I was working out at a boxing gym in Rockville as a means to get into better shape, but I had no intention of getting into the ring. My coach was Bill Green, a retired cop who usually worked with pros, but his fighter had just retired, so he had some extra time on his hands.
There was one other female boxer at the gym, Rose Johnson. She fought professionally. She was getting ready for a fight and, though she sparred often with the men in the gym, wanted to know if I would go a few rounds with her. You need to spar with women as well, because it’s more realistic.
Coach Bill told me it would be a good experience, but it was up to me. He said: “Erica, if you get in there, just promise me one thing. Don’t give up, keep your hands up, and keep punching.”
The bell rang, and I thought, “What the hell am I doing?” I followed my coach’s instructions. I got hit a few times pretty hard, but I fought back. I had no idea what an adrenaline rush boxing would be.
About a year later, I was making my own professional debut at a casino in Michigan. I won by TKO. I kept my hands up, and I kept punching.
It was 1967, and I was attending college in Florida. I was on my first date with the woman who would become my wife. We were having a great time, and I suggested I would like to see her again. “Sorry,” she said, “I have accepted a speechwriting position with a congressman in Washington and will be moving there soon.” I had to do something; so, without hesitation, I proposed on the spot, and she accepted. We have now been married 44 years.
Rehoboth Beach, Del.
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