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Undefeated boxing champion Seniesa Estrada is now the role model she never had


It was a Tuesday, another sparring day for Seniesa Estrada. Her next fight, a title unification fight, was less than a month away.

The lights flashed at 4:29 p.m. The flags of 12 nations hung above. Inspirational quotes were pasted on the walls. A canvas of Muhammad Ali standing on Sonny Liston adorned the wall behind the ring. This is Estrada’s sanctuary, a space she has owned for four years, an achievement not even she imagined possible.

Seniesa Estrada works out at her gym in Bell Gardens in front of a canvas of Muhammad Ali standing on Sonny Liston.

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

Estrada was a self-assured child when she first walked into a boxing gym at age 8, and she maintained that confidence as she stepped into the spotlight for years to come. She already kept a list of lofty goals. Fight on TV. Sign with the biggest promoter. Become a world champion. It didn’t matter that women’s professional boxing was inactive. It was going to happen.

Owning a gym wasn’t on his wish list, but it might better illustrate Estrada’s rise. She was the only girl when she showed up at a gym in East LA to box for the first time. She was determined. Everyone else thought she was delusional.

“Once I started,” Estrada said, “I was like, ‘I know I’m not crazy. It is doable. ”

Now he has his own gym in Bell Gardens. She likes to train by herself before performing for others. Her next scheduled fight of hers is Saturday against Tina Rupprecht in Fresno, where she will put her 23-0 record (nine KOs) on the line. She knows who will be watching.

Estrada, 30, has become the role model for would-be champions he never had. The girls attend their fights wearing capes, their ring-walking staple. They harass her to take photos of her. They cry. Her favorite wrestlers growing up were Roy Jones Jr., Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran. Fast forward two decades and she is many girls’ favorite wrestler.

Two of them came to the gym that Tuesday afternoon to train her. They were amateur Latina boxers, chosen for this session because Estrada’s next opponent is shorter than her and they checked the height box. They changed every other round until Estrada completed all 12.

Afterwards, the aspiring wrestlers hugged the champion. They left with a smile. Estrada ended his day by running on the treadmill on the corner for 10 minutes wearing a weighted vest while his dad, Joe, cleaned the equipment before closing the gym.

Joe Estrada was his daughter’s first trainer. He was the one who first took her to a boxing gym. He thought she was just going through a phase, so he came up with a plan, arranging for a guy to beat her up in the ring. The scheme failed.

The boy punched Estrada in the stomach, knocking her back and forcing her to collapse in pain. She quickly bounced back with a flurry and knocked him off his feet.

“As soon as I saw that, I thought this girl had it,” Estrada said. “Look where she is now. World champion in three divisions.

Estrada insists that he would be in prison or dead if his daughter hadn’t dragged him to that gym all those years ago. He was trapped in a world with gangs and drugs. Training her consumed him. But health problems, which began with pneumonia more than a decade ago, started breathing difficulties that have persisted. He eventually he was forced to take a step back from physical activity. He needed a coach. So he reached out to someone he admired.

dean fields I didn’t want to train a girl. Not because he was against it or too busy or too good for women’s boxing. Because he thought it was a waste of time.

“I just don’t want to see someone training for nothing,” said Campos, whose most famous student was former world champion sergio mora.

Seniesa Estrada trains in a nondescript gym in Bell Gardens.

Seniesa Estrada trains at her gym in Bell Gardens in preparation for her fight with Tina Rupprecht on Saturday in Fresno.

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

That was about 15 years ago. The promoters did not believe in the potential of women’s boxing. Even if women can box well, do people really want to see them punch each other? The lack of interest filtered to the gyms, where the races take place.

Seniesa Estrada trained at Campos’ gyms in East LA, then in Montebello. Campos never worked with her, but he saw the girl around. She was calm. One day, out of the blue, Joe Estrada asked if he would work with her. He insisted that she had potential and would work hard. He was sincere. She gave Campos some DVDs of her fights, hoping to convince him.

The first one Campos saw was his first fight in a ring, the one with the boy who punched him in the stomach and paid the consequences.

“I said, ‘Wait a minute, little girls don’t do that,’” Campos recalled thinking. ” ‘That’s not normal’. ”

Seniesa Estrada works out in a nondescript gym in Bell Gardens.

Seniesa Estrada works out at a gym in Bell Gardens that she has owned for four years.

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

He then studied a video of his first amateur fight. He assumed that she needed work, but the foundation for success was there. She loved the mentality of it. She realized that she had the right instincts. She lost, but it didn’t matter. She picked up tips fast.

Campos recalled an example at the beginning of their time together. She was watching one of the videos Joe Estrada had given her. In it, he punched the opponent but was unable to cut through the ring to score the knockout. He rewound the video and brought up the father and daughter. He asked if they could identify the problem. They could not. That day, he began to teach her how to cut the ring.

“She ended up training that same girl that Friday,” Campos said. “And that girl finished in two rounds.”

Estrada lost his first three amateur fights. She lost again a few years later by decision, but she and her father were convinced that she won the fight only to be fooled by the officials.

When she saw that the girl was fighting in a tournament in her hometown in Arizona, she convinced her father to bring her in for a rematch. She avenged the loss to start a streak of more than 60 wins in a row. She won national tournaments and became the top ranked boxer in the United States at age 16. She finished her amateur career with a 97-4 record.

Prosperity was not waiting. Estrada fought for little money because there wasn’t much money a decade ago. Women’s boxing debuted at the 2012 London Olympics. The exposure created stars and some momentum, but Campos and Joe Estrada said they think the tide didn’t really start to turn until after Ronda Rousey became a UFC star a few years back. after.

Seniesa Estrada wraps her hands before a workout.

Seniesa Estrada wraps her hands before working out at her gym in Bell Gardens. In 2018 she won her first title as a flyweight in Mexico. A year later, she won another. She won a minimal weight title in 2021 and a junior flyweight title less than three months later.

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

“I told her, ‘You know what, believe it or not, this is going to open the door for women in boxing,’” Campos said. “She says, ‘Do you believe that? It’s MMA’. I told him it doesn’t matter. They will start to see that a girl can lead, and at least they will start to put girls on billboards.”

For Estrada to benefit, he had to keep winning. And she did. In 2018 she won her first title as a flyweight in Mexico. A year later, she won another. She won a minimal weight title in 2021 and a junior flyweight title less than three months later.

In one of her title defenses in 2020, she knocked out 42-year-old Miranda Adkins, a late replacement for Estrada’s original opponent. in seven seconds. Adkins didn’t throw a punch. Critics blasted the pairing as the clip went viral. Estrada said the seven seconds changed his life.

In an interview after the knockout, he noted that he was in a contract dispute with Golden Boy Promotions. Top Rank saw it and came over asking if it was true. The ESPN platform appealed to him and he soon changed promoters.

“It brought a lot of attention to women’s boxing,” Estrada said of the record knockout. “So, yeah, it was good.”

It was around this time, Estrada said, that his mother, Maryann Chavez, finally returned to her profession. Chávez was always against her daughter’s pursuing boxing, from the first days of training in East Los Angeles. Estrada said that she was a supportive mother, but that she never outgrew her boxing ambitions.

“She didn’t want me to spend my time doing something that she saw would always hurt me,” said Estrada, whose parents divorced in 1996. “So I understand why she didn’t support me for so long. But, now, she’s like my biggest fan. Front row every fight. Screaming.”

Joe Estrada’s role has changed, but his devotion hasn’t. He takes her around. He collects the things she needs for the gym. He organizes her training partners.

On that recent Tuesday, Joe Estrada strapped a groin protector around his daughter before their training session. He watched from his corner, occasionally emphasizing Campos’s instructions. After the 12 rounds, he paid off the two amateur boxers.

“Everything I have to do, I do for her and I’m happy to do it,” he said. “That’s my part and I love her.”

Stringers Seniesa Estrada.

Seniesa Estrada says it took her mother a long time to get used to her boxing career. “She didn’t want me to spend my time doing something that she saw would always hurt me,” Estrada says. “But, now, she’s like my biggest fan. Front row every fight. Screaming.”

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

Seniesa smiled as she watched him help her niece with the gloves. She was once that girl. She is now a world champion and a gym owner. She is a role model for the next generation of girls. She is everything she aspired to be and more.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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