From her unnerving ring debut to the fight that earned Raquel Miller a qualifying spot in the 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team trials, it’s been an amazing year for the San Francisco boxer.
The Bayview district resident recalled the night in December 2010 when she experienced her first organized fight.
“I was a mess. I was nervous out of my mind,” Miller said. “They put my gloves on and I said, ‘Oh my God, I forgot how to box.’”
It wasn’t until the second round that Miller settled down, remembering her well-honed punches and moves. She not only won, but was awarded fighter of the night honors on the 15-bout card.
“When they raised my hand and I saw all of my family, I fell in love with boxing that night,” Miller said.
Miller’s lifelong goal was satisfied with that victorious moment. She had made two previous attempts to become a boxer, but was deterred by injuries and by coaches who felt that this was not a sport suitable for women.
“I’m not a quitter, I’m a winner,” said Miller, who found coaches and trainers at the Mission Rec Center and SFC Boxing Gym that shared her belief that the sport was indeed designed for both genders. “I couldn’t have lived with myself if I didn’t pursue boxing.”
To compete in the middleweight division, Miller lost 40 pounds. She worked out every morning before her job as an administrative assistant at a San Francisco law firm, ran during lunch and was back to the gym after work.
Miller’s second fight, in February, came on the heels of tragedy.
Her cousin, Da’Dream Thomas, had died days earlier in a car accident. After much prayer, a bereaved Miller made the decision to fight and dedicated the tournament, the Northern California Golden Gloves, to the memory of Thomas.
Forced to fight essentially one-handed after suffering a fracture from a hook that landed badly, Miller won the bout that bittersweet night.
Defying her doctor’s orders to stay out of competition, the dogged fighter returned to the ring in April and experienced the first of her two losses.
Her 11th and final bout of the year took place in October at nationals in Toledo, Ohio. It was her fourth fight of the weeklong tournament.
“I was victorious, and I saw my dad, got on my knees and cried,” said Miller, who earned the opportunity to compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.
The Olympic trials are scheduled for Spokane, Wash., in February, coinciding with Miller’s 27th birthday, as well as the anniversary of the death of her cousin.
“My city will remember me, my community will remember me; they’ll draw inspiration from my story,” Miller said.
Put your dukes up
WHO: San Francisco’s Raquel Miller
2012 OLYMPICS: The London Games will be the first to feature women’s boxing
OLYMPIC CONTENDER: Miller will be one of eight middleweights who will battle for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in February
TEACHING: Miller teaches at the Mission Rec Center, www.sfrecpark.org, (415) 695-5013