DETROIT - Walking into Kronk Gym on Warren Avenue in Detroit, you smell the sweat, you hear the punches, and you feel the energy.
All African-American males, as young as seven, working out or learning how to survive in the ring from the elders in the room. This is a man's world for sure. Women don't belong, or so it seems.
An hour later, two young African-American females walk in. They are wearing boxing shorts and tank tops with their arms exposed. They do not look like boxers, but believe it or not, they are ready for their turn in the ring.
With tight braids in their hair and smiles on their faces you would not guess these two to be boxers.
LaTonya King never even thought about throwing a punch, until one day her younger brother got jumped, and she needed to defend him. He was attacked by a group of bullies and she came to his rescue. With blood everywhere, LaTonya decided right then and there that she would never lose another fight and to this day she hasn't.
For the past 10 years, LaTonya has been honing her skills as a boxer. Training at the Kronk Gym four days a week, she has become a two-time world champion and nine-time national champion. She also works two jobs and attends Baker College where she is one year shy of earning her associates degree in accounting.
A 4.0 student, LaTonya somehow juggles it all and still finds time for workouts.
However, two and a half months ago, the stress of paying her rent, her car note, cell-phone bill, and everything else, took a toll. Her father, Mike Patterson, decided he needed to go out and find her a sponsor to alleviate some of the pressure so she could focus on boxing.
Mike and LaTonya walked into a local businessman's office and pleaded with him to help her out. The 10th Annual Ringside World Championships in Kansas City were approaching and she needed to find a way to travel and compete. LaTonya told Brian Elias, the owner of Hansons Windows, that she would win if he would become her sponsor. With that promise, Brian decided that he would help her out in every way he possibly could financially.
For the first time in her career, LaTonya would have a sponsor. Brian agreed to pay her rent, her car note, and everything else that she could not afford, just so she could focus on her training. LaTonya said, "It's a big stress relief. It takes a lot of pressure and stress off of me."
Brian's gift to LaTonya is one that will keep on giving.
He hopes to see a return on his investment when LaTonya competes in the 2012 Olympics in London in women's boxing.
In order to qualify, LaTonya must win at least one major tournament and then perform well at the U.S. Olympic trials.
"I'm training so hard, I've got to win,? she said. ?I've got God on my side.?
LaTonya sees progress and knows she has the tools to make it to the Olympics. Now, she's got the financial freedom to continue to work hard and watch her dedication in the gym pay off.
Her younger sister, Monayah Patterson, is following in her footsteps. Last year, she won her first world title with two knockouts. At the age of 15, she is not intimidated at all by the men around her.
"I'm not afraid to fight with the guys. We both know the same game. I make them work the way I want them to," she said.
Monayah will also be flying to Kansas City next week, along with LaTonya and their parents, to compete in the world championships, with Brian picking up the tab. If they both earn championships, they will become the first sisters to win at the world championship level of female boxing.
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