Her punches are so good the 22-year-old doctoral student in physical therapy at the University of Rhode Island is considered the best female boxer in her 141-pound weight class in New England – and one of the best in the country.
She’ll compete in the U.S. Boxing Championships in Spokane, Wash., from Jan. 18 through 25, and if she wins she could be on her way to the Olympic trials.
“Boxing is a great sport,” says Chearino, who lives in Warwick. “It’s not about standing in a square punching each other. There’s so much more to it.”
Sure, boxing is an aggressive sport, but it also requires superb athleticism. For one, boxers have to have strong legs, she says.“That’s where all the power comes from.” They need to be lightning-quick on their feet, and they need to be both marathon runner and sprinter. Finally, they have to be dedicated. “They have to want it.”
Women’s boxing is on the rise, thanks in part to the London 2012 Olympics, the first to include women’s boxing as an official sport. Chearino is proud to be on the forefront of any changes in the sport. “We can do all the things that men can do,” she says.
Raised in Warwick by her father, Steve, a single parent, Chearino says she knew early on that she wanted to play sports. Girls’ softball didn’t appeal to her, so her dad suggested she take karate. She loved it. She got her black belt when she was only 11 years old and her talent took her to tournaments as far away as Italy.
But she longed for competitions that lasted longer and had full physical contact. One day, she walked into a gym by her house and picked up a pair of boxing gloves. Karate soon gave way to boxing. In no time, she was competing in regional contests – and winning. “I liked the culture of boxing,” she says. “It gave me a lot of confidence, in and out of the gym.”
Her first big match was in 2009 when she won the New England Golden Gloves competition in Brockton, Mass., in a building so cold she was shivering in her boxing shoes. “I was nervous,” she says, “but it was really fun. I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
She hung up her gloves after graduating from high school so she could focus entirely on her studies at URI. In December 2012, she graduated with a degree in kinesiology. One look in the mirror sent her back to the gym.
“I was chubby,” she says. “I had no intention of fighting again. I was not in fighting shape. But after a day or so, the owner was like, ‘Why don’t you jump in the ring with me?’ He made me fall in love with boxing all over again.”
That owner, Brian Pennacchia, a former boxer and owner of BP Boxing, would go on to become her trainer. He quickly recognized something special in the 5-foot-7-inch dynamo.
“She works harder than most of the guys I’ve trained,” Pennacchia says. “She has that fighting spirit. She’s not afraid to go after it. A lot of people get intimidated by the moment and don’t do their best in the ring because they’re almost afraid. She goes after what she wants. She’s a natural fighter.”
In 2012, Chearino won the New England Open Championships and had a few more fights in the region before winning the New England Golden Gloves in Lowell, Mass., in February 2013. Chearino pulled an upset, beating Liz Leddy, of Portland, Maine. “It was awesome,” she says. “It was definitely a big win for me.”
Two weeks ago, she won the New England Open Championships again, this time held in Southbridge, Mass. She also won the Outstanding Boxer award in that tournament.
Chearino’s next stop is the competition in Spokane. To prepare, she’s running in the morning and working out at night. Her regimen includes pushups, pulls ups, jumping rope, and step exercises, as well as practice punching with a combination of jabs, straight punches, uppercuts, and, of course, those mean right hooks. Her diet changes, too: veggies; protein-packed foods like tuna and eggs; and “tons of water.”
“That match is a really big deal,” she says. “It would be awesome to win because I’d get my name out there.”
Her professors at URI are rooting for her and providing support so she can box and keep up with her studies. As a soon-to-be physical therapist, Chearino is familiar with the dangers of concussions and head injuries, but so far she hasn’t even had a headache from boxing.
She wears a helmet – pink.
Photo above: Destiny Chearino is beaming after she wins the New England Golden Gloves competition in February 2013. Chearino lives in Warwick and is studying for her doctorate in physical therapy from the University of Rhode Island.
Photo above: Destiny Chearino, a University of Rhode Island graduate student and one of the best female boxers in her 141-pound weight class the country.
Photos courtesy of Destiny Chearino.