It’s hard to believe that we will soon be bidding farewell to the legendary boxer/trainer partnership that has been a feature of MBC for the past three weeks.
WBC world champion, Diana Prazak, was already a familiar face to members and is well and truly part of the family at Boxing Central. Whenever she visits home and her own western suburbs family she joins us at the gym every day. And everyone has been astounded by her punching power and won over by her friendly, generous and down to earth personality.
But having Lucia Rijker become part of the MBC family is something entirely new and unexpected. It’s the female equivalent of having Floyd Mayweather hang out with us, minus the crazy entourage. To me, and to many other female boxers over the past decade and more, Lucia has been the guiding light. I have to pinch myself whenever team Prazak arrives with hugs and smiles to begin their gruelling hours of training, sparring, padwork, skipping and bag work.
What a joy and a privilege it is for me and all the members of the gym to see the way an elite boxer prepares for a major title defence. We have all had a ringside seat to the most incredible transformation as Diana’s has cut down to fighting weight, revealing a hard and chiselled body ready to take on her formidable opponent, Queensland’s Shannon O’Connell on Saturday night. MBC members will be in her corner, cheering her on as they have all seen for themselves the hard grind she has put in day after day.
Meanwhile Lucia, known to many as the villain in the Clint Eastwood classic Million Dollar Baby and in the boxing world as ‘the most dangerous woman on the planet’, has been disarming everyone who meets her – from the 20 people who attended her seminar in the gym two weeks ago, to everyone who has walked through the door, she has been happy to pose for pictures and talk to them about a broad range of topics, telling stories about her experiences at the top end of the fight game.
Because of her fierce reputation, people initially approached her cautiously. But after a couple of weeks now it’s hugs all around, bits of advice, wisdom and a little bit of spontaneous dancing.
I met Lucia in 2010 when I was researching my book The Sweetest Thing when I spent a week training with her at the famous Wildcard Gym in LA. When I knew Diana would be in LA a couple of years ago I put the two in touch with each other. And the rest has been history, the two etching themselves into the record books with Diana’s extraordinary KO win over Frida Wallberg in Sweden last year.
Meanwhile we have all seen a solid working relationship between fighter and trainer that is sure to be a force to be reckoned with on March 1. Added to the mix has been the excellent sparring sessions with elite female and national 60kg champion Shelley Watts, former amateur star Mark Quon and talented NZ amateur Sarah Lovell.
The passion for the sport has been on display each and every day. It’s been inspiring and contagious. There are three days to go before fight day. Tickets are still available at the gym. Be there or miss out on being a witness to history in the making.