For as long as I can remember, I've been searching for answers. Why am I here? What is my purpose? How can I make a difference in the world around me?

Strangely enough, I found those answers in the boxing ring. Yes, boxing a world that was once considered the mightiest of sports featuring the world's finest athletes, that has since been tainted by corruption. A sport that, despite its dark business side, is filled with athletes who want only to discover the best part of themselves.

Boxing brought out the best in me.

I stumbled upon the sport two years ago as a newspaper reporter for the Ventura County Star. I received a call from a community activist about a place called Kid Gloves, a boxing gym in Simi Valley for at-risk youth that was destroyed by El Nino rains. At the time, my view of boxing echoed the stigma attached to the sport that it's a brutal world filled with criminals, cheats and liars.

But after writing several stories about Kid Gloves, my views changed. What I found was a hidden world filled with good-hearted, giving people free of prejudice; a place where courage, determination and self-discipline are inspired.

Over the past two years, my passion for boxing has grown. After months and months of hard training, I have had 10 amateur fights, accumulating a record of five wins and five losses, with three wins by knockout. I am a two-time Golden Gloves Champion, earning the first-ever women's Golden Gloves title in my weight class in the 1999 Southern California District trials.

More important than my titles are the lessons I've learned. With discipline, dedication and desire, anything is possible. With perseverance, nothing is out of reach. And no matter what obstacles might stand in the way, integrity, honesty and hard work will make any goal a reality.

Now, I want to share with others what I have learned. Boxing taught me focus and dedication. I learned clarity of mind and how to manage my emotions. And I discovered my own talents and strengths through persistence and self-awareness.

In May, I quit my job at the Ventura County Star to pursue a professional career in women's boxing. My first professional bout will take place Sept. 16 at a brickyard in Castaic.

Quitting my job was a difficult decision. I've been a journalist for more than a decade now, working for publications including the San Diego Union Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Daily News. My most recent job at the Ventura County Star gave me a decent salary with benefits and security. It was the kind of job that, if I chose to stay for many years, I could retire from comfortably.

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