Bright blue eyes, mischievous smile and a right hook that can shatter jawbones. Boxer Renáta Dömsödi will be 40 soon, however while other professional athletes are already retiring at this age, she is just reaching the peak of her career.
Dömsödi delivered her best performance so far on November 1 last year, fighting Eva “Golden Baby“ Voraberger in Vienna. The Hungarian sent her 15-years-younger opponent to the floor numerous times, demolishing her jaw in a dominant performance. Still the referees gave victory to Voraberger, earning the loud disapproval of the Austrian audience. Dömsödi did not win the world championship title. Two months later her bruises have healed and everything is back to normal. But what does normal mean for a professional boxer in Hungary?
“I began boxing relatively late,” she considers. After spending ten years in the USA she returned to Budapest due to homesickness. “I had friends and acquaintances in the USA of course, I worked and I was living my life. However, in a country where you do not speak your mother tongue you will always be a foreigner, no matter how long you have been living there.”
Back in the Hungarian capital Dömsödi was working as a bartender. The irregular working hours and eating while standing were quickly starting to show: there were more and more extra kilos, the hips became rounder and rounder. “I did not want that and I decided to do something.”
Luckily her colleagues were flexible and she could change shifts to fit in five training units per week. “Sometimes a colleague stood in for me and I could leave for my training, or I went to work straight from my workout. All of this worked out pretty well but I simply was not able to squeeze in more than five trainings in a week.”
However, at some point the five sessions were not enough any more. “Although I was making quite good money as a bartender I had to consider changing my job if I wanted to achieve something in sports,” Dömsödi remembers.
Often after coming home from a night shift she did not go to bed but rather put on her gear and went for a run. Today the boxer works as a trainer and translator, because a professional athlete in Hungary often cannot manage a job with fixed working hours. “Unfortunately only the fewest athletes may live for their passion, almost everyone has to work besides the sport.”
It means not only giving high performance in sports but also carrying out an almost superhuman time management routine. For Dömsödi it’s very helpful that she is working as a coach: “A one-on-one training needs almost more mental and physical effort as your own training session.”
During punching training and sparring she has not only to improve and analyse the coordination of her students but also participate. During a strength training session “shared pain halves the pain”, so she joins her students in lifting weights and doing pull-ups and crunches.
Struggling to get the last bit of strength out of her arms, Dömsödi slips in some witty remarks but goes right to the limit. She demands the same determination from her students, making her not just a good coach but a dangerous boxer. “Actually I am always fighting myself in the ring,” she says. “I don’t analyse my opponent before the fight; I box however I box. I often only get the invitation a few weeks before the fight. How could I prepare in such a short time to fight only a specific opponent and possibly also adapt my style to her?”
Because Dömsödi fights alone – in the truest sense of the word. While other boxers are surrounded with an army of coaches and helpers, she puts her training plan and diet together alone and she prepares for fights alone. “If I want to improve my strike technique I have to book a single training session with a coach and pay for it,” she explains with a shrug.
She does not concern herself about whether being a female boxer is controversial, preferring not to let prejudices and obstacles get in her way.
“The main reason why I sometimes get the invitation so late for a fight is that they are not looking for a good, balanced bout. We Hungarians often only serve as cannon fodder. Many people think it’s easy to beat a Hungarian because the boxing is not so professional here as for example in Germany, where boxers are employed as full-time athletes.
“In our country most people work on the side to earn some money while playing the sport. In the eyes of many opponents you begin from a five steps lower level just because you are Hungarian.”
Still, she manages to fight these prejudices mentally and physically. Dömsödi proves in the gym every day that she is not to be underestimated and you can ask her former opponents. Voraberger said: “I value Renáta as an athlete very much. The fight itself was very nice, that’s clear to me. It was a super fight!”
Although Dömsödi was not able to bring the world championship belt to Hungary, she is not sour: “The fight itself was very good. It’s unbelievably great when you are boxing in a way that you enjoy it.”
She is recovering from injured ribs after a car accident and expects to be ready for a fight in France in April. “Apart from this small incident I will give my best and I will do everything for winning. I will have my chances, as always.”
Her willpower to win can be even more dangerous than her right hook.
Private lessons or group trainings can be booked at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nickname: The Fanatic
Weight class: Bantam
Professional fights: 18, out of which 12 won
Title: Hungarian female champion, UBO+WIBF Inter Continental Champion
Marketing manager: Anja Gantner