Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Interview: Olympic Hopeful Poula Estrada

How stinking cute is she?
Last week I interviewed nineteen-year-old Poula Estrada from California.  Poula is a flyweight boxer with an incredible 19-2 amateur record and is preparing for the Olympic trials in February.  In addition to being straight-up adorable, Poula is genuinely dedicated to the sport of boxing in a way that surpasses most athletes male and female.  I was really impressed by the tenacity of her training and her charming life that is so far apart from most college bound kids. 

Please start out by telling everyone a little about yourself.
My name is Poula Estrada and I've been fighting my whole life.  I started competing when I was a kid, eleven or twelve.  Then I stopped, but I came back five years later and I fell in love with the sport.

How old are you now?
I'm nineteen.

How did you start training boxing?  Who was your first instructor?
It's always been my dad.

Do you and your siblings all train?
Right now it's just me.  When we were little, we were all into.  My older sister was into kickboxing but she grew out of it.  My brother was into kickboxing and boxing but he grew out of it, too.

What is it like to have your dad as a coach?
It's interesting.  It's good and bad [laughs].  We've learned to separate it in the ring.  When it's boxing, he's my coach but in my personal life, he is my dad.  So we divide it.

Do you train primarily with guys or girls?
I mainly train with guys because there's not enough girls at my gym, there are not enough girls out there to help me.

What about sparring?
It's mostly with the boys.  They fight me like I'm a boy because I fight like a boy because I don't want to get beat up.  When I fight girls in the ring, it is a little easier.

What is your weight class?
It varies from 106 to 115.

What does your normal training week look like?
Everyday, non-stop running...running, running, running.  I hate the running.  Training-wise, I work now, so I go to the gym as much as I can.  But before work it was four hours in the gym and the rest running.

What do you do in the gym?
I do mainly a lot of mitts and sparring, a lot of sparring. 

You are going to try out for the Olympic team?

Tell us about that.  What has the preparation been like?
It's hard.  There's a lot more pressure than any other fight because it's the Olympics and this is the first year for girls.  It's exciting but it's a lot of pressure so you have to work with it.  It's a great experience; getting as far as I have, I'm proud of myself. 

What is the next step to get on the Olympic team?
The next step is to fight at the Olympic trials which are in February.  I've heard they are in Alabama, but they are not sure yet.  If we do good at the trials then I am on the team.

Do you have any fights between now and then or are you just going to concentrate on the trials?
No, I have fights.  In November from the 9th to the 19th there is a tournament.  I hear it is an international tournament but my dad doesn't tell me much information, he just tells me when he is fighting [laughs].  But I heard that Mexico is coming and Russia and China.  So we're going to see what's out there and then go and compete.

Have most of your fights been tournaments or a single event?
Lately it's been tournaments.

Do you do to prepare for a tournament as opposed to a single fight?
For a tournament you have to prepare yourself mentally for more fights. A single fight, you fight and then you get to go home.  At a tournament, you are going to stay there for a week and you have to have that fighting mental state to get ready for the next fight.  You are not done yet.  You either lose or you win the whole thing.

What do you do during a tournament at night, while you are at the hotel, to prepare for the next day?
I still do a little bit of training.  I definitely get my running in because your legs are going to save you in the end, that's how you go four rounds.  But I do a little training and other than that, I just rest until weigh-ins the next day and then I get my fight on.

You have to weigh-in fresh every morning?

Do you walk close to your fight weight?  Do you ever have to cut?
Sometimes I do.  It depends.  If I decide to eat I have to watch it because if it goes a pound over, I'm disqualified and I don't want that. 

Have you fought pretty regularly over the past couple of years or do you take a couple months off between fights?
Now that I've graduated from high school it's been boxing 24/7.  It's hard but it's cool.  I was used to a break because in high school I played volleyball half the year and the rest of the year boxing, so I got a break from both sports.  Now it's just all boxing.

Why are you competing in boxing?  What makes you want to fight?
Just the fact that I fell in love with it.  When I took my break, I thought I was done with boxing.  I was twelve, I was a kid and just in the gym messing around with it.  I wasn't very good and I was like, "why am I doing this?"  So I took a break and came back five years later and I was just messing around with the bag.  I got this technique and I fell in love with it.  I don't know, I guess it's just the love of it.

You mentioned you played volleyball in high school.  Is there a different mentality to compete as an individual, as a boxer, as opposed to competing as a team?
Yes, there is a big difference.  You can't control everybody to move or hit the ball when you want.  But with boxing, you can't blame anyone else; you only have yourself to blame for whatever mistakes you make in the ring.

Other than training and running, what do you do?
I have a part time job teaching boxing at a gym.

Do you feel like teaching as improved your boxing?
Yeah, because it shows me where I was.  It's different to have the gloves and to be an instructor.  It's great though because you get to show people what you've learned and what they can improve on.

How often do you spar when you are preparing for a fight?
Everyday when I go to the gym, it's always sparring, sparring, sparring. 

Are most of your training partners bigger than you?
Yeah [laughs].  It can be from 120-140.

And taller than you?
Yeah [laughs].  They are a lot taller!

Do you have to change your strategy when you go up against a girl your size?
At the gym there are guys my height, some shorter and some taller.  With taller people I try to get in more.  Get in and get out.  With shorter people I've learned to use my distance and put pressure on them.  With people my same height...I put pressure on them, too. 

Your current record is 19-2, which is really wonderful.  Have most of them gone to knockout?
In the beginning, yeah, they would count them and then stop it.  Now it tends to go to decision.

What do you do to mentally prepare for a fight in that last week?
I have my sister help with that one because we are both silly.  I don't get nervous during fights anymore; when I was little, it looked like I was going to pee my pants.  Now I just don't care.  I want to get in, get out and go eat because that's all I [laughs].  Honest!  All I want is to eat again.  But we just make jokes about things.  I try to be really relaxed and not worry about it.  If I worry about it, I start thinking too much and that is just not good. 

Does your sister hang out with you in the green room?
Yeah, she's always back there.

Who is in your corner?
My dad and usually one other trainer from the gym.  My sister has been there before and that was...interesting [laughs].

Whose voice to you hear?
My dad's.  My mom is always yelling in the crowd and I can definitely hear her.

Is it comforting to have your dad in your corner?
Honestly, it has its ups and downs.  He doesn't really know how to talk to me, he just shouts and when people start shouting at me, I instantly ignore it.  But the other person is there and they tell me what he was saying but in a calmer way.

What do you like to go do after a

What do you like to eat after a fight?
Everything and anything I see [laughs].  I am on a see-food diet; anything I see, I eat.   We start with Mexican food.

Once you've finished fighting and had your celebratory meals or multiple meals, do you take a few days off from training?
I try to take at least one week if not two.

What do you do during that down-time?
I hang out with my friends.  I try to see my best friend as much as possible.  I try just going out and living my life for those two weeks and then back to training.

Other than running, what does your cross-training look like?
I do weight lifting.  So it's just running, strength-training and the gym.

Do you do any training that conditions your body to being hit?
There is a technique where you take a medicine ball and throw it in someone's stomach.  That, I do a lot.

Is this something you would like to do full-time or do you like having that little bit of down-time?
I like having that down time away from boxing because it separates the ring from that regular life that I miss.  I like having that little break.

Do you see yourself continuing to compete for the next five or ten years?
Yes, yes I do.

Are you doing anything different to prepare for the Olympic trials?
It's like I am training for any fight but ten times harder, because I want this more than just a little fight that goes on my record.  This is the Olympic trials, I'm trying to get on the team, so there is a lot more that goes into this.

We're you excited to hear that they were adding women's boxing to the Olympics?
Yes, yes, yes!  If I didn't hear about this, I would be pro right now.

It seems bizarre that they didn't have it prior to now, but it is exciting to think about being a part of the first team.
It's history in the making!

It is!  Other than boxing, is there anything you like to do in your down time as a young, cute girl?
I just like having fun.  I don't drink, I don't do drugs, I just like enjoying my time with my friends whether it's having a movie night or a barbeque.  I don't like doing anything big because it is not about all that.

Will you keep us updated on your Olympic try-out?
Yes, I will.

Also send us an update after your next tournament.
I will do.


hervi estrada said...

wow!!! what a beatiful story!, thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

WOW!! We love this kid and we know the potential she has and we expect great opportunities for her in the present and in the near future... go Poula, IT'S YOUR TURN!!



Anonymous said...

Great Interview!!! What a wonderful story!!!