Lauren Keenan has been training since June for an upcoming charity-boxing tournament sponsored by Haymakers for Hope. The tournament, aptly named “The Belles of the Brawl,” pits 28 amateur women boxers against each other in the ring to raise money for breast cancer research (each boxer must raise $5,000). Haymakers for Hope is an official 501©(3) charity organization whose mission is to KO cancer by literally fighting for a cure. The organization has raised an epic $5 million to-date for cancer research.
Lauren has been training hard with YORK ambassador, professional boxer and trainer Kevin Cobbs at Everybodyfights By George Foreman III. This will be her first amateur fight. We had a chance to catch up with this feisty Philly native (where Rocky is from!) in this week’s OOS post…
How did you get into boxing?
I always wanted to try, but 2 years ago I was at a point in my life where I just needed to hit something! I joined EverybodyFights By George Foreman III and as cliche as it might sound--that place, their community and their message saved me. I can’t imagine not having boxing in my life.
You mentioned that although boxing is a solo activity that there is an entire community in your corner. What’s being part of that community like?
FAMILY!! You argue, push, coach, share, support, cry, laugh but most importantly TRUST. Every time I step in that ring, I’m alone-- like the first time I went to college, a sleepover, a big trip, or when I moved away from home (Philly) 5 years ago. It’s on me to use the tools I’ve been taught, but know if I mess up, get in trouble, need a hug or better yet- need someone to celebrate with, I got those people, MY PEOPLE, in my corner!! You know? When you let them down, they tell you and it’s not to be jerks, but because it’s a moment to help you grow! They’ll never give up on you, EVER. What more could you ask for?
Your training and preparation with Kevin has been extensive, including taking continued hits to the face to overcome that fear. What was that like?
Ugh. Then, I hated him, couldn’t wait to punch back, doubted my abilities, knew why he was named the “Bully” [Kevin’s boxing nickname is the “Vermont Bully”.] Now, it’s my first story to share, and would be my first recommendation to anyone getting started! Did not make sense then, but he told me: “Trust me, I got you, you have to trust me,” and I did. It took breaking down my confidence for me to appreciate building it back. The first time I made him miss was great, and that is when I started to appreciate the sport of boxing! The strategy and “game” is what gets me fired up, not when I land a hard hit, but when I slip a punch I see coming and wait for the perfect moment to make my move.
It is said that boxing endurance is just as much mental as it is physical. How will you get into this fighting mindset in preparation for your fight?
It helps that I’m a mental case!! Kidding, sort of. This is still something I am trying to find balance with. I am a chronic over thinker, I analyze EVERYTHING, need a plan for perfection-type of person. That won’t work on Fight Night. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Anthony DiLuglio--simply too many attributes to list, but not enough to show the value he has brought to me, or the gratitude I have for his inspirational words, trainings and encouragement. He watched me shadow box and helped me to flow by my breath in silence, vs. to the beat of the music or the thoughts in my head. The most empowering tool I took away from Anthony was setting an intention prior to stepping into the ring each day. That allowed me to ONLY reflect on that intention, instead of critiquing every little thing I did or did not do that day.
On Oct. 5th my intention…(insert 30 minutes, a tear or two)…is more of a hope. I KNOW I will fight with every cell in my body and never give up, because those 3 rounds will be NOTHING compared to the fight with cancer. My hope will be to touch just one person in the audience ,who has been affected by cancer, enough to know that they are not alone! I AM IN THEIR CORNER, whether they need me to hit for them, take the hits, bleed, cry, celebrate, get pissed, whatever they need- if it gives them that untouchable feeling I get with the people I have in my corner, then my intention is met.
You lost your grandfather and grandmother to cancer, so this fight against cancer is personal. What do you think they would say if they were alive to see you fight Oct 5th?
Each time I think of them I go back to a favorite memory-- I see my Mom-Mom yelling at my Pop-Pop shaking her head, maybe with her wooden spoon in hand too, saying, “Angelo, stop being so rough with her, she just ate!!” And my Pop-Pop and I are rough-housing and laughing! I have thought what they would say to me, and I honestly don’t think it would differ much from this memory. My Mom-Mom would be shaking her head and asking if I ate enough, while hugging me close. My Pop-Pop would smile, put me in a headlock and then give me a hug and say, “That’s my girl”.
Your opponent in the ring, Sarah Allder, who is active military, sounds pretty intimidating. You got the chance to spar with her last month. What was that like?
It was great! I mean, obviously a little nerve wracking going into it, just looking at her you think, “I don’t want to mess with that chic!” But after the two rounds, I went over to her and we sat on the edge of the ring joking about how hard she hits and how quick I am. It was a nice moment that reminded me, we are both in this fight together, for the same cause, and although it’s me vs. her that night, when the final bell rings, it is really her and I vs. cancer. And my money is on us!
You said you watch videos of two-time USA Boxing National Champion Danyelle Wolf for inspiration/motivation. She is a total badass dedicated to the sport. Danyelle talks a lot about being told that girls don’t fight and that she never listened to that bullshit. What’s it like kicking ass as a woman?
You tell me! It’s hard for me to see myself in a kick ass position, because I see woman who do things I don’t think I could ever do, like run marathons, ride in the PMC, bikini competitions, quitting their jobs to pursue a dream career, being a mom while kicking ass at work! Those women are kick ass, but they also are the ones who inspire me to be more kick ass in my own life. Danyelle Wolf is a strong, beautiful and driven woman who has accomplished so much in such a short time, so I thought, if she can get to the Olympics in just a few years and dominate, then I can be ready in 4 months. Not going to lie though, I do walk a little taller with a little swag to my step knowing I can protect myself if anyone tried to mess with me!
What has boxing taught you about life?
The best way to put it into words is to use some words we all have heard: “Roll with the punches” and Mike Tyson’s “Everyone has a plan ‘til they get punched in the face.” Those are easy concepts to understand without ever boxing. But there is one quote that I couldn’t relate to until now, by Frank Bruno: “Boxing is the toughest and loneliest sport in the world.”
The discipline, sacrifice and time required to train results in so much FOMO!!!!! It’s lonely as hell but also so humbling. I’ve spent more time with myself then I ever have in my life and I’m most grateful for that. I love myself, I can do whatever I want. It might take time, but I know I am resilient. I am going to have bad days, but the good days make it worth it. I can’t rely on anyone else but myself, and I am okay with that because I believe in myself! Whether it’s in the ring or not, things are going to get to the point you want to give up--luckily I’ve learned there is so much more I have in me mentally and physically to give to win that fight!! I love this sport!!!
To buy tickets and support Lauren & Haymakers for Hope, click here
Photo cred: Rob Maloof