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Old 12-22-2011, 10:05 AM #1
Evil Abed Evil Abed is offline
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Default Ann Wolfe: “James is beatable—and everybody else is. (Great Article)

“It’s not that I have a love-hate relationship for boxing. I just hate the way other people treat something that is near and dear to me that changed my life…”


“When I finish with you, you’re going to be a ****ing fighting machine.”—Jack Blackburn to Joe Louis

Before I spoke with Ann Wolfe, I was bracing myself for the Big Bad Wolfe that HBO plays to the hilt, the volcanic trainer, the anger management candidate, the ticking time bomb who is ready to blow at a moment’s notice. Yet that was not the case. I found Wolfe to be gracious, thoughtful, attentive and considerate, both easy to talk to and understand. And the way she uses language is almost Faulknerian, full of southern cadences, oblique asides, and resonant homespun truths.

The former eight-time women’s boxing champion and present-day trainer was born on Jan. 17, 1971 (the same birthday as Muhammad Ali). Wolfe was raised in Overlin, Louisiana, which is located about 35 miles from St. Charles. Her family was poor, dirt poor. There was no electricity or running water in the house she grew up in, and she was one six kids, three boys and three girls.

“I never drunk a pop or soda water until I was almost 18,” Wolfe told me. “I never ain’t even had my own candy bar. If we got a candy bar, that was like most spectacular.”

Because life was hardscrabble from day one, everybody had to work and work hard, whether it was clearing land, cutting wood, doing weed work, hauling water, hauling pinecones, or peeling crawfish.

“We used to get 80 cent a pound,” recalled Wolfe. “For years and years and years I peeled crawfish to make extra money. That’s how I began to learn how to work.

After attending elementary school from the first through sixth grades, Wolfe dropped out in the seventh grade. It wasn’t that she didn’t wanted to learn, she values education and pushes all the kids in her gym to finish high school and go college, but her mother was sick and they didn’t have any food. She had no choice but to quit school, to earn money and take care of her mom.

Those who have met her in person know that Ann Wolfe is larger than life: “In my family, everybody grows big early. When I was 13, 14 years old, I was five-nine and I wore about size 14 girl’s shoe. Everybody thought I was going to be some kind of giant. In our family, some of the boys were six-seven, six-eight. But I didn’t grow no more.”

Despite the aching poverty, maybe because of the aching poverty, Ann’s mother made sure she raised her children right. She saw to it that they went to church every day, and four-letter words weren’t permitted in her house.

“I had a good, caring, loving mother,” Wolfe said. “My mother believed if you don’t work, if you spare the rod, you spoil the child. So that’s how I grew up, in a loving home that was strict, and you had morals and values that you didn’t break regardless. You didn’t talk back to your parents. You don’t talk back to older people. Point blank. You’d probably think you’d die if you talked back to those people. I never talked back to my mother one time. My mother never abused me. I never seen her curse, or even put on a pair of pants.

“On the other hand, my daddy was hell raiser who did all kinds of crazy ****.”

Wolfe’s mother died of cancer when Ann was 18. It devastated the household, no less than it devastated Ann Wolfe. “And you know what, the messed up part about the whole situation? My mama died because we didn’t have insurance. When she got sick, they were like it had to be an emergency in order for us to see you. But the time it got to be an emergency, she was Stage 4 cancer.” Wolfe paused. “That’s just the way life is,” she said philosophically or with resignation.

“I wasn’t raised like that,” she said, alluding to the medical establishment’s indifference to her mother’s plight. “I was raised where you had to get your ass up and get to work. There wasn’t no place. There wasn’t no this or that. You had a family. You had pride in yourself. You didn’t ask for nothing, you didn’t take nothing. We didn’t bring something home. We brung other people home. We tried to help people. My mother would help other people in the community when we hardly had nothing at all for ourselves. But she taught us how to work so you’re gonna get more, you’re gonna accomplish more. Have your hand open to give and on to receive. That’s what I put back in the gym, because I think every kid, every individual, has an opportunity to make something out of their lives.”

Despite being raised right, her mother’s death and her daddy’s DNA conspired with the lure of the street to snag Ann Wolfe. People in desperate straits often do desperate things. It sometimes seems as though it’s fated, preordained, a master plan concocted by the masters of the universe.

“I was like a loose cannon. I was in the streets and looking for a fight. I was selling crack and marijuana,” Wolfe admitted, but pointed out that despite some of what has been written, “I never used drugs in my life.” Predictably, she got caught and busted. The year was 1990. After being booked, jailed and hauled before a judge, Ann Wolfe pleaded no contest and served nine months in a Florida prison.

“Once my mom died, I went to jail. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t write. I could write my name, but I couldn’t read at all. So what y’all could I do? When I got out of jail I started selling drugs once again. And this lady came and she was gonna give me her baby. She said, ‘If you give me a piece of rock cocaine, I’ll let you take my baby and hold my baby until I get back.’ I was like, this got be some pretty powerful **** if that’s gonna make you leave your kid here, and that’s when I decided I would never sell drugs ever again in my life, and that’s when I stopped.”

There’s something incredibly decent and inherently principled about Ann Wolfe. She may have broken the law, people do it all the time, rich and poor alike, and she did what she felt she needed to do to in order to survive.

“And then I was like, how am I gonna work? And then like a month after I got out of jail, my daddy got shot 13 times. And I still went about my life. Then my oldest brother my mom raised got killed. He tried to rob a store in Texas and got shot.”

At 22 Wolfe was homeless with two kids. She needed a fresh start, needed to turn the page, and moved to Austin, Texas.

“When I first came to Austin, because I was homeless, I started working there jobs where you work that all day and then get paid. I used to work those jobs where they give me a sledgehammer to tear down some buildings. I was so angry, and I worked so hard because I just felt that whatever like I did to get some money to get paid, I would give a 100 percent. I didn’t slack. I tore down a whole building with a sledgehammer in one night and people forgot about that’s a woman. They forgot about it. They was like, that person over there is gonna work, she’ll put in a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. And after that first day, I was just a bad something else. That’s just how I was.”

Backbreaking hard work is a theme that runs through Wolfe’s life. There was no boxing, at least not yet, but that no pain/no gain ethos was about to be put to the test.

Wolfe and her two kids often took refuge in the emergency room at University Medical Center Brockenridge in Austin. The waiting room was open through the night, and while her children slept, Ann passed the time watching TV. One night she saw two women on TV boxing. She asked an old woman sitting next to her if they got paid for doing that. The woman turned to Ann and said, “Baby, if it’s on TV, they getting paid for it.”
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Old 12-22-2011, 10:08 AM #2
Bombs Bombs is offline
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Great read.. Cool insight.
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Old 12-22-2011, 10:10 AM #3
Evil Abed Evil Abed is offline
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Wolfe told Boxing.com, “I didn’t know women boxed.” The next morning she set out to find a boxing gym.

“After I was in the hospital and I seen I want to fight, I went to a gym, and as soon as I walked in the gym, I said, ‘This isn’t a place I want to be. This place is ****ty here.’” The next morning she went to the Montopolis Recreation Center in Austin. There was a gym there, a city gym, where Pops Billingsley trained fighters. “It was about 9:30,” recalled Wolfe, “and they said he ain’t gonna get here till 6:00. I waited there all day. Here comes Pops, old, white hair. They say that’s Pops. I said, ‘They said your name’s Pops. Hey, you train boxers back there?’ He said, ‘Yes I do.’ ‘You train girls?’ He said, ‘No, I wouldn’t train girls.’ I said, ‘You ever thought about it?’ ‘No, not really.’ I said, ‘Would you train a girl? I need you to teach me to fight so I can take care of my children.’ He says, ‘Well, since I never trained a girl, I will. But I can only train you like I train the boys.’ I said, ‘You train me, I promise you I’ll never leave.’ And that how he trained me.

“I went in there—he knew I was tough already ‘cause of street fighting, whatever—so I went in the ring with a 14-year-old who beat the living hell out of me. And I picked him up and I slammed him on the ground and I started kicking him. Pops got mad and he was like, ‘You can’t do that.’ I said, ‘You didn’t tell me what the **** to do.’ I turned over all kinds of ****. ‘I know what you’re going to tell me: Go home, get out of the gym, don’t come back, huh? That’s what everybody tells me.’ He said, ‘I’m not going to tell you to go home and get out of my gym. I’ll see you tomorrow evening.’”

Wolfe returned the next day and cursed up a storm. She again figured Pops would tell her not to come back, but he said, “I’ll see you tomorrow evening.” Wolfe didn’t return the third day. “I was like, ‘This old man is crazy.’ So here I am. I’m in a swinging chair. I’ve got a sawed-off shotgun sitting on the side of me, because I didn’t want anyone to know it. I’ve got a cap on backwards. I had a 40-ounce Olde English in my hand and a cigar in my mouth. And he walked up—I lived in a pretty rough neighborhood—and he walked up in the yard and I was like, ‘What the **** are you doing in my yard?’ He said, ‘It’s Pops. I waited for you yesterday. Why you ain’t come? Come on, I’ll take you.’ And I said, ‘You crazy old man.’ And he said, ‘C’mon to the gym,’ and I went to the gym and I never left.”

Ann Wolfe first met James Kirkland at Pops’ gym during this time. They’ve gone on to do great things together, and even greater things are to come. She was 24 or 25, and Kirkland was 11, “this ragged little kid, this nasty little boy with stinky feet. I was like, ‘Ooh, this little boy is nasty.’ But then I went in the gym and I’m sitting there and here’s this left-handed kid knocking out 13-, 14-, 15-year-olds. A little boy. He wouldn’t even use his right hand. He was just kicking ass with his left hand. He was knocking kids OUT with that left hand. He went through a spurt where he didn’t lose a fight for like four or five years. And we kept on.”

Four years after that auspicious meeting, Pops Billingly had a stroke. “Montopolis was tripping,” Wolfe remembered, and she offered to help him out by handling the conditioning in the gym. Pops agreed and told her, “Do like I did, hit on the bags, hit on the ropes, hit on the mitts.” Wolfe always had a mind of her own, and since “Them kids was so ****ing bored with that ****, the next day I went and got a radio. And I went and got whatever hip-hop music, whatever gospel music, whatever country music, whatever type of music I could find that had a beat to it and turned it on as loud as I could get it to blast. I said, ‘Listen, you’re gonna dance and box in that mother****er for two ****ing hours.’ I turned to them and said, ‘Whoever stops first is a punk.’

“I got in the ring and turned the heat up to 120 and we danced up in there and boxed and danced and did the pads and boxed for about two hours. And those kids sticked to that, because they didn’t want to lose. So when I moved, they moved. When I jumped, they jumped. When I punched, they punched. And that’s how I trained them. That’s how it happened. That’s how it evolved to where I started as a conditioning coach. I always used to tell James, ‘That’s the only pride you have. Without that you got nothing.’ My mother would say that you should have no mercy on your enemy, because when you do, they’re gonna come back and they’re going to destroy you. If you pull a gun, you kill them. If you get in the ring, you destroy them, 100 percent, no ifs, ands or buts, no nothing about nothing. And that’s just how I was my whole life.”

Pride and working until one drops is what Ann Wolfe is all about. It worked for her. It has worked for James Kirkland. And she’s convinced that it will work for anyone who’s willing to trust her and dig deep.

“What is all comes from is growing up we had a lot of work to do and we didn’t have no tools. And I looked at my brothers—and I would say I had a six-pack myself when I was like 16—and they was all cut from head to toe, and they never lifted a weight in their life. And you had to work 12 hours a day, and the next day you had to get up and do it again, and the next day you had to do it again. So they had the endurance from the work they put in, the work that we done. And we ran. We would race. We would race through the woods and we would race through the ditches, we would race through the fields. When I went to school I was in the sixth grade beating a lot of 12th graders. Why? They were used to running on track. I raced in a watermelon field, in a sugar cane field, barefooted on rough roads.”

Wolfe’s experience growing up in rural Louisiana taught her more than her share of hard lessons. She absorbed those lessons, distilled them down to their very essence, which is to “Make it harder than what it is and when you get what you got to go to, it’s gonna be easy. Because now that I live in a house with running water, I go take a hot bath—life is easy for me. I done lived that other life so long. So if you know you’re gonna be punching another person in the face, trying to knock him out, okay, if the ring is 20 feet, make it 10 feet. If it’s 20 by 20, make it 10 by 10. If it’s on canvas, put it on carpet. If somebody else is just hitting the bag, you run and hit the bag. If they fight one person, you fight two. If they spar 10 rounds, you spar 20, with a bulletproof vest on and some 20-ounce gloves. If they’re trying to beat you, you’re trying to kill them.”

Boxing has been Wolfe’s redemption, but when I asked, based on some of what I read, if she had a love-hate relationship with the sport, Ann wanted to set the record straight.

Her voice softened and she said, “It’s not love-hate. It’s a love, but I hate the way everybody else does it. I love it. I love boxing like I love my children, because it allows me to be free. When I’m in the ring I’m free. I’m just like in another world. When I hit the bag, when I jump, when I listen to the music, I’m free and I’m doing something that human beings have been doing since the beginning of time. That’s mortal combat. We’ve always fought over everything. We fought over land. We fought over food. We fought over women. We fought over men. We fought over tradition. We fought over God. We’ve always fought. It’s embedded in us, but because we do it with our hands we’re barbaric? But you can go over there and shoot 100 people, 10,000 people, kill people in their ****ing home. But boxers are barbaric? It’s what we’ve done as human beings since the beginning of time. So I love it. It makes me free. It makes me feel who I am. When I see people go in there and not really try to fight and lay down, or when I see this person gets to be moved because he’s got this and this and this, it sickens me to death. Boxing is a poor man’s sport. You didn’t have to have a degree. You didn’t have to go to college. All you had to do was be able to swing and try to hit somebody else. I live, I breathe—I love boxing. But once you stop learning and fighting in boxing, you’ve got to leave the game alone and get away from it. It’s not that I have a love-hate relationship for it. I just hate the way other people treat something that is near and dear to me that changed my life. Because I would’ve committed homicide if I hadn’t found boxing.”
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Old 12-22-2011, 10:11 AM #4
Evil Abed Evil Abed is offline
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Wolfe’s protégé, James Kirkland, her masterpiece, is fighting on Jan. 28 against Carlos Molina at the Reliant Center in Houston. Kirkland is due for a title shot, if any champion is foolish enough to risk his title, but his signature fight thus far was his Nov. 5 demolition of Alfredo Angulo in Cancun, Mexico. Kirkland and Wolfe had reunited after a falling out, and as reunions go, it was a smashing success.

“The only thing I can say,” Wolfe said, “is that I did my part—me and Pops, not only me, Pops too. He don’t get enough credit. Just his presence alone makes me comfortable and confident in training James, which I would regardless. But it makes it a little easier because it’s just good to have him there. I prepared James. If he wouldn’t have been prepared, I wasn’t going to go. If he wouldn’t have did what I asked him, I was not going to go. I told him, ‘You have to be prepared to kill another human being. We’re going to ANOTHER COUNTRY. This is not like no regular fight. This is do-or-die. Your career’s over with. Your family, your friends, some are going to look at you and they’re gonna say you got knocked out, you got beat up. They’re gonna say the most horrendous **** they can even fathom or think about you.’”

That thought led Wolfe to another. At the time it seemed like she was shifting gears, changing lanes, but there was continuity in what she was saying and the way she was saying it. Wolfe uses language the way a river uses water. It’s always flowing, but sometimes it’s crystal clear, smooth as glass. Sometimes it meanders. And sometimes it’s a ride on the rapids.

“The worst thing about boxing is these ****ing *******s that look at the match or hear something and they get on the computer and they write these little quotes, and they’ve never even picked up a pair of gloves, they’ve never even been hit in the face in their life. They probably weigh 300 damn pounds, or whatever, and they get on there and they say some of the cruelest **** about a fighter that you could even imagine—and they never even graced a ****ing ring in their life, they never even worked a hard day’s work in their life. So I told James, all those people and all that ****’s gonna come down on you. All you can do is be prepared. If people knew what I did to that man, because the people that did know, they’d go, ‘You’re running him to death. You beating him to death. ****, how you gonna fight when you letting him get the crap beat out of him? ****, you beating him to death with sticks and lettin’ people beat him and bangin’ him.’ I said, ‘This is gonna get him prepared. I’ve got to take him to the limit where he says, “I’m gonna quit.” And right when I took him to the limit, he was like defeated. And then I’d lift him up. From there I went to saying, ‘You’re ready. We’re ready. Now it’s time. We’re ready. Now you’re ready to battle because your soul is empty. We’re now gonna fill it up with, “I’m gonna go over there and kill him, Alfredo Angulo, with these gloves on.” And you got to be CONFIDENT. You got to be CONFIDENT that you’re going to win. You have to be leery that you know what, “I’m gonna get my ass kicked.” You’ve got to be confident in that knowing I’m gonna go over there and rip the **** out of this man.’”

Wolfe’s training methods are unconventional, but she had done her job. James Kirkland was ready for Angulo.

“So once he got prepared, his soul was fixed. His personality had changed. Everything about him was DIFFERENT. And when he went over there I said, ‘You ready?’ He said, ‘I’m ready.’ And when he told me he was ready, I knew he was ready. So my part was almost over. All I had to do was navigate him then. And so here’s the combination. The combination comes from what? Conditioning. His soul has been EMPTIED. It’s his heart that he had to work on. And when I mean work on it, it was the training, the preparation, and the talking and the conversating got him prepared. So once he was prepared, he was willing. You could tell that once he got knocked down. He got knocked down—he got up. He looked like, ‘How dare you knock me down, man?’ He looked at that man like, ‘How dare you do that ****?’ You know something? You could tell he was not defeated once he got knocked down. You could tell he was like, I’m gonna fight the way I did suggest. And you could see the life drain out of Angulo. Angulo was still fighting into the fourth round—the fight drained from his soul—and in the fifth round Angulo was done.

“When I’m watching a boxing match, a lot of times I’m not watching if he’s throwing a jab or a hook. I’m trying to see his soul. Does this man’s spirit still have the determination that, ‘Am I gonna still gonna try to fight him?’ I told James, ‘Watch him. He’s still trying to win. We gotta watch him. Now we gotta break him down, gotta bust his ass, and you will discombobulate him even more than that. Box him. And when you box him you hit him with shots he don’t even know he can get hit with.’ And so James listened. And I said, ‘Okay, now that you box him, put some speed on his ass. Hit with speed. Don’t try to throw no hard shots. Just put speed on. Speed. Bang him in his stomach. Bang him up. Bang him up.’ In the fifth round I said, ‘Now, ****, you can have fun. He’s done.’”

Her description of the fight wasn’t what one would hear from Jim Lampley, or anyone else for that matter, but it resounded with character and truth—the character and truth according to Ann Wolfe.

“I tell you one thing that most people don’t see,” she said. “James is beatable—and everybody else is. That’s where people make their ****ing mistake, thinking they’re unbeatable. See what happened to Pacquiao. Everybody is beatable on any given night. On any given night you are beatable. And I tell my fighters, ‘Don’t train to win. It’s easy to win. ****, it’s easy to win. You train so YOU WON’T LOSE. When you train not to lose you do EVEN MORE.

“A lot of people think that James needs me to win. I don’t think James needs me to win. I just know how to bring that motivation out of him that people might not know how, because I had to use it my whole entire life.”

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Old 12-22-2011, 10:12 AM #5
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Great read.. Cool insight.
Just posted the other 2 parts.

Big article.

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Old 12-22-2011, 10:37 AM #6
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Great read. My favorite quote: "Everybody is beatable on any given night. On any given night you are beatable. And I tell my fighters, ‘Don’t train to win. It’s easy to win. ****, it’s easy to win. You train so YOU WON’T LOSE. When you train not to lose you do EVEN MORE."

It's interesting that she mentions that her brothers were 6'7 and chiseled. Can't imagine how destructive 6'7 male versions of Anne Wolfe could be, lol.
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Old 12-22-2011, 10:40 AM #7
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Powerful stuff, I can read this all day long..thanks for this
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Old 12-22-2011, 10:45 AM #8
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What a great article and I enjoyed it a lot.
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Old 12-22-2011, 10:46 AM #9
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Originally Posted by cdsimple View Post
Great read. My favorite quote: "Everybody is beatable on any given night. On any given night you are beatable. And I tell my fighters, ‘Don’t train to win. It’s easy to win. ****, it’s easy to win. You train so YOU WON’T LOSE. When you train not to lose you do EVEN MORE."

It's interesting that she mentions that her brothers were 6'7 and chiseled. Can't imagine how destructive 6'7 male versions of Anne Wolfe could be, lol.
I was thinking if her brothers would've gotten into boxing they may have been HW champs.
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Old 12-22-2011, 11:08 AM #10
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That's seriously a profound story. Gives us more understanding to how and why she conducts herself like she does today, another great example illustrating the direct link between your upbringing and character. Kudos to Wolfe.
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