NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tuesday, December 29, 2015, 7:09 PM
There’s a voice that Nisa Rodriguez can always hear when she’s throwing punches in the ring. It’s not her trainer, or anyone in her corner for that matter. It’s the cornerstone of her life, her 6-year-old son, Emerson.
“He’s the one yelling. He’s like a little Freddie Roach,” Rodriguez said.
As Emerson has grown up, he’s become part of his mother’s boxing routine. She shadow boxes with him, works on her footwork in circles around him in the gym. He is at the point where he feels ready to spar, where he wants to be just like his mom, but Rodriguez is not sure she wants to see him take up the sport that has given her so much.
“Boxing takes a lot out of you. I gave up a lot growing up,” she said. “I want him to find himself. I don’t want him to think that because I did it, that he has to do it too.”
If Emerson ever does decide to box, he’ll be following in the footsteps of a New York Daily News Golden Gloves legend. Rodriguez won her first title at 17 years old and now, seven years later, she has six under her belt.
That puts her in elite company. Only three other fighters in the history of the tournament have as many, including Christina Cruz, who is vying for her 10th this year. Rodriguez has always been nipping at Cruz’s heels, though making the decision to step away from boxing when Emerson was born and a 2011 injury both set her back.
“After I had surgery, I thought I was done with boxing. Even my surgeons advised me not to spar again,” Rodriguez said. “But I couldn’t get it out of my system. My life was revolving around going pro and winning world titles.”
While that remains her ultimate goal, there’s more to life now than just boxing. She has her son. She has her girls’ basketball team at Harlem Village Academy. Though she’ll never stop knocking people down in the ring, she’s helping others rise up outside of it.
“My girls are so awesome,” Rodriguez said of her team. “It’s so amazing to see them grow, and I feel like they’re my own kids.”
Rodriguez takes pride in her dominance at the amateur level, especially because there is no Novice division for women. She feels like she has the respect of other prominent fighters in a male-centric sport.
“Not everybody has the courage to step into the ring, not to mention win as many titles as I have,” she said.
She’ll be fighting for a seventh one this spring, and that small voice calling from the stands will serve as motivation.