UPDATE: Patty Alcivar returns to the boxing ring , Friday, March 13, 2015 from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM in Westbury, NY – Tickets and information here.
Gold medalist boxer, Patricia Alcivar was born in Barranquilla, Atlántico, but moved with her parents to the USA when she was only 2 years old. Since then, she has overcome many life challenges—some typical, others very unique—to find her own success as an athlete both as a boxer and as a marathoner, and also as a scholar, talent, and inspiration to others.
Patty was nice enough to give Finance Colombia an exclusive interview. There are takeaways in her story that can be applied to many challenges that anyone may face, whether in business, personal struggles, finding success in a foreign land, or overcoming barriers and obstacles; doing what others say you can’t do, and breaking out of the molds that others have cast for you.
FC: You are an international multi-gold medalist. What first inspired you to get involved in boxing?
PA: I believe everything in Life happens for a good reason. When I was about 6yrs old, I was diagnosed with a mild case of ADD (attention deficit disorder). The school counselor suggested an after school activity for me. My mom registered me for a ballet course that her job had for children. Even though it was on the weekends, it helped me. I was suddenly happier and less anxious. Ballet turned into gymnastics and then into martial arts. The more intense the activity, the more focused I was.
I won a World Championship in Kyokushin Full Contact karate in 1997 & was looking for my next challenge. I was also living on my own and was working in my first office job at a battered women’s center named Sanctuary for Families. The New School offered the staff free classes and as I was looking through the catalog…my eyes almost popped out when I saw “the art of boxing.” I signed up but was so disappointed after the first class which ended up being a box-aerobics very basic class. I waited until the last class to speak with the instructor. I told him I thought the class would be a “real” boxing class because i wanted to fight. He asked me to show him my moves & I threw my best punches and the 6’5″, 225lbs instructor was blocking hard—then I saw an opening and I threw my hardest right hand to his mid section that took his breath away.
Right after that he said, “you know, women’s boxing just became legal in NYC…I can train you to fight.” I started training and sparring and it was the most challenged I felt physically and mentally and that inspired and continues to motivate me to push myself to the limits.
FC: You grew up in NY but your parents are from Barranquilla. Is that correct?
PA: I came to the USA when I was 2 yrs old with my parents who emigrated from Barranquilla, Colombia to provide a better life and live the American Dream.
FC: Were you able to spend much time in Colombia growing up? What about as an adult?
PA: Unfortunately, I have not gone back to Colombia as an adult but would very much like to do so in the future. It’s where my roots are from and I am very proud of that.
FC: You overcame some difficulties in your teens, you left home at 15. What prompted you to take that decision?
PA: My father was a very abusive alcoholic and had to leave my mom, 3 sisters and myself when I was 10yrs old. It was incredibly challenging for my mom to provide food, clothes and a roof over our heads being the only provider. Most of the time, she was short tempered and became verbally abusive. I always felt like I was a burden and I just wanted peace. So, I moved out at 15 years old. I found a room in Jackson Heights, Queens and was working at a sneaker store after school and on weekends. Although, it was very scary and difficult, I managed to have some peace. As an adult now and after years of counseling, I understand my mom much more and have moved on and I have a better relationship with her.
FC: Did that lead in any way to you taking up sports and specifically, boxing?
PA: Growing up in an abusive home definitely influenced me to take up running, boxing and competition. That is how I learned to overcome obstacles, to believe in myself, to have discipline and to never give up no matter how bad the circumstances may be. Sports changed my outlook in life forever.
FC: Were your family and peers supportive of your sports choices? What kind of resistance and attitudes did you have to overcome?
PA: I started competing in martial arts at around 13 years old & running races when I was 15 years old. My family at the time didn’t support it because they didn’t understand. So it was that much more difficult to continue, but I did. I did not have many friends growing up as I felt different and out of place. Besides, I didn’t know too many 15 year olds who lived on their own and I was scared that someone would find out and report me, so I just kept participating in sports and that was my comfort.
FC: Around 1997 you really started to find success in boxing. What do you consider to be your big breakthrough?
PA: I started boxing in 1996 and entered my first tournament that year: the NY Daily News Golden Gloves. I won the first 3 preliminary bouts and made it to the finals. Boxing in Madison Square Garden was an overwhelming but incredible feeling. I lost in the finals and I consider that my breakthrough. Losing taught me how to get back up and train harder, to work on my weaknesses, to persevere and have resilience. It taught me not to quit just because things got a little more difficult.
FC: You are a lot more than a boxer. You are an accomplished marathoner now. How many marathons and half marathons have you completed?
PA: Running is my other big passion. I Love it! I feel like I have that peace in my heart, mind, body and soul when I run. I feel like I can breathe and see things clearly. It’s my meditation and hope I can do it for a lifetime. I have run a total of 20 full marathons (including 12 NYC Marathons, 2 Boston Marathons, 2 Marine Corps Marathons, a Philadelphia Marathon, Seattle Marathon, Washington DC Marathon & Chicago Marathon). I have completed over 50 half-marathons and have also participated in Triathlons and different types of endurance challenges & adventure races.
FC: You have worked as an EMT, an actor, and an interpreter. Now I understand you are back in school?
PA: I currently freelance as a Spanish interpreter/translator, event manager, EMT, personal trainer, running coach, and fitness model. I do all this to have the flexibility to train for boxing. Women’s Boxing is not a lucrative sport and unfortunately, it does not pay my bills. All these jobs help me live my dream of one day becoming a world champion in boxing. After I retire from boxing in the next 1-2 years, I do hope to go back to school and become a physical therapist.
FC: What is in the future for Patty Alcivar?
PA: I have always been a big dreamer and have always had goals. Just to name a few, I would love to complete a full Ironman one day, write a memoir about my life and sports; I would love to help more teenage girls and have more speaking engagements, I would love to go back to school and continue to do well in running and other competitions.