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South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Ada Velez: A Life Worth Fighting For
By Sharon Robb
October 29, 2003
COCONUT CREEK · To make a better life for her son, Ada Velez makes her living in a boxing ring.
Whatever it takes to keep him off the streets and in school, says the three-time champion from Hollywood.
Velez, 32, a tough-talking high school dropout and former gang member, has turned her life around through boxing. Five years ago she walked into Bonnie Canino's US1 Fitness Gym in Dania and realized her life was about to change.
"The challenge within myself started that day," Velez said. "I saw boxing as my future. I saw it as a way out, to a better life for me and my son. I grew up the hard way in the streets; that's how I got so tough. I never got to finish high school. ... I want more for my son. He will learn from my mistakes. He is my inspiration."
Velez will make her fifth title-fight appearance Thursday night when she meets undefeated Lisa Brown on the Warrior's Boxing Fright Night At The Creek at the Seminole Tribe Casino in Coconut Creek.
Velez (14-1-1, 6 KOs) will fight Brown (8-0-1, 3 KOs) for the WIBA bantamweight championship.
Known as Ace, Velez holds three belts -- the WIBA and IBA at 118 pounds and WIBF at 122.
Canino trained her to an amateur national title in 1999 and helped her turn pro. Velez joined Warrior's last year and has been steadily improving.
The 10-round bout is one of four title bouts on the Backyard Brawl Series pro card.
Heavyweights Lance Whitaker and Elieser Castillo and Whyber Garcia, all of Warrior's Boxing, are fighting for titles.
"We are always saying that if Ada was a 140-pound man boxer she would be a millionaire already. But a great athlete is a great athlete," said trainer Isiah Clark of Hollywood-based Warrior's Boxing Gym.
Clark, a trainer for 20 years, has her spar only with men.
"When you have that quality a fighter, you have to spar with men because most women she would blow away in sparring," Clark said. "She trains as hard as any man we have in the gym."
In the past year, Velez has been one of the nation's fastest rising woman boxers.
"Everybody wants something better in life," she said. "I have to fight for it. I see everything in life as a challenge, nothing is impossible."
Motivated and articulate, Velez, 5 feet 3 and 120 pounds, shakes off stereotypes.
She played volleyball and basketball and ran track in high school.
Born in Rio Piedra, Puerto Rico, and raised in Hollywood, Velez dropped out of South Broward High after her sophomore year.
She is working on her GED.
She left the Latin Connection after she was arrested in a gang roundup.
She quit her stock job as a discount store clerk and works part-time as a personal trainer.
"Pound-for-pound Ada is the best woman fighter, and that is what we are trying to show the whole world," Clark said.
"This is a tough fight against a good-quality opponent, but it's also a good chance for Ada to show everybody how great a boxer she is.
"She has to fight the fighters with the name to get the recognition she deserves and in order to make herself a superstar in this sport."
Her son, Joel, is 10 and already following in his mother's footsteps. He recently won his first amateur bout on a Florida Gold Coast card.
"She is very different from most women fighters," Clark said.
"Being a single parent is a big responsibility -- everything is on her shoulders. She gives us three hours of work each day, then she picks him up at school, cooks dinner, helps with his homework and then gets up early to do her roadwork.
"It's a struggle, she has a full life but she maintains it very well."