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Female law students use passion of boxing to cope with the stress of their legal studies

The Maroon

Published: Friday, December 6, 2013

Updated: Friday, December 6, 2013 16:12

Annie McBride

SARA FELDMAN/Senior Staff Photographer

Annie McBride, second year civil law student, trains at her gym Friday Night Fights Gym. McBride, a Houston native, has been boxing for 3 years, though she no longer competes she trains consistently.

Jamie Gontarek

SHAMARA KING/The Maroon

Jamie Gontarek, first year common law student, trains at Friday Night Fights Gym with her coach of three months, Anthony Vitrano. Gontarek said she is trying to defy what people thing of a “little blonde girl.”

Father Wildes

MARLIN WILLIFORD/ Photo Editor

The Rev. Kevin Wildes, S.J. stands amongst the spectators at the Friday Night Fights amateur boxing event where Jamie Gontarek's first match took place. Wildes is an avid boxer and can often be found training at Friday Night Fights Headquarters.

During her first fight, Jamie Gontarek couldn’t focus on the upcoming law exams she’d been studying for when she wasn’t training. Her focus was on proving that all the long hours spent in the gym were worth it – and she did, by winning.

Gontarek, first year common law student, said that while the win was exciting her main focus will always be school.

“There’s nothing like winning but I have to appreciate it and move on,” Gontarek said. “I’ve realized that it’s not like running a marathon through law school, and I have to negotiate my time because the goal is to be a lawyer.”

Annie McBride, second year civil law student, said she weighed the stress of boxing as she took the law school aptitude test.

 “And boxing wins every time. I’d rather live with that pre-test anxiety than the anxiety that I feel pre-boxing, because my life is not on the line when I take a law school exam. When I box, there’s a question in my mind if I’m going to survive. There’s a chance of serious brain injury,” McBride said.

Annika Mengisen, A’12, recalled memories of her first fight. She said she had concerns of not being able to see her mom again as a result of serious injury.

Gontarek acknowledges that many women may not feel comfortable trying an activity as demanding as boxing which may contribute to the lack of available female competitors.

“It’s a time commitment, and it also might be that there is a risk of physical and cosmetic injury,” Gontarek said. “Most women don’t have that type of competitive nature where they want to fight someone, it’s not really the idea of fighting someone, it’s just boxing is an intimidating thing. The first time I stepped into the gym was really intimidating for me because I didn’t think anyone was going to take me seriously.”

“A female deciding to go into a sport where she could get hurt isn’t something I grew up around,” stated McBride. “I’ve heard a lot of women saying that boxing is something they’d be interested in doing but I don’t think it occurs to a lot of females that it is a possibility.”

While McBride and Gontarek attribute the lack of competitors with the stigma associated with female boxers, Mengisen sees it as a matter of location.

“Whenever I tell anyone I box, I haven’t really encountered a negative stigma. It would’ve been easier to find a competitor in New York,” stated Mengisen. “It’s just a general thing in New Orleans to prefer a cocktail to working out. It’s not a gym happy city.”

Despite the risk of injury and detracting associations, the benefits provide reason to continue boxing related activities.

“I’m really shy and it’s helped with my confidence,” Mengisen said. “It gives me a sense of strength and a solid presence. It also helps in the courtroom when I know I can kick their ass.”

“When I face any sort of challenge it gives me a little confidence,” agreed McBride. “Knowing that I can get in the ring and face my opponent, facing my own fears, whatever the challenge is then I can achieve it.”

Boxing has given Gontarek more than just a confidence boost. She admitted that it has also pushed her beyond preconceived ideas held by others.

“Boxing is not something to expect from a little blonde girl,” Gontarek said. “When you have the idea of a female boxer, you get this idea of really big, buff people and it really depends on your weight. I like to step outside of what people think of me.”

Mengisen said the benefits of boxing have also carried over into her pursuit of a law career.

“Both law and boxing are like a chess game,” Mengisen said. “It’s just that boxing is physical and with law you have to fight for your client.”

Mengisen also stated that a number of her boxing peers have, or are, also pursuing careers in law. She sees boxing as a good way to relax for career paths that have a reputation for causing high levels of stress but warns that fighting may lead to unprofessional consequences.

“I want another fight but I can’t show up in a court room with a black eye,” Mengisen said.

Devinn Adams can be contacted at diadams@loyno.edu 

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