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Female Mohawk Boxer Wins The Gold At 2006 Indigenous Games

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  • Female Mohawk Boxer Wins The Gold At 2006 Indigenous Games

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    Female Mohawk Boxer Wins The Gold At 2006 Indigenous Games

    "This was just a match for me"

    Rick Abasta 7/12/2006


    For one young woman from the Mohawk Nation, boxing was the perfect form of
    self expression after switching from gymnastics and swimming. 16-year-old
    Karen McCloud said her first Indigenous Games experience is "awesome."

    "I knew about the games since Christmas, but I didn't really start training
    hard until about three months ago," McCloud said. "I've been boxing now for
    about three years, come this fall."

    Her introduction to the sport of boxing came from watching her older brother
    workout in the boxing gym. His coach asked her if she wanted to join and she
    said yes. Since then, she's been establishing a name for herself in the
    119-125 pound weight division.

    "I surprised my dad and everyone else," she said. "Sometimes, when I'm at
    the gym back home, I get real bored. But, my boyfriend helps me out and
    with me a lot."

    McCloud's boyfriend is also a boxer, who helps her with tips to keep on her
    toes. On Thurs., McCloud fought 117-pound division, just to get an
    opportunity to box.

    "This was just a match for me. I already got the gold because there was
    nobody to box me in my weight division," she said. "I thought she was going
    put more pressure on me."

    McCloud's coach for the 2006 North American Indigenous Games is Andrew
    Johnson from Ontario. Back home on the Six Nations Reserve, however, her
    coach is
    Bill Williams, who coached her older brother.

    Johnson said he's trained many female boxers, but officially, he's had three
    females go through his training program on a consistent level. He's been
    boxing since the age of 19 and the transition to boxing coach was a

    Johnson said his introduction to the sport was interesting.

    "I was helping an elderly man clean his garage and I came across an old set
    of boxing gloves and headgear, probably from the 50s," he said. "The
    neighborhood kids and I were getting together, putting this headgear on and

    "We were pounding each other on a regular basis, just for weekend

    When McCloud met Johnson during the tryouts for the 2006 North American
    Indigenous Games, she was intimidated. "He was kind of intimidating, a big,
    guy. I didn't really want to talk to him," McCloud said.

    She got over that initial hesitation and showcased a strong performance at
    the National Western Center. Johnson was happy with McCloud's match and said

    he's come to the realization that aboriginal youth are a force to be

    "They're all high level competitors. They all have natural abilities for
    athletics. Eye-hand coordination from aboriginal youth is superior," he
    "Unfortunately, we just have a little confidence problem and that's where we
    lose a lot of our youth."

    McCloud said boxing and athletics have kept her away from drugs and alcohol,
    establishing a strong sense of identity and pride within her. The Indigenous
    Games is something native youth should experience first hand, she said.

    "Well, first of all, it opens their eyes to let them know there are so many
    other people out there. And, second, it gets a lot of people to quit
    and smoking," McCloud said.

    Her coach agrees.

    "It's pretty important for our youth because it gives them a strong
    foundation for health and wellness," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, most of
    our youth
    and aboriginal people suffer from low incomes and poverty, so they don't
    the resources for the best food and health care."

    The boxing team from the Mohawk Nation was a completely self-sustained
    contingent, with no sponsorships, or funding from the tribe. "Our expenses
    covered from our own pockets. There was fundraising with some of the more
    glamorous sports, but that wasn't shared with boxing," Johnson said.

    McCloud's parents traveled from the Six Nations Reserve to watch their
    daughter box. The gold medal she received will undoubtedly make their trip
    worthwhile, McCloud said. Her friends weren't able to attend, however.

    "My friends haven't really watched me box, so they don't really think I'm as
    good as I am. They only came out to see me box once," she said, smiling.

    For now, the plan is to continue training and begin preparing for the 2008
    Indigenous Games. "Karen's strength is keeping her opponent on the
    while she steps back and switches her style from orthodox to southpaw,"
    Johnson said.

    "Our youth are very strong. We need to stay focused, stay healthy. We're
    going to have battles all through our lives. If we can focus on health and
    wellness, our youth will have a huge head start against the rest of the
    population," he said.
    Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic

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