Ashley Olson probably would be the first to admit that she hasn’t always understood the importance of balance.
When the 22-year-old arrived at the Jon Russell Boxing Club 6 months ago, she was looking for a workout to help shed pounds left over from her pregnancy from a year earlier.
In the ring, the importance of balance is clear. It’s something that club trainer, Al Silva, instills in each pupil who steps between the ropes.
For Silva, it doesn’t matter how well his boxers step and counter, if their world away from the club is full of trips and shots on the chin.
So, yes, Olson descended the steps to the dungeon below the Rock Falls American Legion and found the workout she needed to lose weight.
What she got as an added bonus was balance.
“When she talks about the mental side away from the ring, it has more to do with taking care of her life,” Silva said. “That’s something I emphasize here. You have to get things in order in your life so that when you come here, you can focus on the training.”
Olson, whose daughter, Mayleiya, turned 2 on Friday, graduated from Rock Falls High School in 2010. After graduation, she went to Sauk Valley Community College and started into the nursing program.
Having a child derailed her schooling temporarily, although she says someday she’ll likely finish her degree.
Right now, she is a bartender at Angelo’s II in Sterling, and focusing the rest of her time on her daughter and her boxing career.
“The training for this is not like anything else,” Olson said. “I ran sprints for basketball in high school, and ran miles for track, but that’s not like this.
“The big thing is the mental side. When I came here, I wasn’t in the best spot. I had a baby, and I was getting out of an abusive relationship. Doing this relieves so much stress and, at the same time, has taught me to focus more.”
She’s started on a path toward becoming a professional boxer by competing in a series of amateur bouts, and is coming off two big wins.
The latest came at Round Lake Beach last Saturday. Before that, she defeated Kim Carlson from the prestigious Windy City Club, which organizes the Golden Gloves tournaments.
“From the moment she arrived here, I could tell that she was different,” Silva said. “She had the drive and the focus. I could just tell right away that she had what it takes to be very good.”
Silva has not put a timetable on Olson’s career, preferring to let it progress naturally.
Olson attributes her success to Silva and the other boxers in the club, including Bronson Russell, a 16-year old who had a match in the Golden Gloves last month.
“The guys down here in the club have really been a big help,” Olson said. “In fact, if it weren’t for Bronson Russell, I would have really struggled in my last match. He’s left-handed, and so was my last opponent. If I hadn’t been able to work with him, I would never have been ready for a left-handed boxer, because I had never boxed against one before.”
Her next fight is Saturday night, when the Jon Russell Club hosts an event at the Latin American Social Club in Sterling.
She’ll be facing Tia Robin from a club in the Quad Cities.
“All I know about her is that she is really aggressive,” Olson said. “It will be a good test.”