The smile is the language of the soul. That’s why it doesn’t matter if it’s 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 17, or if she’s been two hours or a little more under the sun of Puerto Colombia, the Atlantic coast of the country. When the announcer says “on the red corner, from Medellin: Paulina Angel,” she walks into the ring with a huge smile as she throws punches at the camera.
She loves what she does, this is her moment, when the bell rings she will leave her soul, that is why she has run, she has done more than 40 sparring rounds, she has hit the punching bag, the pear and she has lost pounds to make the weight. There is not a single drop of sweat that she has regretted. To the phrase “blood, sweat and tears” you can change the last word for laughter. Life is one, it’s like boxing, and you have to take advantage of every second as if it were your last.
So, if you are Rocío Algiers, Paulina’s opponent in the World Boxing Association’s (WBA) Boxing Marathon, don’t trust her smile, if anything, fear, because that is her ” Sayayin” face, as the Paisa boxer says, who knows no other way to box than with her soul.
It is difficult to know if one is born with passion or if one gets it along the way, but we could agree that there is a bit of both. Paulina, a competitive woman since she was a child and who has always intended to be the first in what she does “at school, at work, in sports, in everything I do I want to be the best”, she says. Some years ago, she lived in a village, where her mother showed her unconditional love and her father, who had a hard working week from Monday to Saturday, visited them every weekend and, to avoid the hard goodbyes on Sundays, he would leave on Mondays at dawn, when everybody was sleeping. That is giving the soul, and that example was how Paulina forged her character. That of a united family that accompanies her everywhere.
And she gets into boxing a little bit because of her family. She was a young girl who had to go from home to school and from school to home. She could not deviate. But she realized that thanks to basketball her sister could be away from home for a few more hours. “I would ask myself, ‘Why can she do that and I can’t?’ Then when my sister rejected my offer to go to basketball with her, I told her to find me a boxing class”, and at age 16 she learned the discipline she loves.
A month after starting training, her coach Manuel Antonio Mendoza brought her a sparring partner motivated by the dedication of his pupil, who had started out only for fun. In that first contest she did well, but because of her age she could not compete. It was after a few years that she got into the ring in some departments in Colombia and there she learned what defeat was. “I lost and I said ‘this is my thing’, because I started to get more desire, I improved and now I’m here,” she said
“Here” means at the WBA training camp. A prove that a fall is never that bad if you learn and get up, especially if you do it with a smile. “I deal with defeats very well as long as I know I gave it all. In that fight, I got out of the ring smiling because I knew I had done everything I could,” says Paulina, laughing, a trademark since the amateur.
During her preparation at the training camp, there was not a single moment when she didn’t look happy, “What?, Is this just the warm-up?,” she says with a laugh after doing 50 burpees and being disheveled by the effort. But it didn’t matter, she took the rope and started jumping, took the weights and did the exercises. “Put on your gloves,” the group of trainers shouted, and she took the gloves and went into the ring smiling. She is like that come hail, rain or snow. No matter how tired, no matter how sore, that’s the price you have to pay to win. That is her way of understanding life, “all the metaphors of the ring can be applied outside of it”, she says, and for Paulina Angel the ring is her way of understanding everything. There she dances, hits, suffers, enjoys, always with a smile, because she understands that in life there is a little bit of everything and that changes come from within.
“It’s something that makes me feel safe and grateful. I still can’t believe I was in the training camp. Having all the support, hard preparation, and being with the right people is the certainty that I can become someone,” says the boxer, referring to her experience with the WBA throughout her training.
Time passed until December 16, the day of the weigh-in ceremony. Paulina hits the scales at 59 kilos and her opponent at 62. Angel laughs, but don’t be confused, she has everything under control. That’s why she doesn’t complain or joke. This is her second professional fight and she knows she has to make concessions to reach her goal: a World Championship and an Olympic medal.
So despite the relentless afternoon sun in Puerto Colombia on December 17, when the bell rings, Paulina comes out like a whirlwind with her “Sayayin” face to win her fight. She stands in the center of the ring, jabbing hard and with confidence. In the background you can hear “Paulina! Paulina!”, it is her family supporting her. The boxer is still in the ring, technical, well planted, seeing how her rival misses all the blows he throws. She sees the exact moment, she throws herself at her, left hook, right hook, she repeats it. Rocío raises her guard, she is against the ropes. No, it’s not the second or third round, this is just the first one.
Paulina comes back to the center of the ring, jabs hard. Connects to the face, goes back to the hooks. Algiers turns her back, she seems not to want more. The referee pulls her aside, gives her the count, Paulina goes to the corner, smiles. This is done. One minute left of the first round, “box”, says the referee, Angel is about to finish off the job, her rival doesn’t want any more, the third man in the ring intervenes. Everybody smile! Paulina Angel has come to show everyone that when you go into the ring, you do it with your gloves on, but most of all, you do it to leave your soul on the ring.