Sacred “Diamond Girl” Downing USA #1 Medal Hope for 2012 Olympics! By Ken Hissner (Dec 21, 2009) DoghouseBoxing
Her boxing trainer and father, James Downing, thought his daughter would be satisfied playing soccer at 14. It seems her mother, Diane, had other ideas. Do I have to tell you who won out? Downing started training his daughter Sacred “Diamond Girl” Downing and she has helped to rejuvenate the USA boxing program in the United States ever since. She is a six time USA National Champion winning titles each year since 2004. She has competed in two Pan American Games winning a silver medal in 2006 in Argentina and winning a gold medal in Trinidad in 2008.
It was in 1999, at the age of 14, her father started training her. She started boxing competitively in 2001. It didn’t take her long to make an impression on the boxing program in this country. She became the 2002 Junior National Champion in the 106 weight class. In 2003-04 she was the PAL champion.
Her father, a former boxer, knew there was something special about his daughter’s athletic ability when he visited Manny Steward of the Kronk Gym, in Detroit in 1990. Steward looked at this 5 year old standing with her daddy and said “I can see a competitive spirit in her eyes”. If anyone should know Steward would after training and managing numerous champions then and now. “I have known her since she was a little girl. She is one of the best boxers I have ever seen in my life. Everything comes natural to her. I expect her to be another Oscar (DeLaHoya) or Floyd (Mayweather),” said Steward. Remember, this is the man who once trained Lucia Rijker, the best female professional I have ever seen.
In 2004 Downing would move up in weight to the 114 class and win three consecutive titles from 2004 to 2006. Since the female boxing program wasn’t in the Olympics they have Pan Am Games every two years instead of every four years like the male boxing does the year prior to the Olympics. She would travel to Argentina and fought her way to the finals against one of the Argentine’s bringing home a Silver medal.
In 2007 and 2008 she won the National’s again. In 2008 she went to Trinidad to win the Pan Am Games Gold this time over Brazil’s Loren Capeece 11-3. Earlier she won over the Dominican’s Jeimy Gomez 6-2. In late 2008 she traveled to China to compete in the AIBA World Games in Ningbo City. She was eliminated by Annie Albania of the Philippines, who went on to win a silver medal.
In talking with Downing’s pastor, Paula Cooke, she thinks the world of Downing. “She has been coming to our church (Trenton’s These Signs Shall Follow Ministries) for about 3 ½ years. She is a very determined young lady. When she first arrived I knew she looked familiar. She brought over a dozen people with her from the homeless shelter and continues this each time she comes”, said Cooke. “She has a love for lost souls. In addition to bringing clothes from her own closet she collects clothing for the needy. I’ll give an alter call and they receive Christ and come back,” she added. In talking with Cooke over the phone you could hear the love she has for Downing.
I hadn’t seen Downing and her father in about 4 years since meeting them in a Bristol (PA) gym. I told her pastor after what you’ve told me I am giving her a hug even if she slugs me. She said “I’ll warn her.” “Pastor Cooke did a sermon on feeding the homeless and that is when I got the idea. I knew my dad had done this. So I would borrow my dad’s van and got them something to eat and brought them to church,” said Downing. Then she told a story and I could see the worried look on her dad’s face as if he hadn’t heard this one before. “I once saw a homeless person in a wheelchair one hot summer day and pulled up beside him and asked if he was hungry. He gave me a scared look. I told him we could put his chair in the back and I would take him to eat,” said Downing. I didn’t want to ask her if he got in or not.
“She has the same fire in the ring that she does about winning souls. She has turned down big fights because she needed time to get closer to the Lord. She does what the Lord requires,” said Cooke. This was on a Saturday we talked and when I met Downing again on Tuesday I asked if her Pastor told her what I was going to give her. She smiled with that look of “oh, boy, all this for a story?” I did get my hug. Downing has a Team Faith Boxing Program and SYBA which stands for Sacred Youth Boxing Academy. She is a teacher’s assistant when she is not training.
In the 2005 US Championships Downing defeated Kaliesha West 16-12 in the semi-finals. Then she stopped Celsa Reyes in the finals for the championship. In the 2008 US Future Stars National Championships Downing defeated Nicole Pasillas (CO) by stoppage in 0:55 of the 2nd round in the semi final. Then she built an 8-3 lead after two rounds and retained a five point advantage going into the final fourth round. Her opponent Brooklyn’s Keisher McLeod rallied but was defeated 14-11 in the championship bout.
Philly’s Joey Dawejko was the #1 contender in the USA heavyweight ratings before turning professional recently. “Sacred Downing is the best female boxer pound for pound. She is a women version of Rau’shee Warren (2x Olympian). Very hard to hit and very accurate! She is about the only female boxer that I could watch time after time,” said Dawejko. “She is extremely talented and has excellent basic skills and technique. It is obvious that she is a dedicated athlete,” said Melanie Ley. Ley is “the boxing grandma” who runs Melanie Ley’s Amateur Boxing Homepage.
In the 2009 US National Championships Downing defeated Raelene Salazar, 3-0 (CA) and Rita Martinez (NM) 14-9 to win the title after moving up to 119 from 114. At this time the Olympics will only have 3 weight classes for women’s boxing. 106-112, 123-132 and 152-165. This means Downing would move up to 123.
Since getting into open competition in 2004 she’s taken some lumps in order to learn her trade. In the Chicago Golden Gloves Downing defeated Vanessa Greco, of NY, in the semi-finals. In the finals she lost to Gabriella Barragon, of Oregon. It wouldn’t be the last time these two met. In 2005 In Michigan Downing turned the tables stopping Barragon in the 2nd round.
In the 2006 Nationals Downing defeated the hard hitting Heather Heaps 13-5. Next she won over the US Army’s Khara Keegan. In the final she was in control from the beginning building an 8-0 lead after two rounds. She went on to win a 13-4 decision for her third straight national championship. “She is the best female boxer in the United States,” said Larry Nicholson. Nicholson was the assistant coach at Northern Michigan for 9 years and knows the Downing’s well.
In 2007 at the Nationals in Colorado Springs she defeated Johanna Mendez, of Houston, in the finals. Her two favorite boxers are “Sugar” Ray Robinson and “Sugar” Ray Leonard both being “fast thinkers”.
I sat down with Downing’s father the week before I interviewed her. We talked for hours. He actually had fought on my first promotion back in 1981 in Allentown. He overcame a heart attack and brain aneurysm in 2007 and knows the Lord still has things for him to do. “I thank the Lord for this opportunity in my life to continue working with my daughter. Sacred is living proof that it’s not where you start in life, it’s where you end up”, said Downing.
“I saw the pain my dad suffered when his fighters left him. “James Downing used to train amateurs at our gym. He is a great trainer,” said Marvis Frazier. I started out with Lamar Hicks as my coach who had won six New Jersey Golden Glove championships. I told him I was going to win six,” said Downing. He said “oh yeah?” “He used to get in the ring and beat me up. I get up at 4am to run three miles. There have been times I put my bed up against the door so my dad wouldn’t come in to wake me up to run,” said Downing. “My dad could teach mice how to beat up a cat. He knows how to market and promote a person. I know because he did this for me and it got people to know me,” she added. She knows as a female you will be up against older women. “I once beat a 33 year old when I was just 17,” said Downing. Downing’s first win was over Olivia Fonseca, who is now a professional.
“I got born again at the age of 20 listening to my pastor. I pray at night in the shower and ask God to pray over all my body parts“, said Downing. I asked her about some of her fun experiences in the ring. “When I was in a fight my head gear was knocked off. It was more embarrassing than anything else. When I was in the juniors and trying to make 106 my mom made banana pudding and cake. I got a big spoon and took two or three tastes. When I got on the scale that night I was 109. My dad made me go out and run,” said downing.
She expressed some other experiences in her career. “I once fought at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark and won, but gave my belt to my opponent. There was another time I beat a coach’s daughter and the next night asked my dad to have him help us in the corner and he was thrilled,” said Downing.
Downing’s dad said “my wife gets all the credit next to God for opening my eyes allowing Sacred to do this.” Downing had expressed to me in our first meeting four years ago his technique in teaching his daughter his method of fighting. He sounded like a genius. You certainly can’t fault success. His daughter’s record is 55-8. “I hope to have two Golden Glove champions someday. My son Kwanzi is only 19 and is my best kept secret,” said Downing. The Downing’s have two other daughters in Timetress, 28, Mis, 26, and another son James Michael, 31. We were being taped and I asked her brother to say something nice about his sister. She said “I have to get this down on my recorder if he’s going to say something nice.” He laughed and was very complimentary toward her.
Downing has received many awards outside of the ring. She has been honored with a certificate from the New Jersey Senate and General Assembly President Richard J. Cody. The New Jersey General Assemblyman Reed Gusciora did the same for her homecoming celebration in 2007. In 2004 Mayor Douglas Palmer of Trenton presented her with a certificate of recognition for outstanding service to the community. In 2005 the same Mayor awarded her the first City of Trenton Youth Ambassador Award. She also received a certificate from Senator Shirley Turner in 2004.
Downing will be a top prospect to win a medal at the 2012 Olympics in London. Staying focused is important since we are 3 years away from that competition. The international experience between now and then will only benefit her. She will be 25 or 26 when the Olympics come around and in a higher weight bracket. Her faith will play a big role in her success!