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The Boxing Barista:
California's Jasmine Singh

BRIAN WHITEHEAD

 

 

 




Anaheim, California, USA

Jasmine Singh is nearing the end of her shift.

A tattooed man in a baseball cap walks in and orders a drink. An older gentleman in shorts and a polo does the same. Jasmine then helps a woman in athletic clothes and a man pushing a stroller.

“Have a great day!” Jasmine says, sending each customer through the door with well wishes.

She has worked at a Starbucks in Orange the past two years, and her green apron bears the brunt of repetitious drink making.

Seven hours into a Friday morning shift that began at 5, she remains lively, engaging, smiling.

“It’s fabulous having her here,” says Amy Montoya, the store’s manager. “She’s tall, so she can reach everything. She’s very efficient, and the training that she does works well with Starbucks because she can multitask. ... Customers love her. She’s outgoing and her personality is easy to remember.”

What Starbucks patrons don’t know about Jasmine is that when her shift’s over she’s no longer the charming 23-year-old crafting their iced caramel macchiatos and caffe lattes.

That Jasmine Singh – the affable, radiant girl behind the counter – gives way to a tail-kicking machine.

*   *   *   *   *

The second-born of three children, Jasmine grew up in Anaheim between households, her parents – of Sikh-American and Mexican descent – divorcing early in her childhood.

She spent mornings at school and afternoons at home, studying and doing chores. She remembers loving cartoons, but having no other hobbies. Her father one year bought a parakeet, a pet Jasmine quickly became annoyed with. Her father also bought a parrot.

An introvert through her years at Walker Junior High in La Palma, Jasmine rarely wandered far from home. Her cousins lived around the block, her friends down the street. Everybody, it seemed, knew what she was doing. She claims becoming “paranoid about everything since I never got out as a kid.”

The summer before her junior year at Los Amigos High, Jasmine sought a way to defend herself. A family friend began teaching her how to box.

“I was very uncoordinated when I started,” Jasmine said. “I would trip over air.”

“The first few years were the most difficult for her as a young woman,” recalled Joey Aguilar, Jasmine’s longtime trainer, via email. “Her going through high school, she had to give up a lot of social time with friends and family so that she had time to do her homework and focus on training.”

Jasmine began her apprenticeship by training an hour a day five times a week. Aguilar taught her the basics – stretching, coordination, head movements – before moving on to boxing’s fundamentals. Jasmine watches dusty training videos now and laughs.

A little more than a year after beginning, Jasmine won her maiden tournament. “The best feeling ever,” she called it.

Jasmine then entered the 2013 Adidas National PAL Boxing Tournament in Oxnard with little more than a few matches of experience. She won her weight class anyway, later receiving a championship belt.

Ecstatic, she and Aguilar plotted her next move.

“As I coach, I always have to look out for her well being,” Aguilar said, “so we decided to enter in tournaments where she had to fight back to back and test her competition level. Jasmine flew right through it with no problems. ... That’s when I knew she was ready for national competitions, where she would be facing the best girls in the U.S.”

*   *   *   *   *

Jasmine in January 2014 qualified for the USA Boxing National Championships in Spokane, Washington State.

Members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team littered the field, including flyweight Marlen Esparza, lightweight Queen Underwood and middleweight Claressa Shields. Jasmine advanced through preliminary rounds, then won consecutive decisions to set up a championship bout against Rhode Island’s Destiny Chearino.

Winner earned a spot on the women’s national team.

“I don’t get nervous before fighting,” Jasmine said. “I don’t get scared. I get excited. I want to show everyone the hard work I put it. It’s time.”

Chearino won by unanimous decision, making Jasmine an alternate on the national team if Chearino ever missed a bout – which she didn’t.

Last June, however, Jasmine received an invitation to train for two weeks at the U.S. Olympic Complex in Colorado Spring, Colorado. There, she roomed with and trained alongside two-time USA Boxing national champion Danyelle Wolf, a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. The two became fast friends.

Jasmine returned home and repeated as champion at the 2014 Adidas Tournament. In October, however, she partially tore the medial collateral ligament in her left knee. In January, at the 2015 USA Boxing National Championships, Jasmine re-aggravated the injury in her quarterfinal bout, forcing her to withdraw from the competition.

Jasmine’s national ranking dropped from No. 2 to No. 4.

*   *   *   *   *

Jasmine works at Starbucks five days a week to fund her amateur career.

Other than the gear she receives courtesy of her only sponsor, ‘Tacos y Chile’ mobile catering, Jasmine pays her way, balancing expenses such as airfare, gas, hotel rooms and food.

She first worked at Disneyland, about a year after graduating from Los Amigos. She worked food carts in California Adventure, serving turkey legs, smoothies and hot dogs. She then received six months of training at the park’s Starbucks. Conflicting work and training schedules, however, required her to quit.

That’s how Jasmine wound up at the Orange shop.

“We’ve all enjoyed her journey,” said Montoya, the store manager. “She’s an inspiration to us all.”

Jasmine is a member of ‘Brea's MBody Strength‘, visiting the center at least twice a week for strength and conditioning training. For weekly sparring sessions she drives to Los Angeles, the Inland Empire and sometimes other states for opponents.

“Jasmine can find sparring anywhere, but she cannot find much sparring at her level,” said Bernie Valenzuela, the owner of Crossroads Boxing Gym in Ontario, California, where Jasmine regularly spars. “She’s one of a kind. (Sparring partner) Celene (Roman) is a professional, with a 5-1 record, and Jasmine gets the best of her most of the time.

“She pushes Celene to get better,” Valenzuela continued. “That’s the level of fighter Jasmine is. I’m a big fan of hers.”

Jasmine has never been knocked out, though she knocks on wood after saying so. She’s been hit hard in the past, but only while sparring men.

She prefers to spar older, heavier, stronger men, saying “when I hit them, I’m trying to knock them out. To hurt them, it forces me to work hard.”

“The type of pressure that men put on her is different from females,” Aguilar said. “When she gets hit by a girl it does not affect her.”

*   *   *   *   *

It’s hot inside Garden Grove Boxing, a hole-in-the-wall gym between a beauty salon and a muffler shop off Garden Grove Boulevard.

Jasmine walks through the door on a recent Friday afternoon and sets her bag of gear on the ring apron. She begins stretching – a must, she says, to loosen muscles and prevent aches and pains the next day.

Soon Jasmine is shadowing boxing, her combos tight and often accentuated with grunts. She bounces around the ring, never leaving her toes, dipping and ducking. She works towards the ropes, then off them. She occasionally lifts her head up to glance at the mirror hung behind the ring.

“I’m extremely fast,” Jasmine said. “I can counter punch, but at the same time I can be aggressive when I need to. And I also hit hard. I can put everything into one punch. I can throw a combo if I need to or I can lay back and see what’s going to happen. I’m able to adapt.”

She grabs her jump rope and begins dancing. She then throws on her boxing gloves.

Starting off on the speed bag, her reaction time and hand-eye coordination is burnished. At one point she hits the bag repeatedly while looking elsewhere. Without pause, she moves to a heavy bag, the thwack, thwack, thwack of her blows echo throughout the gym. She concludes with a flurry.

Training sessions such as these typically last two hours.

In three days, Jasmine will leave for Big Bear, where she’ll train for two-plus weeks for the Pathway to the Podium Olympic Trails Qualifier I in Colorado Springs. The tournament begins June 20, and if Jasmine places in the top 3 at 132 pounds, she’ll earn a spot at October’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Memphis, Tennessee.

If victorious there, Orange’s friendly neighborhood barista will become a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic team bound for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“Just saying that gives me goose bumps,” she said.


[Courtesy: Orange County Register. Edited for sikhchic.com]
June 12, 2015

 

Conversation about this article

1: Hardeep Khakh (Birmingham, United Kingdom), June 28, 2015, 6:19 PM.

Just want to say that you're making Sikhs proud all over the world and it would be amazing to see you compete in the Olympics. Love the way you represent Punjab. Good luck on your journey.

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California's Jasmine Singh"









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