'My dream job': Champion Latina boxer inspires Milwaukee generations inside and outside the ring
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- With her pink gloves on, her hair tied back, and sweat dripping down her brow, 20-year-old Mireya Marquez means business.
The Latina boxer spends her days inside a dark room at the MKE FIT gym on Forest Home Ave., illuminated by neon green LED lights taped onto the walls.
“The main goal in life is to find a passion that you love and to pursue it as a career and I’m doing that now," Marquez told CBS 58'S Ellie Nakamoto-White.
Her drive and love for the sport started when she was only 11, when her family hosted watch parties for boxing matches.
"I sat there and was like, 'wow, if those men can do it, I can do it too,'" Marquez remembered.
At first, convincing her family was tough.
"No one really took me seriously. I begged my parents for like six months to please take me to a boxing gym," Marquez said.
Eventually, they gave in.
“They bought me boxing gloves, got me my own boxing bag and then saw I was seriously committed," Marquez said.
From there, the rest became history.
“I had my first fight when I was 13 years old," Marquez said. “My first day of competition I won by TKO (technical knockout), my next day I won by TKO.”
Marquez quickly rose to the top, at one point becoming number one in her weight class.
“I’m a two-time silver junior Olympic champion, USA national champion, ringside world champion," Marquez said proudly. “If there’s one thing I know, it’s this.”
Currently, Marquez is taking a break from competing and is instead turning her expertise and wisdom onto others in the Milwaukee community as the youngest trainer at her gym.
“If I was on the boxing spectrum, I was the boxer, I was the fighter, I was the competer and now I’m on the other side," Marquez said. “Whatever I know I’d just love to spread my knowledge so they can be the best that they can be.”
For trainees like Saul Lopez who are gearing up for their first fights, Marquez's experience is indelible.
“As a Latino from Milwaukee working with another Latina from Milwaukee, knowing how many Latino champions are in the making here in the city, I just feel blessed honestly," Lopez said. "She's dedicated, consistent, reliable, trustworthy. She just makes you feel like a great boxer. Hopefully in the near future I’ll be in the ring with Mireya in my corner.”
Inside of the room where Marquez and others fight, and train are constant reminders of her humble beginnings -- from the first pair of gloves and wraps her parents bought her to a massive Mexican flag.
Strapped onto the walls are her numerous belts, medals, and other accolades.
“Each belt you see is hours and hours of training, sweat, tears, blood," Marquez said.
But one belt in particular, spray-painted a baby pink, means the most.
“It was 2021 of October we found out that she had breast cancer," Marquez said. "Really scary year but I just have an extra sense of being a fighter because my mom, she fought through that and it was a very emotional time for us but she got through it, we stuck through it. I have a connection to pink just for that and I’m just so proud of my mom. She’s a fighter as well.”
When her mother got out of the hospital after a surgery, Marquez remembers handing her the belt.
"It just means a lot," Marquez said.
Now she harnesses that strength and power she learned from watching her mother to teach others to never stop fighting, transforming herself and clients not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well.
“Boxing is like a chess match. So, it’s really about playing your cards right knowing who you’re fighting, how to fight them, how to fight your fight," Marquez said. “Someone who is talented that has came from nothing can go all the way to the top just by their talent and I think that’s beautiful.”
In the future, Marquez plans on opening her own boxing gym where she can continue inspiring future generations, and especially members of the Latin-X community.
“I'm a young Latina female coming into a male dominant sport and leaving my footprint," Marquez said. “Looking back, everything had to happen the way it did for me to be the way I am, and I would never want to change it in a million years.”