By Gabriel Romano
Palca, Bolivia, Jun 11 (EFE).- Bolivian 12-year-old Gracce Flores has devoted half of her young life to the traditionally male sport of boxing, and the aspiring pugilist now is focused on becoming a professional and eventually a champion fighter.
“I want to be a world champion,” she told Efe with the confidence of someone whose determined look and still-developing physique transmit the essence of a boxer by vocation.
She discovered her interest in the sport six years ago when she felt the urge to imitate the movements of Sylvester Stallone and mixed martial arts competitors while watching Rocky movies and Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts.
Flores also enjoyed trying out some punches on her father Beto, a former amateur boxer who never imagined that his passion for the sweet science also would also course through the veins of his daughter.
The small fighter gets up daily at 6 am for morning training sessions outside Palca, a small town nestled in the Andes and located about 34 kilometers (21 miles) east of La Paz.
“I jog almost a half-hour (to the gym), both there and back. I take it easy getting there and it’s fast going back … later I start putting on my gloves, I work on my speed,” she said.
Flores even has given herself the nickname “mano de piedra” (hand of stone), which she says refers to her punching power and especially her potent right hook.
Her ferocious fists have made it impossible to find female rivals willing to step in the ring with her and meant that all of her bouts have been against boys, including ones older than she is.
Flores doesn’t suffer fools or doubters, although she recalled that on more than one occasion people have dismissed her ambitions as a passing phase and suggested that soon she’ll “go back to playing with dolls.”
She said she has special admiration for the attacking style of Bolivia’s Jennifer Salinas, the former World Boxing Federation (WBF) Women’s World Super Bantamweight champion, and that she fights with similar flair.
“Without guarding (her head with her gloves), dodging and with counter-blows … I use hooks, wait for the right moment and counter-attack.”
Flores already follows a special diet, having eliminated not only carbonated and sugary drinks, but all carbohydrates, from her diet. Instead, for the past couple of years, she has mainly eaten salads and healthy protein and consumed milk and plenty of water.
But despite her razor focus on boxing, Beto, who also has taken on the role of boxing trainer, refuses to let his daughter put all her eggs in one basket.
“The day she shows me bad grades (at school), we’ll suspend her practice sessions,” he told Efe.
That has not been the case so far, and Beto says the discipline his daughter has developed through boxing has made her a strong student.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic has prevented Flores from taking part in exhibition bouts, her sessions have not been interrupted by the health emergency and she says she has continued to work on both physical and technical aspects at her gym amid the rocky slopes outside Palca. EFE