the fight.
“It was my first time; I was nervous,” Dixon said. “I was just happy to be there, to have the chance to compete at that level, regardless of if I won or lost.”
Despite taking the fight to Rico, Dixon was apprehensive when the judges were ready to reveal their decisions, which turned out to be unanimous in Dixon’s favor.
“I thought I wasn’t going to get it,” Dixon said. “But it was amazing to get the result. I was ecstatic.”
Dixon’s teammate did not fare quite as well in the finals, falling 3-0 to Alex Love, a seasoned Army Elite fighter who hails from Seattle.
“[Love] has been around a long time; she had tried out for the Olympics,” O’Leary said. “Nat fought well, but she had a ton of nerves. She went the distance and we’re so proud of her.”
The New Rochelle-based Champs Boxing Club now has two highly-ranked national amateurs, but the two girls nearly missed out on their trip to the biggest amateur tournament in the nation.
Just one week before the girls were set to depart for Washington, USA Boxing Metro, which handles the amateur fight scene in the area, announced it would not take Gonzalez or Dixon to the national tournament, opting instead to only take the area fighters who would be competing in weight classes currently included in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
With fewer than five days to raise money for the trip, O’Leary used Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to reach out to parties who were interested in lending a hand.
“People just started coming out of the woodwork, stopping by the gym, dropping off 100 dollars here and there,” he said. “I had sat down the girls earlier in the week and told them that I didn’t think this was going to happen, but they just kept training like they were going.”
“I think it showed that people believed in us,” Dixon said. “To give us their support, regardless of what happened out there, was amazing.”
With her win at nationals, Dixon has earned a spot on the U.S. National team and will have the opportunity to fight international opponents and train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado.
Now back in New York, Dixon is allowing herself a rest period–albeit a brief one–before she steps back in the ring to resume her training.
“Today is my only day off,” she said on Jan. 27. “But I’ve got to get back to work with the Golden Gloves coming up.”
Over the next several weeks, Sports Editor Mike Smith will take a close look at some of the stories, and some of the fighters, emerging from Champs Boxing Club