As Rosalie Parker prepares to defend her No. 1 national ranking among amateur women boxers at the 112-pound division tonight at May Park, the 26-year-old Harvard graduate will likely partake in some light pre-fight reading.
She's debating whether it'll be the first volume of George Kennan's Memoirs, about the diplomat who helped create the American embassy in Moscow during Stalin's reign, or a couple of chapters from her international economics textbooks that she's brought with her to Augusta.
"I don't know if I'll have enough energy to tackle the economics," Parker says.
In her cassette player, you might catch Parker listening to the soothing sounds of Russian On The Go, the fourth language she's trying to master, though she doesn't think her Spanish is quite up to snuff.
"The backpack's pretty lumpy this week," she said.
Parker sat ringside Wednesday at May Park as 11 open division bouts began second Women's National Golden Gloves, finally getting a chance to relax in a day she normally crams 35 hours into.
Around her neck hung her week's identification tag, the word "BOXER" in black letters on a red background. If only that told the whole Parker story.
How many boxers, man or woman, can say they've spent 90 hours a week working a Wall Street job at a New York mergers and acquisitions firm?
Or spent a year and a half in Paris at Price Waterhouse Cooper, helping liquidate, among others, a Brazilian ice cream company and European book stores?
Or is spending a summer interning in D.C., first at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, then moving on to the U.S. Trade Representative office where her duties include aiding Eastern European nations comply with treaties.
"All of the women here have got something on the side because there is no money in this sport," Parker said while trying to downplay her resume.
Of the 126 women entered who've entered the four-day tournament, only one can say her office is across the street from the White House. And when Parker's summer ends in two weeks, she'll enroll in the master's program at John Hopkins studying international relations.
All this, and she's found the time to be among the best in a sport slowly swelling in popularity. You can bet she's not going to want to eat anyone's children anytime soon.
"I'm such a wimp it's unbelievable," Parker said. "If I were in a bigger weight class, I wouldn't be doing this. But at 112, it's all about speed, skill and tact. It's not a knockout game like it is at the bigger weights."
Parker grew up in Wayland, Mass., near Walden Pond and considered herself more of an academic than an athlete during high school, though she did tear one anterior cruciate ligament while playing soccer.
Parker is as goal-oriented a person you'll find, and she set her mind early that she would go to best college possible, and that school was Harvard. While majoring in a mixture of philosophy, politics and economics, the 5-foot-2 Parker stayed active by playing rugby and rowing. Between seasons she'd dabble in boxing.
Nothing too strenuous; just enough to stay in shape and near 112 pounds. Only when she tore the ACL in her other knee while playing rugby did boxing become a competitive endeavor.
"It was rather serendipitous occurrence for me," said Parker, the 6-inch scars running vertical on both knees. "After I tore the second ligament, there were very few sports I could actually do well."
While her first coach taught her the basics of throwing punches and using the speed bag, the two parted ways because he wouldn't let her spar. Then after being told that a) women shouldn't box, and b) she was "too cute" to get into the ring, Parker found a trainer in Boston who accepted her, the sport and her new goal: to win the first women's amateur title at her weight.
This was in 1997, a year after graduating. Well, she came to Augusta for the first women's national championships, which she won. Her coach congratulated her, then pleaded with her to quit and live her life because there was nothing more for women amateur boxers to do.
So she did, getting that Wall Street job first, then moving to Paris and putting that Harvard degree to use.
She returned from Europe in January "for a man." "When that didn't work out, I found myself with a lot of free time," she said.
And an itch to lace up those Ringside gloves again and start jabbing. Her goal: win nationals in April, which she did and ascended to the top of the flyweight division. Parker comes to Augusta and still finds herself defending the sport and her place in it. There are those who don't understand why a smart, successful, international woman would risk injury in a boxing ring.
"If I said I was a swimmer, people would understand it more," Parker said. "This is fun for me. I've seen more gory injuries on a rugby or soccer field. There's no other feeling, when you've set a goal and accomplish it, when you get that medal, it's an apotheosis."
Like we said, Parker is not like any other boxer.
Reach Rick Dorsey at (706) 823-3219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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