Silence! Verónica Zuluaga is in the center of the ring, her index finger is on her lips (indicating silence) and her right hand is a clenched fist in sign of victory. The Colombian boxer has just won her first fight in professional boxing, and she does it with a resounding knockout. If you had any doubts, well, don’t, Veronica is here to close mouths blow by blow.
Minutes before, the scene was different, but it foreshadowed the end. Veronica was going through the arch of lights very seriously. Her steps were firm, her gaze confident, she threw punches at the camera and took off her hood. She is certain of her victory, a victory that is forged at the gym.
It is there, at the gym, during the training camp of the World Boxing Association (WBA), where she became the woman that was seen last Thursday, December 17, on the ring in Puerto Colombia, on the Atlantic coast of the country.
The challenges she was given in each training session were very hard. 200 burpees, running 5, 10 or 15 kilometers with a vest full of small weights that in total could add up to about 10 kg, hitting the pear, the punching bag, the mitts, lifting weights, rowing, running again, and a long etcetera. The sparrings were just as hard, sometimes she had to do 60 minutes without stopping and, in addition, face a former world champion like Alys Sanchez, who has had tough challenges like fighting Jackie Nava.
But this, instead of discouraging her, encouraged her. No matter what happened. Even if she did well, she always thought she could do more. It is her inner fire that tells her that in order to excel she has to give more. She gave more every day, especially the next day. Yes, she always came back. It doesn’t matter that she doesn’t carry the cross of a difficult story, cliché, we could say, when telling the life of a boxer. She does not. She does this out of passion, out of self-love, and she reflected this with her effort.
“This training camp gave me a lot of confidence, because I arrived about 5 months ago. One feels that it has been demanding, it has been very hard but I did it. Training like this gives you confidence,” says the Iron Lady, as some call her, because her character resembles that of Margaret Thatcher: she does not hesitate to make a decision and execute it.
Sports, television and graphic design
Veronica’s life goes beyond the ring. She is a graphic designer, which has given her a good sense of aesthetics when it comes to posting on social media, sharing quotes with eye-catching designs, and editing her own photos. She knows that these platforms are important to showcase herself and to let people know about her.
However, the biggest impulse to get her on the public’s radar was a Colombian reality show produced by the Caracol channel and called El Desafío. “It made people notice me more. My social media started to be more active. However, I try to make those networks complement what I am. If I am a boxer, I show boxing; and if I train, that’s what I show. I try to show what my life is about”.
She arrives at El Desafío as a result of her great love for sports and her good physical condition. Since she was a child, she liked to exercise and went through several disciplines. Seven years ago, she started Mixed Martial Arts. “At first it was a hobby, I went twice a week. Then I started going every day and training competitively, this was about 4 years ago,” says the boxer who already has a professional record in the MMA.
Boxing was a fundamental part of her preparation as an athlete within the MMA, but it was a year ago when she decided to dedicate herself completely to the sport of flat noses.
That decision led her to make her debut in professional boxing. Verónica is a woman of character who keeps her word.
Thus we arrive at Tuesday, December 15, two days before her fight, and she travels to Barranquilla to face the challenge. Her face says it all: she is making in the weight. She is alone, she doesn’t talk. She arrives at the hotel, checks in, and goes up to her room. She is not heard from again.
It’s Wednesday the 16th, time to face the first battle, the most difficult one, according to an endless number of boxers: making the weight. Verónica had to weigh 122 pounds just like her opponent, Mirledys Hoyos. The Iron Lady weighs 119.2 pounds and her rival 122.6. As it is a debut fight, the commission asks: “The teams are ready…”. “No! She has to lose weight,” says Zuluaga without a fuss, showing that he has come here to fight, even before entering the ring.
After her opponent made the weight, it was time to fight. The bell rang and Mirleydis started like a whirlwind, throwing punches from every angle. Verónica tries to overcome the storm by trying to impose her jab. However, the messiness of her opponent makes the job a bit complex.
A minute into the round, the situation was under control, Verónica exploding her left hand into a straight line and hook into her opponent’s face. The punishment was already evident on Hoyos’ face. The second round was a copy of the first one, but the only change was that in this one, the Iron Lady took even more advantage of her opponent’s messiness to land all the punches she threw.
Verónica was a crouching tiger waiting for her prey, her eyes were fixed on her, she was frowning, and her hands were two rocks. The boxer from Antioquia showed her beautiful and technical boxing style for which she wants to be remembered. Now she is on the ropes, she turns around and puts her rival against the ropes, jab and straight, jab and straight. She has her, she knows it, the referee knows it too, and intervenes at 1 minute and 32 seconds of the second round. Silence! It’s Verónica Zuluaga, the Iron Lady, who has come to boxing to shut mouths.