Everything Happens for a Reason

June 26, 2009, 12:45 p.m. (ET)

Everything happens for a reason; Joan Martinez was named after Joan of Arc. Her mother must have understood this much: her daughter would be a strong, independent leader, who would fight many battles and stand up for what she believes in.

Joan, whose father and stepfather left before she was even born, was raised by her mother-a Manic Depressive Bipolar-Alcoholic, was just that, strong.

At the age of 13, she left her grandmother's house to avoid foster care.

At age 17, her grandmother passed away and right before she was about to turn 18, loss hit her hard again as she found her mother, had already died two weeks earlier.

Right before she was about to turn 21, life dealt her another blow, her beloved brother committed suicide at age 36.

Life seemed to keep knocking her down, but being the fighter she is, she kept getting back up.

In 1995, the same year women were allowed to box, Joan went on to become Ms. Martinez, a public school teacher looking to give back.  She saw her first fight at Madison Square Garden and was hooked.     

Joan picked up the gloves initially only hoping to help coach along-side former world champion Larry Alexander known as "Beef." She asked to be trained by him. However, Joan found herself wanting to compete instead. One of her students called her "Lil Beef" because she was only 5 foot 5 inches tall and 119 pounds.     

She joined the Fort Apache Youth center in 1999, the Bed Stuyvesant Boxing Gym in 2000, moving to Gleason's Gym, the PAL in 2001, and then making it onto the Printing House Boxing Team with coach Ray Velez.

All her adversity forged in her the ability to survive life and find the strength to climb into the ring battling all her inner demons.       

Boxing Credits include:

  • 2000 Gleason's White Collar Sparing Show
  • 2000 Sports foundation Boxing Tournament 1st Place
  • 2000 NYC Golden Gloves, 119lbs Bronze Semi-Finalist
  • 2000 Featured in a Working Woman magazine article highlighting woman boxers on the front lines
  • 2001 NJ Golden Gloves Show, 119lbs versus Wendy Lamotta
  • 2001 NYC Golden Gloves, 119lbs Silver Gloves
  • 2003 Woman's U.S. National Championships, Fl 119lbs
  • 2004 NYC Empire State Games, 119lbs Silver
  • 2004 Woman's U.S. National Championships, WA 114lbs Ranked 8Th
  • 2005 NYC Golden Gloves, 119lbs Quarter Finals
  • 2005 NY Golden Gloves, 114lbs Silver Gloves
  • 2005 Ringside World Championships, KS Semi-Finalist
  • 2006 Achieved USA Boxing Metro Coach's Certification
  • 2008 Featured in Metro-Sports in an article on Woman Warriors

At age 35, she was forced to retire from boxing in the amateurs, but went on to compete in many other sports: running, swimming, and biking.

In 2005, at age 36, with the help of her running coach Shelly Glover; she ran the 36Th running of the NYC Marathon in honor of her brother who she lost when he was 36.

"Many of my boxing friends supported me along the route with one running with me and at the finish one of my former opponents even congratulated me.  It was very poignant for me, because of all love I felt from my boxing family as I came to forgive myself for outliving my brother, letting go of all of the survivor's guilt. He chose to give up on life and I wanted to fight to keep on living."

Joan competed in swimming, billiards and also ran the full marathon winning the silver in her age group beating her time form the NYC Marathon at the Gay Games.   

She still teaches and wants to continue to be a role model for her students.