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Trudy Li, National Golden Gloves champ from Brooklyn, begins her pro conquest

Photo by Irving Martinez
11
Mar

When Trudy Li first put on boxing gloves a decade ago, her intention was to improve her fitness and learn a new skill.

Never could she have imagined that she’d travel the country competing in national tournaments, or pursuing a pro career.

“That thought never even crossed my mind. I just really liked punching things,” admits Li, 33, of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

Li will have another opportunity to punch people, this time as a professional fighter, when she makes her pro debut against an opponent to be named on March 24 at the Melrose Ballroom in the Astoria section of Queens, N.Y. The show will be the third promoted by Erez David’s One For All Promotions, and will be headlined by the return of local favorite Curtis Stevens facing the durable Joshua Conley in a six round middleweight bout.

For Li, the love affair with boxing was a steady flirtation that began in a workout studio no larger than a boxing ring. She took classes every day for nearly a year while pursuing her Master of Business Administration degree in Healthcare Administration at Baruch College. Someone suggested that she try sparring, and she admits that early sessions were rough, making her question whether she was cut out for exchanging punches.

She stuck with it, and the accolades racked up. In 2016, she made it to the finals of the 2016 USA Women’s National Championships. She won the New York Golden Gloves title at 125 pounds in 2017, in her fourth year competing. She was expected to return to the Nationals that year, but a serious hip injury kept her out of the ring and slowed her momentum. She returned to training in 2019 and had been looking to turn professional, but she decided to give it one last go on the national amateur stage.

Li with trainer Argenis Arce at the 2021 National Golden Gloves

Li traveled to Oklahoma for the 2021 National Golden Gloves, where she defeated West Virginia’s Hailey Pennington in the finals to win the 141-pound championship.

Argenis Arce, who co-trains Li with Erick Castro out of his Sweatbox Gym in Brooklyn, says she demonstrated her determination by overcoming early defeats, and returning to the ring following her injury.

She’s very strong willed, she’s fast, she can give a punch and take one. She has all the qualities of a good fighter. She’ll give anyone a hard time and she’s very dedicated when she’s in the ring,” said Arce of Li, who had about two dozen amateur bouts.

“I believe she has all the makings of a future world champion in every aspect of it. From the passion to making the sacrifices.”

Arce says the toughest part of getting her pro debut on track has been finding her opponents due to the limited options at 130 pounds. Her four-round fight is the last to be matched for the card, which had been delayed from a March 3 date because of issues matching fights.

Li juggles boxing with her other career – working as project manager for the dean’s office for the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

She believes that women deserve as much credit – and compensation – as male counterparts because they both put just as much work into their craft.

“The money doesn’t roll in as much as it does for the guys, but that just means that they’re seriously in this sport because you have to love the sport and they’re not doing it just for a big payday,” said Li.

Just as she had in the amateurs, Li hopes to collect a few championships in the professionals as well.

“I train hard so I’m just hoping to get as many fights as I can and to challenge myself. I think I’m a good fighter so I want to see how far I can take this,” said Li.

Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the New York Daily News, Rappler, Vice and The Guardian, and holds a Master’s degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. He can be reached at [email protected]

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