Fiery Ring Ambassador Patricia Alcivar Has Olympian Plans For Women's Boxing.

Posted: July 17, 1998

SCRANTON — Each punch in that third round had such conviction behind it, such purpose, such deft infliction of punishment that you may have thought Patricia Alcivar's gloves had eyes.

She was losing going into the final round Friday. She was three minutes from watching the referee raise opponent Janique Verroneau's hand for the fans' applause and admiration. But Alcivar did not quit.

How could she quit? Not now. Not after all she's been through.

Alcivar boxes so she can vent past frustrations. Her life has been hard, harder than any uppercut an opponent has dealt her, she says.

Alcivar rallied and won Friday, nipping Verroneau, 17-15, with a late flurry.

She is, her trainer insists, just what the suddenly struggling amateur sport needs.

Alcivar was one of seven U.S. women's boxers who made history on this night, who came to Lackawanna County Stadium to fight against Team Canada in the first women's international boxing matches on American soil. Team USA wound up winning six of the seven bouts.

They came not only as U.S. amateur champions, but as police officers, secretaries, teachers and mothers. They hope to be representing this country in the 2004 Olympics if enough of the world's other countries can create boxing programs.

Then, they say, women's boxing would be legitimate. No longer could people call it a freak show.

``It would make all this hard work pay off,'' Alcivar said of competing in the Olympics. ``I've sacrificed a social life. I've left my family behind for this. The only support I have is from my trainer.''

* The United States, which began forming teams of amateur women's boxers in 1994, has led a charge to get the International Olympic Committee to consider adding the sport. The IOC has said to petition for eligibility for Olympic competition two things must happen: A world championship must be created, and at least 75 percent of the Olympic Games' 184 participating countries must have women's boxing teams.

As of now, only about 30 percent of the countries have boxing teams, Team USA manager Sandy Martinez-Pino said. She said that the United States and other countries that have programs are going around the world trying to make this dream a reality and that the response has been encouraging.

Plans are being made for a world championships to be held in late 1999 or early 2000, Martinez-Pino said. She said women's boxing in the 2004 Olympics was a realistic goal.

``New programs keep getting started all the time,'' she said. ``We've gone from having almost none four years ago to 30 percent now. Can you imagine if you had women's boxing in 2004? The news media would go crazy. Women, who view boxing as a turnoff and as a sport just for their husbands, would watch this because the women have such great stories and they practice their craft so beautifully. Our women aren't knockout artists. They're boxers. True boxers.''

As evidence, there is Alcivar, a 22-year-old with quick feet and jabs, a bonny visage and an ironclad will.

* Alcivar's story is an all-American one. It involves a past that Martin Snow, her trainer, called ``the most horrific background I've ever heard about.''

Alcivar and her parents left Colombia and came to Queens, N.Y., when she was 2. This land of opportunity was hellish for Alcivar at the beginning because of her father, William. He was an alcoholic and an abuser - more verbal than physical. He didn't believe she could be an athlete, and he told her so, often.

``He is a complete male chauvinist, a typical South American drinker,'' Alcivar said of her dad. ``He was just horrible, and horrible is putting it nicely.''

When Alcivar was 15, her parents, now divorced, moved back to Colombia because living here was too expensive. Alcivar refused to go back because the opportunities for female athletes in Colombia were close to nil. Alcivar calls home once or twice a month, but she hasn't been back to Colombia.

She found this tiny, one-bedroom apartment for $65 a week and continued working at a local shoe and apparel store. She labored seven days and made $85 a week for her efforts. She was underage and desperately needed the money, so she couldn't complain, Alcivar said.

``She should write a book,'' Snow said, ``How to Live in New York on $20 a week.''

She survived by sneaking into her landlord's apartment and stealing food. She later confessed, and her landlord said she knew all along. If her landlord's fridge wasn't an option, Alcivar would buy candy because it was pretty cheap. She developed a love and craving for candy that she still has today.

When Alcivar is nervous, she eats candy. And she goes through about two jars of honey a week.

``My dentist said the only person he knows of who eats that much honey is Winnie the Pooh,'' Alcivar said, grinning.

Last week, she had Snow sweating because she weighed 124 pounds. Alcivar must be 119 pounds to fight in her bantamweight class. But she dropped the pounds to get here, winning yet another tussle.

At 16, Alcivar switched jobs. She lied and said she was 18 so she could be hired as a receptionist at a women's shelter. She worked full time there while finishing high school and estimated that she made $18,000 a year.

Alcivar had this love for karate, so she took a boxing class at a local gym to help her with punching. It turned out to be a boxing aerobics class, which she didn't like. So one day she complained to the instructor, saying she wanted to learn real boxing. That instructor was Snow.

He told her that karate was a waste of time and challenged her to punch him. She found an opening and hit him in his stomach. He fell to the floor.

``I was looking at her, like, why did you do that?'' Snow said. ``She stared at me with this blank stare, and it was like she was saying: 'Yeah, I did it. And what are you going to do about it?' ''

What Snow did was teach her how to box, even though he admitted that he didn't want to at first because: ``I thought women's boxing was a freak show. I hoped it was a fad.''

So now Alcivar was trying to graduate high school, working at the women's shelter and training daily.

She graduated.

She moved to a better apartment in Queens.

She became the lovable, energetic kid at the women's shelter.

Last year, she beat Leona Brown and won gold at the first U.S. championships in Augusta, Ga.

Her performance inspired Snow to open his own club, Waterfront Boxing Club, in New York City.

In the between time, she finished in the top 100 out of more than 30,000 runners at the New York City Marathon. She had a time of 3 hours and 3 minutes. She had not trained for the marathon, she said. She runs for joy. But Alcivar swears that if she devoted more time to running, she could win that marathon.

* And so now, this woman who stands about 5-foot-4 and who hops and giggles and fiddles with her black hair during an interview will enroll full time at John Jay College for Criminal Justice in Manhattan, cut back time at her new job as an executive secretary at Ogden Aviation, and train harder because she lost her No. 1 U.S. ranking to Elizabeth Aguilera after losing to her in the 1998 U.S. championships.

She is currently No. 2.

``I guess I need to take the initiative more, blow them out,'' Alcivar said. ``For me, boxing is therapy. You had a hard life, don't cry about it. Show it in the ring. Let my gloves beat at the past I've had.

``We're making history. I want to make history. I want to go in the books. I want people to recognize me for my talent, my boxing skills. That's why I never go for knockouts.''

Alcivar then found 21-year-old teammate Jamie McGrath, who had won in the flyweight division, and wrapped her up in a hug. Snow's eyes were fixed on the moment. He was a critic once, but now he pushes women's boxing. Get the sport in the Olympics, and he says it will become a fixture in the sports world.

``Boxing needs personality, and these women have personality,'' Snow said. ``Every sport needs a person to sell it, so why not Patricia? You need to hear her story, not the story of Mike Tyson biting ears. That turns people off. But she's really the American dream.''

This American dream, this Winnie the Pooh in boxing gloves, then sat beside her trainer and gave him a hug, too. Her eyes got a little wet as she realized this night could be one step toward that Olympic dream. She can picture herself with a gold medal around her neck. Yes, she said, her father would definitely hear about that.

``Oh, God, it would make everything that I dreamed of a reality,'' Alcivar said of the Olympics. ``My therapy would be complete. My mission would be a success.''

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