Wolf, a self-described “lifelong athlete,” is an Olympic hopeful for the first-ever female Olympic boxing event. Three years ago, however, she had never even been inside a boxing ring.
“I had never seen a boxing glove before three years ago,” said the 27-year-old Pacific Beach resident who often works out at the Wavehouse. “But I’m up for any challenge when it comes to sports. I’ll try anything.”
Four years ago, Wolf came to California by way of a small town in Pennsylvania. She was constantly running, biking or swimming and her physique prompted more than one person to ask if she was a fighter. It surprised her because she had never considered boxing, but it also planted a seed. She decided it was a sport worth checking out.
After she began taking boxing classes and coaching herself at local gyms, more people started taking notice. One boxing promoter asked her to meet him at a gym to show him her skills.
“He asked me to throw a jab,” she said. “I didn’t even know what a jab was. But he showed me a few moves, and I just felt comfortable with them. It felt natural.”
One day, someone at a gym asked her if she would like to teach some of the classes she had been taking, and asked her how long she had been boxing.
“About three weeks,” she said.
Wolf continued to make progress and considered the possibility that she might have a future as a pro boxer, but it wasn’t until August 2009 that she actually had a tangible goal. It was then that the International Olympic Committee announced women’s boxing would be added to the roster of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Previously, boxing had been the only summer sport in the Olympics without a female component.
“I always wanted to be in the Olympics, ever since I was a little girl,” Wolf said. “When I was in first grade, my teacher asked us what we wanted to do when we grew up. I said I wanted to be in the Olympics.”
Though some scoffed at the lofty ambitions of the girl who had first donned a boxing glove less than a year before, Wolf’s talent and drive finally brought her to the attention of some highly connected people in the boxing world. She eventually landed herself two respected coaches, Chris Lerma and his father, Manny Lerma. Training for about six hours every day, they have helped her develop the skill to accompany her natural strength.
Wolf’s motivation and commitment to reaching her goal were already in place. What she was missing was experience. Getting in the ring, however, proved to be harder than she had anticipated.
“I was lining up all these fights, and over the phone they would agree to fight me,” she said. “But when I would show up and they would see my arms and my build, they kept backing out.”
Wolf’s reputation as a six-foot powerhouse eventually started preceding her. The three fights she had fought and won (two by knockouts) only worked against her in her efforts to secure more matches. Her name started spreading in the San Diego boxing circuit, and coaches wouldn’t even entertain the idea of letting their boxers fight her.
Wolf and her coaches started calling gyms in Los Angeles, where her name had not yet circulated. She finally scheduled a fight, and on
May 5, won her fourth fight by flash knockout in the second round.
Part of Wolf’s strategy now is to appear as “girly” as possible. At her recent match, she introduced herself to her opponent in full makeup — with her arms covered. It’s not just a tactic, however. Wolf genuinely has a softer side, one that enjoys art and fashion. When she’s not training, she can usually be found creating art in some form, be it painting, sculpting, printmaking or lithography. It’s something that she says she considers a form of meditation.
“I can’t just be a jock all the time,” she said. “I need art to bring substance to my life. I definitely have two sides, and art balances me.”
Part of what makes it so difficult for women boxers to succeed, Wolf said, has to do with sheer numbers. Because there are fewer women boxers than men, women have to go to each other if they want experience fighting. For Wolf, that means paying the travel expenses for herself and her coaches — not an easy task for someone who trains so much that she doesn’t have time for a full-time job.
On May 21, Wolf will show her artwork at a fundraiser at Colosseum Fine Arts, 7946 Ivanhoe Ave. in La Jolla. A portion of all the proceeds from art sold at the event will go to help fund her journey to the four Olympic trial tournaments this year that will hopefully put her on Team USA.
The first Olympic trial is scheduled for June 19 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“When I met Danyelle, I saw this girl who was attractive, talented and had big dreams,” said Colosseum director Richard Sertucha. “She was doing it all on her own. When we opened this gallery, we wanted to impact people’s lives and do good things for the community, and this is one of those opportunities to help someone reach their goals.”
For Wolf, achieving her goals is a way to leave her mark on boxing.
“What I want to bring to the sport is that you don’t have to be a brute to be a boxer,” Wolf said. “You can be graceful and classy. I’m not fighting because I like to beat girls up, but because the sport intrigues me. I want to represent the U.S. the right way.”
For more information on Wolf, visit www.thehungryboxer.com.