Jennifer Santiago with Bob, the punching dummy, at the Printing House gym
Golden Gloves champ is a knockout boxing trainer
By Judith Stiles
The warm and friendly Jennifer Santiago has the demeanor of a kindly doctor, certainly not of a fighter, who at the tender age of 12 was nicknamed Killer and was known for a right hook that knocked boys out cold in New York Citys amateur youth boxing circuit. With a charming and most mischievous smile she reminisces, You know at that age you were automatically disqualified for a knockout. The boys were really scared of me.
Now, at age 24, this petite 5-foot-2 powerhouse is undefeated in Chuck Norriss World Combat League, where she has chalked up 18 bantamweight wins against women, including a remarkable 19-second knockout. Her laurels also include earning first place in the prestigious 2003 and 2004 Golden Gloves Championship. Stars such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Hector Macho Camacho captured Golden Gloves titles in this oldest and largest amateur boxing tournament, which was founded in 1927 but didnt accept women for competition until 1995.
In 2003 I faced Stella Nijhof, the 30-year-old defending Golden Gloves champion, when I was very young, Santiago recalls with a big smile. I remember being very confident. I took it easy, and I didnt make a big deal out of it before I went into the ring. She remembers zeroing in on how lefty Nijhofs jab lagged. Her strategy was to counteract the slow jab, stay focused and concentrate on just winning and not getting hurt. She just won.
Today Santiago is a much-sought-after boxing instructor at the spacious and sunny Printing House gym at 421 Hudson St. in Greenwich Village.
Everyone wants to train with Jenny because she is a true professional with an upbeat personality and a lot of passion for what she does, says Ralph Anastasio, general manager of the Printing House Club. Santiago trains wide-eyed beginners and seasoned smart alecks who sometimes show up for the first session with an attitude when they see a woman trainer.
With a guy like that, I simply whip him in practice, and then he will respect me because he discovers I am an expert at what I do, she adds.
Looking forward, Santiago is training herself and preparing for next summers World Combat League tour as well as an appearance on a new reality show called Million Dollar Lady. Her regimen includes running 2 to 3 miles twice a week, jumping rope, doing pushups, sit-ups, power stepping, general conditioning, bag work and sparring. During training, she is not a fanatic about her diet, although she eliminates coffee and sticks to salad, fresh fruit, brown rice, chicken and fish. Santiago admits her secret weapon is a savory cup of chai tea from Out of The Kitchen, a favorite neighborhood eatery.
It has been said that behind every great man is a woman. Well, behind this great woman boxer is a man, her dad, Hector Santiago, who wholeheartedly encouraged her to pursue her love of mastering martial arts and boxing, ever since she was 4 years old. These days, Santiago Sr. joins his daughter, not for chai tea, but for vigorous workouts at the Printing House, and perhaps a few practice jabs on Bob, the rubber target dummy.
I learned so very much from my father, who used to box himself, says Santiago. The advice he gave me that I pass along to young boxers starting out is: be disciplined, be determined, be consistent, but most of all be patient. Dont expect everything to happen all at once, right here and right now. Be patient, she says with a little wink, standing next to the omnipresent Bob, and just loud enough so the new boxers can hear this golden gloves advice.