'A long shot'

Female boxer works to qualify for Olympic Trials

By Candace Begody
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Nov. 24, 2010

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(Courtesy photo)

Christine Lewis, 22, originally from Wide Ruins, Ariz., is setting her sights on a chance to compete at the 2011 Olympic Trials. The 2012 Olympics will be the first time in history that women will be able to compete for boxing medals.

At a very young age, Christine Lewis learned to harness the feelings that result from the void left by absent parents.

She channeled it toward becoming somebody and now has won three national titles in a sport where women are not well-known - boxing.

Lewis, 22, originally from Wide Ruins, Ariz., won a 2004 USA Women's National Junior (16- to 18-year-old) title at age 15, a 2003 USA Women's National Novice Division title and a 2002 USA Women's National title in the 106-pound division.

Working and going to school in Houston in addition to training, Lewis has now set her sights on a chance to compete at the Olympic Trials next year. The 2012 Olympics will be the first time in history that women will be able to compete for medals.

A few key tournaments this year will determine whether or not Lewis has a shot at the Olympics and so far she is off to a good start.

First, in September Lewis won the 112-pound open class senior division with a first-round knockout after only 44 seconds at the Horn Open Ring Nationals Tournament in Houston.

Then, she was the unopposed champion after her opponent forfeited at the National Brown Gloves Tournament in Dallas last weekend.

Both advance her to two tournaments that could determine her run for the Olympic trials.

First, she will compete at the Golden Gloves in January. Should she win her division and become nationally ranked, she will have take one of the seven spots left in the trials. The winners at the Golden Trials in May 2011.

Depending on how Lewis finishes at the Golden Gloves, she may also compete at the 2011 USA Boxing Senior National Championships in March in Colorado.

"It's a long shot, but it's a shot," said Lewis. "It's been my dream for a long time."

Her dream began at the Damon-Bahe Boxing Club in Chinle where she trained for nearly 10 years under Cal and Judy Bahe.

"Cal put the discipline in me," she said. "He never rode me. He just said, 'If you're not willing to do it, you're not a boxer.' Sometimes I didn't want to do anything but he always told me, 'When you're not training, the other girl is.' I always remember that."

"She learns fast and does what exactly what she's told," said Judy Bahe. "She's not afraid to fight and it's in her blood now. She's going to impress every coach she comes across because she sure impressed us. "
Lewis now trains at Hit Gym in Houston, home to many national caliber athletes.

When she's not boxing, Lewis is either working or taking classes.

In 2008, Lewis received her associate degree in engineering at Red Stone College in Denver Colo. She now attends Lone Star Community College in Houston to obtain a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.

She works full time doing research for a Houston-based engineering firm developing and testing oil field products.

"It's been rough," she said. "But I've always had a tough schedule.

"Sometimes I wear a hard hat and swing sledge hammers all day," she said. "But I have to in order to pay for the expenses of boxing."

Her dream doesn't come without sacrifice.

"I gave up a lot of things in college," she said. "I don't drink, I don't party. Sometimes I work 55 to 60 hours a week. I have to watch my diet, and I haven't been home for six years."

Her most precious pride is the Navajo language.

"I can tell I'm losing it," said the fluent-speaker. "Some things don't come to me as they should. That's been the biggest sacrifice for me and it's tough for me to accept that my language is deteriorating."

Boxing is more than a sport for Lewis.

"My parents were never around and I've never lived in a steady household," she said. "I started getting into trouble and I became too much for my aunties so I took up boxing to take up time.

"Boxing gave me discipline I needed to make it in life," she added. "I began to think that this might be something I wanted to be a part of for the rest of my life.

"I don't have to rely on anyone," she said, "or not have to worry about who's on my side. I'll never have to depend on anybody. It taught me to handle things and accomplish on my own."

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