Adrienne Alegria is a combination of Rocky Balboa and his love interest Adrianna (Yo Adrian!) Pennino. This five-foot-one-inch, 27-year-old Alegria is not only a seriously focused boxer, but she’s an attractive young lady as well – two obvious advantages to her burgeoning career.
In this exclusive Rock Cellar magazine interview, the petite pugilist takes us behind the curtain to unveil what it’s really like to be a professional female fighter in a male-dominated sport.
ROCK CELLAR MAGAZINE: So what’s the latest, most exciting thing happening in your boxing career right now?
ADRIENNE ALEGRIA: Now that I turned pro I’m getting paid to fight! So there’s more motivation for me to keep winning and training harder. I recently did a Coke commercial with the upcoming Olympic hopeful, Marlen Esparza…
RCM: –Coke? You actually drink Coca-Cola?
RCM: Diet or regular?
AA: Regular. We sparred, but it was very light, nothing like close contact. We were just acting; but it comes natural, there were no nerves. I didn’t have butterflies in my stomach so it was more fun for me. I think it’s airing when it gets closer to the Summer Olympics.
RCM: How did you get interested in the sport of boxing?
AA: I always saw my dad working out when I was growing up, we’d join him – he’d help us do pull ups, pushups. We’d work out just for the fun of it, ’cuz we looked up to our dad – he’s a third degree black belt. And my brother, who is a second degree black belt, he’s naturally talented in martial arts. So at the age of seven we got into martial arts.
It’s very disciplined, a very physical sport; you have to be very strong-minded and confident. I earned a black belt at the age of 18. Martial arts back then, though, was a very difficult sport.
RCM: So your dad was supportive?
AA: My dad was very competitive, especially with us. He always wanted us to win. So, we’d fight and do competition; it’s a very competitive sport. He’d always practice with us and we continued every single day to practice. There was not a day that we didn’t. But he was very supportive in what we did. And it carried on to boxing – a lot of the discipline, the confidence carried on.
RCM: What is your family background?
AA: My mom is Nicaraguan. My dad, Joe Alegria, is Mexican, and he was raised in Lincoln Heights. I have an identical twin sister, Cassandra, and an older brother, Daniel, who is 31.
RCM: Can your sister see the future, like the Greek mythological figure named Cassandra?
AA: No. (laughs.) She’s my sparring partner. Now, she’s hoping to become a boxer. I don’t know how much she’d like to turn pro – she’s experienced the ring and she’s experienced the physicality of boxing. But her getting hit without her headgear might be an issue, because when you’re professional you no longer wear headgear, so you’re making more direct contact to the face.
She likes the sport; she has the aggression in her. So I think she just wants to start amateur, and then see where that goes. If it continues to take her on a more professional route, I’m here to help her. We’re both first degree black belts.
RCM: Who’s older?
AA: She is – by one minute.
RCM: So your parents feel fine about you becoming a pro boxer…
AA: Well, my dad encouraged me. (laughs)
RCM: How about your mother? What does she think about her baby stepping into the ring?
AA: She doesn’t like it, but she supports me. Of course, she doesn’t like to see me get hit but she supports me in what I do.
RCM: Do they go to your matches?
AA: Most definitely. My dad is actually in my corner – he’s a cornerman – basically pumping you up. I also have my coach and assistant coach as cornermen. They go up in the ring in between rounds and basically either yell at me or just continue telling me that I’m doing a good job. Then you got the two cornermen on the bottom that are just assisting with water, drying me off; that’s what my dad does.
RCM: Besides boxing, what kind of work do you do?
AA: I’ve done hospitality, customer service; right now I’m a (restaurant) server for USC.
RCM: Do you hope to earn enough from the ring to be able to quit your day job?
AA: I only hope – but don’t know if I can. Boxing hasn’t made its way for females to go that route, like, where I can just not work and make boxing a fulltime thing. You do win some prize money, but it’s not enough to get you by. I can fight once a month or every few months; it’s so up and down, it’s not consistent.
RCM: How did you make the move from martial arts to boxing?
AA: One day my dad and I were training and we were primarily working on our hands on the mitts. He just saw that I was picking it up quite quickly, and was strong and fast. So we’d do it continuously, just training and working out. Eventually, he mentioned to me, “why wouldn’t you try boxing?”
I just always thought it would be more of a guy’s sport. I was young; and I don’t like getting hit. I’d see boxers get hit, guys get hit. But he’s like, “you should just try it and see if it’s something you might like. And if you don’t like it then you don’t have to continue doing it. If you do like it, then you can continue going.”
RCM: Continue going getting hit…
AA: I said, “Okay.” I was 12. It just so happens that when I was doing my karate classes in East L.A. at a sheriff’s center there was a boxing ring and a boxing gym – all together. So kids could do martial arts and could box too, if they wanted. I was 26 when I had my first pro match.
RCM: Tell us about your boxing training and regimen…
AA: Getting ready for my professional debut wasn’t difficult. I love working out, I love the conditioning part. I especially love losing weight (laughs) – I think any woman does. I weigh 110 pounds. But to stay that strong and lean you have got to eat right, you have to work out hard.
I started doing crossfit – it’s like a different type of conditioning. It requires kettlebells [a cast-iron weight that looks like a cannonball attached to a handle], a lot of obstacles; it’s a little bit like weight training but it’s done at a fast rate. You’ll sprint, then you’ll do ropes, squat, do lunges; everything’s really intense. I was doing this with a personal trainer. I’m in the gym every day when I’m getting ready for a fight.
RCM: How about food. Does your training require a special diet?
AA: Getting ready I eliminate starches – bread, rice. I go to a more high-protein diet, but I don’t eliminate all my carbs, because I need the energy when I work out. For high protein I like fish, salads, chicken, beans – I don’t really go for beef or steak, it’s just not anything I really like. I don’t get strict on myself but I do watch what I eat.
RCM: Do you listen to music when you train?
AA: I enjoy listening to hip hop when I workout.
RCM: What classification or division are you considered?
AA: My weight division is 110. It can go from 108 to 110, depending on whether I’m drinking water at that moment. You’d consider my weight division super flyweight.
RCM: So, how did you get the nicknames the “Adorable Assassin” and “Sweet Knockout”?
AA: It was funny, because a friend just came up with “Sweet Knockout” because of the fact that I’m sweet and I fight! I was trying to find a name for an exhibition fight, and my friend was saying, “I want to have a name for you.”
Then he showed me a picture of Angelina Jolie in “Tomb Raider,” she’s holding a gun to her face, over her nose. It was a really attractive photo and looked so lethal and my friend said, “How about ‘Adorable Assassin’? You are adorable, and you hurt girls.”
And I thought that does sound good – I’m in martial arts and boxing, so it’s what I’ve carried on.
RCM: What would you say are your specialties in the ring?
AA: As far as punching I’d say my hook. My right’s very strong, but I’ve been very dominant with the left. Footwork. I jump rope a lot to help with my footwork just to be on my toes and lighter on my feet. So that I’m not planted and can move after I get hit or after I’m hitting, just to get out of the way – kind of to exhaust my opponent. I’m probably known for my conditioning.
RCM: What’s the worst you’ve been hurt in the ring?
AA: Just knots on my head and black eyes.
RCM: What’s the worst that you’ve hurt somebody?
AA: Knots on the head; I don’t think I’ve broken any bones. I really don’t see my opponents after.
RCM: Do you think of yourself as an aggressive person?
AA: In or outside of the ring? (laughs) Outside – no. Inside the ring, YES, I’m very aggressive. I don’t attack my opponents, but for my last fight, I did, ’cuz she applied pressure, so I applied pressure even more so.
RCM: Is boxing a way for you to release your inner aggression?
AA: Oh definitely! For the most part, I’m a happy person but there’s days that – you know, people have their good and their bad days. Boxing has always been a release for me. Sometime I go into the gym kind of upset, but the minute I’m there I forget what I’m mad about.
RCM: Tell us about your career to date.
AA: I’ve had seven, probably eight amateur fights – I’ve won five bouts and lost two. As far as pro bouts, I’m 2 and 0 now. Both were at the Warner Center Marriott, Woodland Hills. Steve Bash has been kind enough to get me fights there. I really appreciate what Bash Boxing has done for me.
Sometimes it’s hard to get fights; I had one girl pull out two times to not want to fight me. I don’t know why; I guess there’s always going to be reasons why people can’t. I’m more determined to fight now.
RCM: What are the purses like for women’s pro fights?
AA: For four rounds it’s in the thousands. For six rounds they go a couple of thousands. It just all depends on how many rounds I’m fighting. The more rounds, the bigger the purse. If you lose you still get the same amount. But, when you don’t make weight – if you’re a pound over – they take 20% from your purse. That has not happened to me. (laughs)
RCM: What titles can a female professional boxer hold?
AA: In every weight division somebody holds a title. There are women who are “world champions” right now; some hold three belts in my weight category. More so in bantamweight, which is, I believe, 120 to 125 pounds; 10, 15 pounds heavier than my division, flyweight.
RCM: What goes through your head when you’re boxing?
AA: Just learn. Nothing really goes through my mind. Not even strategy. It’s just more trying to pick up on technique and the fundamentals.
RCM: Who is your coach?
AA: Ray Morales. He has several fighters; a few professionals and a few really good amateur fighters. I’m his only female.
RCM: There are a few female boxers making a pretty good living out there, no?
AA: Oh, definitely. Mia St. John, Laila Ali, Lucille Riker…
But it’s difficult to find sponsors for female fighters. I’ve been turned down by companies; and I don’t know if they believe in what I’m doing. I just always feel like I’ve got to prove myself.
I bring people; they see the hype; you see how excited people are when I’m fighting. I put on a really good show but they still don’t believe in the females. We need a lot of help; it’s expensive for vitamins, for our conditioning coaches, the stuff we wear, our shoes, our equipment. Sometimes it’s hard to get the help we really need.
RCM: Do you have a sponsor now?
AA: Luckily, I’ve had Inland Body and Paint Center and Aguirre Shoes as sponsors for my pro debut. So it helped out substantially; medical expenses didn’t come out of my pocket and I ended up winning.
I’m hoping with this whole Olympics it will turn and people will want to take the initiative and help the females and put themselves out there. People are always going to the fighting events – it just puts their business out there as advertising.
RCM: For the first time Women’s Boxing will be a sport at the 2012 London Olympics. But you didn’t try out. Why not?
AA: My dad had mentioned it about six years ago. But it was just talk; there was nothing certain about the Olympics.
There was more hype when Laila Ali and Mia St. John were out, everybody was talking about it and more hyped about it. Now, it’s regressed a lot. I don’t see any females on the undercards of Mayweather or Pacquiao. It’s sad. I’m hoping, with the Olympics, it’ll bring back life to boxing.
RCM: What are the stereotypes people have of you as a female boxer?
AA: For me – the fact that I don’t look like a boxer, people don’t think I can fight, because of the way I look. I guess they stereotype boxers to look a little bit more masculine. You know, I do care about my looks. I like to get manicures, pedicures and to get my eyebrows done. I’m very feminine, you know?
RCM: So, do you make yourself up before a pro bout?
AA: No, not with makeup. I’ll probably just do eyeliner, and that’s it. It all comes off when I’m fighting, so it really doesn’t matter if I wear makeup or not!
RCM: So people expect female fighters to be non-feminine…
AA: People look at me and they’re like, “you are not a fighter, you do not box.” I don’t look like I get hit, either – I haven’t broken my nose, my face is still intact… (laughs)
RCM: Do some people expect female boxers to automatically be lesbians?
AA: I don’t believe so. I think it’s all in how you present yourself.
RCM: Do you think women are naturally less aggressive than men?
AA: I wouldn’t say “less aggressive.” Probably as in strength, maybe, but I don’t think there’s anything that– because when I’m aggressive, I hit probably just as hard as a guy. If I’m getting hurt in the ring I tend to get more aggressive. You have to protect yourself.
RCM: Have you ever used your karate or boxing know-how to defend yourself outside of the ring?
RCM: How does being a female boxer affect your romantic life?
AA: Sometimes drastically. (laughs) Yeah, it definitely doesn’t intimidate guys. I think it does turn them on and excite them. They find it very intriguing, very interesting.
But then again, I train with lots of guys, so sometimes jealousy plays a big part. I mean, I work with lots of these guys who are in shape, they do what I do, sometimes better. When I’m with somebody, and they see what kind of guys I’m training with, you know, it builds a sense of insecurity. They don’t see the type of dedication that goes into being a professional boxer. It’s hard to even spend time with my friends.
RCM: We have to ask this question: There’s a stereotype about male boxers refraining from sexual activity before a big bout. It supposedly makes them fight better in the ring. What do you say about that notion?
AA: (Laughs) I don’t know if I necessarily find that to be true. It’s a very exhausting sport. I think any energy you’re using outside of the ring before a fight can hurt you. So it’s probably best to refrain from that maybe a week prior to your fight. Just because you do need all of your energy – like all your energy.
Sometimes that’s why it’s even best probably not to talk to your significant other because you don’t want to get into an argument and be all stressed out and have to worry about things.
RCM: At lots of male boxing matches there are “ring girls” wearing scanty bikinis who walk around the ring in between rounds carrying signs stating what round is coming up. When females box, do you think there should be “ring boys” in skimpy Speedos in-between rounds?
AA: No! I don’t think that, nor do I think we need somebody prancing around..! Maybe the men do; I don’t know. Maybe it makes the ring more enticing. But, for women, I’m so focused on my fight and opponent that I don’t really notice what’s going on around me. So, I guess, maybe an attractive guy wouldn’t be a bad thing, walking around, but it wouldn’t make any difference.
RCM: What are your professional and personal goals?
AA: I haven’t been married and have no kids yet. I hope to have a family. It’s not something I’m always thinking about, I just go with everyday, what’s going on. When I think about that, then I think about how long I’m going to continue boxing. Because I don’t have anybody steady right now, I’m more focused on my professional side, which is boxing.
RCM: And your goal for your boxing career?
AA: I wish and hope to go for a title. I want to take someone’s away. I never thought I was going to turn professional; it was something I dreamt about as a girl. When I was younger, I was like it was so cool to go professional, and once I did, that made it more real.
RCM: Who are your own role models and heroes?
AA: My mom is a really big role model for me. I really look up to her, just as far as keeping me strong, keeping me focused. I look up to my dad; he’s the one who has helped me get through my fights. He’s one of my sparring partners as well. I just look up to the people who keep me strong and pushing.
Some days I am really tired, some days I feel like I’m all by myself. It’s my friends, my teammates, my coaches, who remind me to keep doing what I’m doing.
RCM: Tell us about the group you’re part of?
AA: KnockOuts For Girls – KO4G – is funding for girls from harder neighborhoods who don’t always have an outlet. Sometimes we’ll work them out, we’ll show them how to box or we’ll do little fundraising events for them so they can have school supplies and venture out to museums, parks.
It’s a nonprofit organization giving women confidence, and trying to help their self esteem. Showing them they can protect themselves as well.
RCM: You obviously believe that fighting can have a positive influence on kids…?
AA: Oh definitely. For me, martial arts has helped me a lot. I’m just glad I can help kids through boxing, just get along with one another. Not to be disrespected or not to disrespect people. Just the discipline aspect of it is what I consider to be something everybody should pick up on. Just respecting each other.
We’d have better neighborhoods if we kind of cared and respected each other. I continue to teach kids, in Montebello and East L.A. as a volunteer. I like to do it because a lot of the girls look up to me.
RCM: How long do you think you’ll be able to be a pro boxer?
AA: A few more years. I want to continue as far as I can go without breaking anything…! (laughs)
UPDATE – Latest News on Adrienne Alegria – Click this link: Boxer Adrienne Alegria Finally Gets an Opponent – July 13th – Montebello California