When Elena “Baby Doll” Reid first put on punching gloves it was to try taekwondo.
“Kicking people hurts,” says Reid.
So instead of taekwondo, she took the route of boxing.
“My trainer said you hit pretty hard I’m going to turn you pro,” recalls Reid. “I said ‘awesome.’ I was a senior in high school.”
Elena “Baby Doll” Reid was among those selected to the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame recently in Tijuana, Mexico. Others nominated were Anne Marie Saccurato, Sumya Anani, Britt Van Buskirk, Jane Couch, Giselle Salandy, Lady Tyger Trimiar and promoter Jackie Kallen.
Reid was your typical Catholic high school student in Phoenix, Arizona. Nothing in her high school life suggested a career in a sport where taking punches to the nose from some of the best in the world was the norm.
“I was a cheerleader, and a student body vice president on student council. I played soccer and basketball. I loved being an athlete. I was always excited about life,” says Reid, 35, in her normal cheeriness.
Reid is determined to be the best. She’s self-motivated and always willing to do whatever it takes to meet her goal. In this case, Reid packed her bags and moved to Palm Springs to learn from professional boxing trainers.
Though only 19, Reid moved hundreds of miles from home, worked as a waitress and trained full-time as a prizefighter.
It didn’t work out.
Reid packed her bags once again and moved to Las Vegas. It was a perfect fit, but not without adjustments as she jumped from trainer to trainer in search of the perfect combination.
“Everybody comes to train here and its where all the fights are. It’s what I needed to further my career,” said Reid of her nearly 10 years in Las Vegas. “I met a lot of different people. (Cornelius) Boza Edwards really helped me out. He wanted me to have a boxing career. A lot of things happened and I was lucky enough to do things.”
Eventually Reid ended up training with Chris Benn and things began to really click. You can train with some of the best trainers in the world but chemistry and styles come into the mix. Benn, who was based in Las Vegas, was able to sharpen her skills.
“Chris Benn was really it for me. I really needed someone to teach me and fine tune me, he really as a coach embodied everything that I needed,” said Reid. “I am analytical in some things. I needed the training to make sense. He would explain things to me. He actually changed me.”
Reid changed from a pure slugger relying on her natural strength to a more sophisticated boxer-puncher, capable of changing direction and styles midway in a fight.
From Slugger to Boxer-Puncher
The changes could not be seen in her fight with Mexico’s legendary Mariana “Barbie” Juarez in 2003. The two fought in the heavier bantamweight division in Phoenix. It was televised by ESPN and remains one of the most furious female fights ever seen by a national audience. Reid and Juarez both brawled throughout the bantamweight fight. After eight action-packed rounds the fight ended in a draw. The boxing world got its first glimpse of two future world champions.
That brawling style used against Juarez was not evident when she had her most significant match against the foremost female fighter in the world at the time: Germany’s Regina Halmich. The fight took place on Sept.11, 2004 in Karlsruhe, Germany. The arena was packed. Halmich was their hero.
“It was a really the first great fight for me. Regina was such a superstar,” Reid remembers.
The fight was a struggle as Reid and Halmich exchanged blows for 10 rounds. But it was the American who was able to change her style from brawler to boxer-puncher. After the whirlwind of a fight finally ended, the judges saw it a draw. Germans were incensed. The American contingent was incensed.
“The German people were mad that we got a draw. It was like a Rocky movie. It was a heartbreak for me,” said Reid adding that she was paid $10,000. “I grew a lot as a person. But being treated like a rock star, it was just a whole different world.”
Five fights and one year later, Reid would return to Germany once more to face the mighty Halmich. This time the German world champion would win by unanimous decision. But this time Reid was paid much more.
Elena “Baby Doll” Reid and Seven Others to be new Hall of Fame Members
“I was paid the most I ever got paid for that fight, $15,000,” said Reid. “Regina got a $1 million each fight. She was getting that for every fight.”
Germans were happy but Reid returned without the crown. Still, she had experienced world class boxing on a first class atmosphere.
“It’s something I will never forget,” she said.
Then, next was Mary Ortega. The fight was held in August 2006 in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. It remains Reid’s favorite fight.
“We weren’t just women, it was a fine boxing match. I liked that even before the fight she was a just a nice person. But she hit really hard,” said Reid adding that it was professionalism at its best. “She was just like a bull. I really needed my turns, jabbed a lot. I felt like I was able to show I had boxing skills. I wasn’t running but I was able to use my angles and that was really cool.”
Reid won the fight by unanimous decision and also captured her first world title belt.
In her next fight, Reid would travel to Temecula, California where she would meet South Korea’s Shin-Hee Choi the IFBA flyweight world titlist in a unification bout. Reid used her boxing skills to out-maneuver the tall feisty Choi and win by unanimous decision in July 2007. It was the pinnacle of her career as she held both belts aloft.
No Deep Pockets
“I feel like I did fight the best. I always tried to be a humble and grounded person. I was that boxer who fought everyone and still did well. I feel blessed,” said Reid. “I wasn’t a home town fighter I never really had that. I never had deep pockets behind me.”
Reid says that male boxers have numerous advantages over females and yet some ridicule the female boxers. It’s something she doesn’t understand.
“It makes me sad,” she says. “We were fighting for pennies. Struggling on our lives to do what we want to do. Could those guys fight for pennies?”
Times got so rough for Reid that she could go on no longer financially. But she had mustered a long and successful career and felt satisfied.
“My family supported me. They always called it an expensive hobby, but at the end I wasn’t able to support myself,” says Reid who moved back to Phoenix. “But I was happy to do it.”
She had 31 professional fights. For females, that’s quite a bit.
Now, Reid is married, has two children and trains people both young and old at a YMCA in a Phoenix neighborhood. She loves it.
When she received word about her selection to the Hall of Fame it was a surprise.
“It’s a great honor. I’m so happy people are still thinking about me. I feel like I did a lot for not having a lot of money behind me. But you never know how hugely you’re taken in the sport. It’s a great honor,” she said.
And how does her family feel about it?
“It’s nice for them. They don’t get overly excited,” says Reid. “My family keeps me grounded.”
The awards ceremony tentatively takes place on July 9, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
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