Shakyra Lockett of Fairview Heights thinks of boxing and life in much the same way.
You have to fight your way up, stressed Lockett, 19.
And thats just what she is doing as she slugs it out - in rigorous training at the Belleville Boxing Club and studying criminal justice and military science at SWIC and SIUE.
She dreams of a career as a pro boxer but if that doesnt work out, as a policeman or in the military.
Lockett recently climbed a few rungs toward her goal by fighting at the 2012 Ringside World Championships in Kansas City, Mo. The annual event, with over 1,000 bouts, is the biggest amateur boxing competition in the world, also hosting the largest female boxing tournament held anywhere.
She said, I was kind of nervous. But I told myself, Im gonna do it.
Though she wound up losing to an older, more muscled opponent at Ringside, Lockett said she gained experience, especially valuable since the local pool of female boxers is limited.
Belleville Boxing Club Coach Ken Riley said Lockett was one of just six boxers (and the only female boxer) from the club to compete at Ringside.
Id put her up against anyone. Just look at the way she moves her feet, he said, gesturing to Lockett, sparring nearby in the clubs ring, her movements much more expert than her single year of boxing training might suggest. You just cant teach that.
Though boxing might now seem to come naturally to her, Lockett said she wasnt immediately attracted to the sport.
My sport was basketball, she said, adding that she played on school basketball teams in OFallon during grade school and middle school.
A friend introduced her to the non-profit Belleville Boxing Club.
I decided to try boxing too, she said. Im not a violent person, but when it comes to a fight, I do what I need to do.
Lockett now trains at the club an average of five times a week. The weekday evening practices last two-and-a-half hours, and Saturdays can be even longer. They include jump rope drills, shadow boxing, rounds with the heavy bags, sessions hitting mitts and sparring, oftentimes with male boxers when female partners arent available.
I dont really feel a lot of pain (from punches). What drags me down is the breathing; I get out of breath.
Indeed, she got her club nickname Weezy when Coach Ernie heard me wheezing.
To build endurance and improve the breathing, her coaches encourage running - on club treadmills, at local tracks and through the neighborhood.
All the training keeps me fit and gives me a good way to occupy my time, she stressed.
Friends are often surprised when they first learn about her boxing, but almost everyone has been supportive, she said. And Lockett finds a lot of encouragement from fellow boxers at the club and from her coaches. All of that helps her keep going.
Coach Ken thinks I can beat up most of the boys that come here. He has faith in me so why not (have faith in myself)?