KINGSTON, R.I. – Jan. 29, 2014 – Move over, Rocky.
Destiny Chearino, a 22-year-old doctoral student in physical therapy at the University of Rhode Island, is in the national spotlight after winning gold in the USA National Boxing Championships last week in Spokane, Wash.
Her victory catapults her into the worldwide boxing arena. In the 141-pound light welterweight division, Chearino beat defending champion Bertha Aracil, of Yonkers, N.Y., Jan. 22 and Jasmine Singh, of Anaheim, Calif., by a 3-0 margin to take the gold Jan. 25. Chearino also won two other matches earlier that week.
Her wins give her a spot on Team USA for 2014, allowing her to compete internationally against some of the best female boxers in the world. If she continues her victorious run, she could qualify for trials for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.
“I’m overwhelmed by the entire experience,” said Chearino, who returned home Sunday night, exhausted. “It really hasn’t hit me yet. I’m excited and looking forward to what comes next. We’ll see where boxing takes me.”
Was she surprised by her gold medal victory? “I wouldn’t say surprised because I worked so hard. But I’m still in shock. I still can’t believe it.”
Her life story reads like a script from a Hollywood movie about a spunky kid with big dreams raised by a single dad who told her she could do anything if she set her mind to it.
Growing up in Warwick, a middle class community outside Providence, Chearino took to sports at an early age. She got her black belt in karate when she was only 11, and her talent took her to tournaments all over the world.
But she wanted a sport with more physical contact. One day, she walked into BP Gym on West Shore Road, not far from her house. In no time, boxing gloves were dangling off a hook in her locker.
Her first big match was the New England Golden Gloves competition in 2009 in Brockton, Mass. She won and knew she wanted more of this fast-growing sport among women.
“What I liked the most about boxing, versus karate, is that you had rounds so you could go back to your corner and make adjustments,” she said. “It required focus and strategy.”
During her four years at URI, she took a break from boxing to concentrate on her studies. After graduating summa cum laude in 2012 with a degree in kinesiology, she returned to the gym and found a coach, Brian Pennacchia.
The awards piled up: the New England Open Championships in 2012 and 2013; the New England Golden Gloves in 2013; and Outstanding Boxer award in 2013.
To get in shape for Spokane, she worked out twice a day, sometimes three. She ran three miles daily, and sparred a few times a week. She also watched her diet, eating vegetables and protein-packed food like eggs, tuna, and chicken. “It wasn’t fun,” she said. “But worth it.”
The wins at the national championship are by far her biggest victories. Beating Aracil, the defending champ, was a personal best. “We had a history and mutual respect for each other, having fought two times before, where I came up short,” she said.
“Being able to overcome that loss, made the win in Spokane really rewarding.”
James Agostinucci, a professor of physical therapy at URI who has known Chearino for more than a year, said he’s dazzled by her accomplishments in and out of the boxing ring.
“It’s just awesome,” he said. “I’m so proud of her. She’s done this while going to school full-time at the Physical Therapy Department. She’s so modest. She’s number one in the 141-pound class in the U.S. This is the big time. The biggest quote I can give you is, Wow.”
Coach Pennachia is thrilled too. “I am over-the-moon ecstatic,” he said. “She did a great job. She went out there – with the odds against her – and beat the top women in the country. I couldn’t be prouder of her.”
For details about the Spokane bouts and a post-match photo of a beaming Chearino with her coach, visit Chearino.
Pictured above: On right with arms raised, Destiny Chearino, of Warwick, takes gold in the women’s light welterweight division in the 2014 USA Boxing National Championships in Spokane, Wash. Her opponent is Jasmine Singh, of Anaheim, Calif. Photo courtesy of Destiny Chearino.