“I really want to do it for him,” said Emily Colon. She stood in the small locker room of a gym tucked behind another building on Arterial Highway leading out of Glen Cove.
Colon lost her cousin just over two months ago, the day after Christmas. He had recently moved to Atlanta from Brooklyn in search of a new life with his wife and two young children, when he was mistaken for someone else and shot several times.
“He would always tell me, ‘Oh, when you have a fight let me know, I will come.’ I never, ever took the chance to go to the Golden Gloves, and he would tell me like, ‘Why don’t you just go?’” said Colon. “He passed away and I was like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna do it for him.”
Colon said she has been a fan of boxing since childhood. Surrounded by gangs and fighting in her teens, she said she was drawn to the success of famous boxers who used their hands as weapons for sport rather than anger.
“Tito Trinidad is my favorite. He’s Puerto Rican, like me,” she said.
Colon’s dedication keeps her in the gym every day of the week. She quit her job at a car rental business in January to focus on her training.
Pedro Figueroa has been Colon’s trainer for two years. He said she’s making him proud, and described their work together as involving more than jabs and blocks.
“As her trainer, it’s my job to make sure she’s alright. It’s gotta be mental and physical,” he said.
He described a rather shy young woman who keeps a lot inside, but who demonstrates the kind of focus that is necessary to go toe-to-toe with some of the best in the region.
Colon’s gym is run by Frank Peña. He remembers when she first came to him when she was 9 years old, despite her mother’s protests.
“I saw she was a champ – the way she walked, the way she moved,” he said, swaying his torso and raising his fists in a subtle bob-and-weave as he spoke.
Peña has trained two other champion female boxers, Ela “Bam Bam” Nuñez in 1996 and Sue Peters in 1999. He said females “seem to work better than guys,” maintaining their focus and dedication to their sport in a way he doesn’t see with males as often. He expressed high expectations for Colon, who won her last fight – her first ever – by decision March 1 at Glen Cove High School.
Colon will meet her opponent Saturday, March 10 at 2 p.m. at the Suffolk County Police Athletic League in Brentwood.
Peña isn’t worried.
“She’s a boxer,” he said.