Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby inspired Uruguay’s Cecilia Comunales to take up boxing. And ‘La Reina’ went all the way to become a world champion.
This is her fascinating story.
Comunales grew up in Paysandú, located on the banks of the Uruguay River in the western part of the country, and at 16 years old she had no idea what boxing was until she entered the town’s cinema to watch Million Dollar Baby with a friend.
“There is a scene where she (Maggie Fitzgerald) enters the gym and is completely alone,” tells 32-year-old Comunales. “There are no others and she goes and starts hitting the heavy bag. It made her trainer realise that she wanted to train, whether he wanted to train her or not. Her coach would not train her, but she was stubborn and stood firm. I really like that scene because I can identify with her. There were many people who thought it could not be done, but I stood firm anyway.
“But that’s why I started. Because of that movie. It inspired me. When I left the cinema, I went out the next day to look for a gym. I wanted to do some combat sports, boxing, taekwondo, or something third, but I did not know if there was a training center for boxing in my city. I managed to find someone who taught boxing. The only person to do so in the whole city.”
Million Dollar Baby tells the story of 31-year-old Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), determined to make her mark in the world of boxing against all odds. It is not a movie with a happy ending as Maggie dies on her own terms
after a terrible accident in the ring left her paralysed from the neck below.
“My mother said to me, “How can you be inspired by a movie that ends so badly?” I told her. “Mom, the ending is just a movie. It does not worry me. It will not happen. It’s just a movie. ”
My mother said: I allow you to train, but you can just dare to show up with a black eye! ”
“So when I had gotten a black eye or a bulge for training, I put on makeup afterward so she wouldn’t notice it when I got home. I also told her that it’s just training, I’m not going to box fights. But already there, I thought that was exactly what I wanted. I wanted to fight. And later I managed to persuade her because I was a minor, so she had to sign a document that allowed me to box.
“When I started training, I also started dreaming of making a name for my country and being instrumental in spreading the knowledge of women’s boxing.
The training paid off, the dreams came true. In 2012, eight years after Million Dollar Baby, Comunales won the World Boxing Association World Female Lightweight Title in Panama after defeating Dominican Maribel Santana on a technical knockout in the first round.
Uruguay has its place in boxing history. Dogomar Martinez fought Archie Moore in the 1950s, Alfredo Evangelista was part of world title battles against legends Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes in the 70s. At the present time middleweight Amílcar Vidal, an unbeaten middleweight KO artist is headlining shows in the US. Cecilia Comunales were among the few women to carry the flag for women’s boxing in her country.
“The sport has just as quietly grown bigger,” says Comunales. “When I was boxing, something had just started to happen, and now I see that there are many female boxing champions, there are many training centers, also here in Uruguay, and women’s boxing is growing. Seen in that light, a WBSS women’s tournament is of great importance in spreading the knowledge of women boxing and making the sport grow. I hope there are even more of those tournaments coming up, but it’s a really good start.
“I’m excited about giving women the chance to box in such a tournament. It shows that women’s boxing continues to grow. Because there is great gender inequality, and such a tournament gives women boxing the opportunity to spread and even out some of the inequality.
“It is hard work for us to gain a foothold in boxing, and thanks to initiatives like this we can succeed. In fact, it was also women’s boxing that spread the sport here in Uruguay. It was not the men, it was the women who created renewed interest in the sport here. Many women feel like training because there are female role models.
“It was a sport that was considered to be exclusively for men, but no. We can actually figure it out, and we’re pretty good at it!”
The last four years of her career, Comunales lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina to be able to train at a higher level because of the lack of qualified sparring in Uruguay. In 2018 she hang up the gloves in as a multiple-time world champion (14-1, 9 KOs).
But boxing is still a big part of her life.
“I do miss it. Stepping into the ring and the boxing match itself, I miss that a lot, but I teach boxing and also train: not to fight, but I will always train. It’s my therapy, and it’s what I like to do most. So even though I do not train for combat, boxing is always a part of my everyday life.
Today, the way of life is different for the champ. Another passion, music, has paved the way for a living as a DJ.
“Boxing is unique,” she says. “Unique. One can draw a parallel to the fact that you are alone and responsible for entertaining a large audience and avoiding making mistakes and making sure the audience is entertained all the way. But boxing is unique, it can not be compared to anything. It’s amazing.”
Announcement on the Season III Women’s Super-Featherweight roster and schedule will be made in due course, in the meantime check the new WBSS webpage and social channels for updates.
How Muhammad Ali started boxing:
Almost every fighter is able to tell the moment they fell in love with the sport or the reason they laced up the gloves.
When WBSS virtual ambassador Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, was twelve years old, a thief stole his new red Schwinn bicycle. Clay, in tears, found a policeman to report the crime to and stated that he wanted to ‘whup’ the thief who stole his bike.
The policeman was Sergeant Joe Martin, who happened to train boxers. He encouraged Clay to learn how to fight before looking for retaliation. And the rest is history!
The World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) is a first-of-its-kind boxing tournament organised by WBSS AG since 2017. Each weight class features eight boxers competing in a knockout competition with the champion taking the Muhammad Ali Trophy, The Greatest Prize in Boxing.
Muhammad Ali Trophy winners:
Season I: Aleksandr Usyk (Cruiserweight), Callum Smith (Super-Middleweight)
Season II: Josh Taylor (Super-Lightweight), Naoya Inoue (Bantamweight), Mairis Briedis (Cruiserweight)