EL PASO, Texas (AP) — The sacrifice is impossible to measure as the hours pile upon hours, the sweat fills bucket after bucket and even a bit of blood and possibly a tear or two accumulate in the hard knock, unforgiving journey that is boxing.
But both the pain and the joy are best when shared. And no one can share it like daughter and mother and grandmother. The sport has slowly, gradually built an indelible bond between three generations.
The El Paso Times reports Kayla Gomez is but 14 years old, just an eighth-grade student at Bel Air Middle School. But she is already a five year veteran of the demanding sport of boxing and she has already won six national championships and earned a spot on the U.S. National Team. She dreams of going to the Olympics and then going pro.
Crystal Aceves is 32 and is also a five year veteran of the sport … bringing her daughter Kayla with her when they decided to get serious about boxing. And no sport demands that you be serious more than the sweet science. Aceves has competed in three national tournaments and has two-second place finishes and one-third place.
Cindy Aceves is mother and grandmother and coach and travel partner and confidant for the two in their fistic quest.
“I had boxed a little a while back but I didn’t take it seriously,” Crystal Aceves said. “I decided to take it up again and take it seriously and I brought Kayla with me.”
Gomez said, “I had seen a video on (U.S. Olympian) Marlen Esparza and I was interested.”
Crystal said, “I wasn’t too sure she would like it. But she took to it right away. She was a natural. The coaches were talking about how good she was after just a week.”
Next up for Crystal will be the Texas State Golden Gloves Championships Feb. 28-March 3 in Fort Worth. The women’s Open Class is for ages 18-40 so Kayla is too young for this tournament.
She and Cindy will go straight to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the USA Boxing Western Qualifier. Mom will fly straight from Fort Worth to Albuquerque, without even a day of rest in between.
“Crystal has an excellent chance to win a state Golden Gloves championship,” said Ladislao Vicencio, the local director of the Golden Gloves and himself a three-time Golden Gloves state champion in the 1970s.
There will be no time for rest or recuperation. That, though, is the nature of this rough and tumble journey.
“They train for hours and hours every day,” Cindy Aceves said. “At first, I was just bringing them water and encouraging them. I’d done some karate and kickboxing. But another coach encouraged me to get my coaching license. So I did and now, here I am.
“I’m so proud of them,” grandma said. “It’s just awesome to see them compete at this level.”
The mother-daughter duo goes through the same intense practice sessions, the same fitness and strength training.
“We spend between four and five hours a day training,” Crystal Aceves said. “We train and spar at Wolves Den from six until nine each night. Then we go to Planet Fitness for our cardio work.”
Kayla Gomez smiled and said, “We do most of our running on weekends and when school is out. We’ll run McKelligan Canyon or Rim Road. We also hike a lot. That’s what we enjoy doing. We get in a workout while having fun, too.”
Mom smiled at her daughter and said, “Sometimes I forget she’s just a little girl. She works out as hard as I do. Once we were running and she kept pushing because there were some teenage boys running in front of us and she didn’t want them to beat us. She’s very competitive.
“This takes a lot of sacrifice,” Crystal added. “Family and friends. They have to understand what we are doing and understand that we have to train and this is pretty much year-round.”
Vicencio said, “I remember when Kayla first started. She was so small. But there she was at the Carolina Center, getting ready for her first fight. She was working on her footwork all afternoon. Then, that night, I was walking at Album Park and there she was, out running with her grandmother, getting ready for that fight.
“It is amazing their work ethic,” Vicencio said of mother and daughter. “Kayla is going to be something to be reckoned with; she has that fighting spirit. She and her mother work out every day and every day is a championship workout. They are both forces to be reckoned with.”
There is so much sacrifice, so many hours of each day. There is also a financial sacrifice.
Cindy Aceves said, “We fundraise for these trips. We do everything we can and then we step back and say, well, OK, we’ll have to drive to this tournament or, if we make enough, OK, we can fly to this tournament.”
Kayla, of course, is too young to drive and Cindy does not see as well at night.
Laughing, Crystal Aceves said, “One time I was weighing in for a tournament and they told me my blood pressure was a little high. I told them that’s because I just drove 20 hours straight to get here.”
The fundraising, like the training, is just part of their journey. They have bake sales and raffles and all sorts of things.
“We’ve spent hours shadow boxing in front of J.C. Penney’s, where my mom works,” Crystal said, laughing at the hard recollection.
Grandma added, “The great thing about this is that nobody is pushing these girls to do this. It’s all them. It’s what they want to be doing. This is their dream. And I’m so proud of them.”
And, despite all this, Kayla Gomez finds time to be a teenager. She plays the guitar, she loves to read, she is a good writer, she is a member of the National Junior Honor Society and someday she would like to be a veterinarian.
Smiling, the proud mother said, “Kayla misses a lot of school with these tournaments. But she makes up her work right away. The teachers tell me she misses a week and she still gets her work in before some of the students who are there every day.”
The journey continues. Fort Worth is next up for Crystal. Then comes Albuquerque for the two of them. Then comes a stint at the United States Olympic Training Center for Kayla at the end of March.
The dream is forever out there, tantalizingly beckoning as they continue to work and sweat, work right through the blood, sweat and tears that are an integral part of this hard knock journey.
But it is also a journey of joy, a journey that bonds three generations of women indelibly and forever.
“Kayla asked me if you can be a professional boxer and a veterinarian,” Mom said. “I tell her she can be anything she wants.”
The dreams are there. And the journey — hard and unforgiving and joyous as it is — continues.
Information from: El Paso Times, http://www.elpasotimes.com