While Concha Ross was attending Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Ore. she learned about the school's boxing club. Ross considered joining the club but she was already a member of the school's track and field team and the coach told her that boxing was off limits.
"But boxing intrigued me," Ross said.
A few years later Ross moved to Bemidji and learned about the Leech Lake Boxing Club headed by Henry Harper. Ross took her boxing baby steps at Leech Lake and eventually continued her training at Masheeka in Bemidji where she met Keenan Goodfellow. When that facility closed she and Goodfellow found a small facility in downtown Bemidji that suited her training needs.
Ross' journey has taken her within the squared-circle with one amateur and one professional fight in the women's heavyweight division. She lost both by split, and controversial, decisions but is eager to return to the ring and continue her boxing career.
This summer, however, she sustained a knee injury which included a slight tear of the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and the loss of some cartilage. Training is helping to repair the ligament damage but nothing will replace the cartilage.
"After my knee injury the doctor asked me just how much I loved boxing," Ross said. "I told him that I didn't want to quit."
That determination has led to physical therapy sessions designed to strengthen the muscles around the knee with the hope that they will compensate for the loss of the cartilage.
By November Ross hopes that the knee will be sufficiently sound to allow her to return to the ring. A promoter in Duluth is expected to stage a bout in November and Ross, who plans become a middleweight because more women compete in that division, wants to be on the card.
"Through boxing I've learned discipline. I've learned that you can't run from your problems," Ross, who was a product of a broken home, said. "When I first started boxing the training sessions were an outlet. I was an angry kid and I needed a release.
"Now I come to the gym focused. Instead of hitting the bag just for the sake of hitting it there is a purpose."
In addition to a new mental approach, Ross' training has led to a physical transformation.
"I have gone from 243 pounds to 176 and from a size 24 to a 14," Ross, who has developed a career as a personal trainer, said. "I understand the emotional, physical and mental struggle when losing weight and I want to be a role model. I want to show anybody that there is hope out there."
Goodfellow knows that Ross will achieve her goals because of her work ethic.
"Concha is the type of person any coach in any sport would love to work with," he said. "As far as training for boxing we concentrate on the full body, the bio-metric and the explosion. We are working toward building her core.
"I can help get Concha into the proper condition to box but she is the one who does all the hard work," Goodfellow continued. "There is no slack time. It's exciting tagging along as she follows her dream."
In her lone professional bout Ross lost a split decision to Bridget Tenbears of North Dakota who had more than 10 pro fights and nine amateur bouts on her resume.
"People told me I would get massacred but I still thought I would knock her out in the first round," Ross said. "But neither of those things happened.
"Boxing has humbled me and I have learned that the sport is more mental the physical."
Ross brings that message into her personal fitness training sessions.
"I would like to be an inspiration to others, especially to my three daughters Nikowa, Elizabeth and Kendra," she said. "When you come from a poor family people have expectations that you won't amount to anything. People have also said that at 31 years of age I'm passed my prime.
"But I want to show them that if you have the proper work ethic it's never too late and that anybody can be successful."