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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Police officer makes Golden Gloves debut
by Julia Borcherts
2012-04-11

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She's been a Chicago police officer for almost five years—in the Third District, no less, at 70th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, an area of the city that contains sections which even she describes as "pretty bad"—so you'd think that her day job would be enough of a challenge, especially since she measures in at exactly five feet tall and weighs just over 100 pounds.

But then, in February, 2011, Vickie Williams took up boxing. And on Friday, April 13, she makes her Chicago Golden Gloves debut in the 114-pound senior novice division with her coach, Chicago Boxing Club's Rick Ramos, in her corner.

Williams will face Maurella Lambert, who represents the Fist Law Boxing Club out of Downers Grove. Because they are the only two entrants in this female weight-and-experience-level division, their first fight of the tournament will be for the championship.

"I had heard about [ the Golden Gloves ] just by watching boxing on TV, and they'd talk about professionals fighting in it when they were younger," said the 29-year-old Williams about the renowned amateur tournament, which originated in Chicago in 1923. "And then Rick mentioned it and I was like, 'I want to do it! I want to train for it; I want to at least try.'"

Williams, the only child of an African-American father and a Korean-American mother—who've been together nearly 30 years now—grew up in the Englewood area and developed an interest in boxing as a young girl, when she and her father watched televised boxing shows together.

"I've always been interested in it; I loved watching it," she said. "But I never knew of a place like Chicago Boxing Club—places where they'll teach you from scratch to become a good fighter.

"But when I got on the job, I was interested in learning something different to help me on the street in case anything happened," she continued. "Just something that would give me a little 'up' on the job on the streets—in case anybody tries to fight me or anything like that, I could have a little upper hand if I knew how to box and got stronger."

You may have guessed that the majority of Williams' job does not involve sitting behind a desk.

"I work the streets so of course I'm plainclothes," she said. "I'm on the tactical team in the district so we go out and we deal with the gangs, the drugs, the guns. We're not like the uniformed officers—we don't have to respond to the domestic batteries and that sort of stuff. We deal with 'shots fired' and any calls about drug selling and kids hanging on the corners."

And just in case you were wondering—yes, she does get compared to Kima Greggs, the fictional mixed-race lesbian detective from HBO's The Wire.

" [ It happens ] all the time," she said, laughing. "When I first came around on the job, the guys on the street, they used to call me Kima. And then there's a guy at works calls me 'Jump Street'—I guess for, like, 21 Jump Street."

But despite the inherent danger in the job, Williams enjoys her work and has wanted to be a police officer since she was a young girl sharing her career dreams with her father.

"My dad, he always worked security," she said. "He wanted to be Chicago police but he didn't go to school."

So Williams applied when she heard that the department was hiring, and after a lengthy, 18-month process, was hired.

"I like to help people," she said. "And I like to just go, go, go. I want to be outside and just interact with people.

"And I haven't had any bad situations thus far," she continued. "My biggest problem, I guess, is having to prove myself somewhat. Because I'm small and a girl, you get the men on the corner—they want to call you baby, sweetie. And I can't let the men talk to me like that—no, I'm not your baby, I'm not your sweetie.

"But nothing too bad," she said. "And it will hopefully stay that way."

To that end, Williams did a little online research and discovered Chicago Boxing Club, a powerhouse Bridgeport gym known around the world for training top-notch professional boxers as well as amateurs. She took advantage of an offer to take a free one-on-one instructional class.

"I went and I loved it and I've been hooked since then," she said, laughing.

Ramos, a former boxer himself who now both trains and manages boxers, remembers the day they met. "To be honest, I don't really [ manage ] girl fighters nor do I really train them," he said. "But I had no one to work with that day and I just said, 'Hey, you want to hit the pads?' just to see what she's got. And she threw three punches in a row.

"Her speed caught my attention. And then I said, 'Okay, why don't you throw a left hook to the body?' And then she showed me a left hook and that was it, I was in love. I'm like, 'This girl has to be my fighter.' Her left hook is dynamite."

Williams began working with Ramos—"I love him!" she said, laughing—and also takes tips from another widely respected Chicago Boxing Club coach, Rita Figueroa, herself a former Golden Gloves champion and professional boxer.

"Rita shows me things—about correcting things, and, I'm doing this good and to work on these things—so she's great, too," Williams said.

Several months into her training, Williams agreed to take on her first bout, an exhibition match at a suburban country club.

"It was private, so no family or friends could come," she said. "It was just me and the trainer and the other guy [ from Chicago Boxing Club ] that was fighting there and people from other gyms. The only fans there were the guests at the country club."

As a veteran police officer who's relaxed when speaking about the dangers she faces every day, how did she feel about walking into the ring for her first fight?

"Oh! I was nervous!" she said. So nervous, in fact that her stomach was upset and she couldn't eat for most of the day. "And when I got there, I seen the young lady I was fighting and I was like, 'Oh, she looks tough. Oh, boy!" she continued, laughing.

"She was taller than me—of course a lot of people are usually taller than me. But I'm like, 'Jeez, now I got to punch up!' When you train, you punch at eye level when you hit the bag. And I was tired, of course, through the whole fight—it was my first one and I hadn't gotten my lungs together. And this was even tougher on my arms 'cause she was taller than me and just from the looks of her, she was in great shape. I could feel the jitters in my legs, my stomach. I didn't know how the fight was going to end."

And how did it end? "I got lucky and I won."

Williams had more confidence for her second fight, another amateur exhibition show, which took place in Orland Park—and which she also won. Since this fight was open to the public, Williams' friends from the gym, her partner from work, and her girlfriend LaToya were able to attend.

"I could hear her yelling," Williams said with a laugh. "She likes it! But she thinks I'm too nice; after my fight, she was like, 'You need to be much more aggressive.' I'm like, 'Oh, okay, you try it, then!'"

Williams and LaToya, who works in human resources at the University of Illinois at Chicago, have been together since their first date three years ago.

"I took her to get ice cream," Williams recalled. "There's a place on 95th and Western—Rainbow Cone."

The two have managed to create a partnership despite Williams' hectic schedule, which also includes classes at Calumet College of St. Joseph, where she'll graduate this spring with a Bachelor's Degree in Public Safety Management.

"I've got work, school, boxing, so pretty much my day is consumed with everything but sleep," she said. "I don't get none of that."

With their often-conflicting schedules, they spend weekends together if Williams is off work and always set aside Tuesday nights for a date night, which they usually spend with LaToya's 11-year-old daughter.

"We like movies—everybody," Williams said. "We go eat. Her birthday's on Valentine's Day, so we had a little pizza party. And we're trying to go to Disney World before she gets too old. I want to go there!"

And while the relationship is solid, Williams admits that there can be challenges in dating a police officer.

"I come home with stories," she said. "Sometimes she understands and sometimes her impression of the stories is different. And I get that because she's not police.

"She doesn't know what we go through every day cause she's on the civilian aspect of the whole thing," Williams said. "And then sometimes we get into little disagreements. But it's good because I get to see her side and she gets to hear my side."

This easygoing attitude is evident to her Chicago Boxing Club colleagues as well.

"She walks around the gym smiling all the time," Ramos said. "She's a tremendous role model for the other fighters—guy or girl. No matter how tough a situation is, she always tries to put a smile on your face or help you figure it out, to make you feel better.

"You know," he continued, "she's twenty-nine, she's a police officer, but she doesn't walk around with a badge on her chest, by no means. She's very, very, very humble for having accomplished what she's accomplished. Her personality is king and everyone should get a chance to meet her."

Williams is just as relaxed when she discusses coming out to her mother during high school.

"My mama, she was a little bit like, 'Okay, I don't want to hear about it but I love you no matter what; you're my daughter.' And as time progressed, she was like, 'Just be careful, I'm here.' And then, it was just like a regular old thing.

"I never completely told my dad—I'm sure my mom told him—but he knows and everything's okay. And once my parents knew—if they don't judge me, then I could care less about anybody else judging me."

But when she gets into the ring at the Golden Gloves championships, can this nice girl finish first? Ramos thinks she can, but he wants to see her really turn on her power and her speed.

"The game plan is to come out and go explosive," he said. "Even though she's two-and-oh and she's scored several standing eight counts against her opponents, I think she's still too nice. This time around, I'm pushing her to be more aggressive and get her opponent out of there as fast as she can."

To accomplish this, Williams has been training rigorously for the competition.

"I work out at least two-and-a-half to three hours a day. I'm either at work or the gym," she said with a laugh. "I run at least three to five miles a day, five days out of the week. I do the pads with Rick. I do six rounds on the bags, six rounds of shadow boxing. I do stairs. I do 100 push-ups and about 800 various types of sit-ups. I do the skip rope. And I spar two to three times a week."

And with whom does a five-foot, 114-pound woman spar?

"In the beginning, it was a couple of guys there. Of course they were bigger than me but they never hit me; they just kind of let me hit them," Williams said. "As I progressed, I sparred with more girls, some of Rita's girls. And right now I'm sparring with a young kid—he's 13 or 14. He's tough, though."

"It's rare for her to spar with other women," Ramos said. "She has always sparred with boys—my young amateurs and my amateurs in the 20-35 [ year-old age range ] ."

Her conditioning, along with her speed and power, should make for an exciting fight. "I think I'm more excited than she is," Ramos said.

"She's tough, that's for sure," added Rita Figueroa. "Strong. It will be a good fight."

See Vickie Williams compete in the 114-pound female senior novice division at the 2012 Chicago Golden Gloves championships Friday, April 13, at Gordon Tech High School, 3633 N. California Ave. The first bout begins at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $20-$50; see www.chicagogoldengloves.com .


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