In San Francisco, the city that never sleeps, there is an athlete who is up almost as much as the city itself. Raquel Miller is awake for one reason and one reason only – winning Olympic Gold!
In 2009 during a meeting in Berlin, Germany – the International Olympic Committee decided to include WOMEN’S BOXING in the 2012 Games to be held in London, England. This decision set the long time street fighter turned boxer into a whirl of possibilities.
Raquel Miller, born February 15, 1985, had her first fight in Kindergarten after a male classmate told his sister that she “was messing with him.” The sister, a second-grader at the same school, walked over and slapped Raquel in her face – humiliating her spirits. This humiliation caused her to confide in her siblings, but their response was anything but what she would have thought.
Raquel recounts the story as if happened yesterday, “I had older siblings that went to school with me, but they were not with me because I was in Kindergarten and they were in the older grades. And so, I got home and I was crying and they asked me “What are you crying for?” I was like, “This girl slapped me at school and she was in the second grade.” They started telling me, while beginning to beat me up and pushing me around on the ground – “You better beat her up or we are going to beat you up.”
Her siblings’ advice launched Raquel into a “wind mill styled” fight that could only be separated by a school teacher named Ms. Jordan. Raquel reflects, “She walked up to me and all I could think of was ‘windmill!’ So we were wind milling back and forth, but I was getting the better of the exchange. Then the teacher, Ms. Jordan (I’ll never forget her), got in between us and the girl was on one side and I was on the other with Ms. Jordan having her legs spreading us apart. The girl kicked me in between Ms. Jordan’s legs and I kicked her back really hard. She bent over and grabbed her knee. That was the last time that girl ever messed with me.”
Although Raquel wouldn’t ever have a rubber match with her second grade opponent, she learned a valuable lesson – fighting was a form of protection.
Raquel’s life took a historic turn at the death of her grandmother – Thelma White. Thelma was a devoted Christian who ensured her granddaughter would understand the ways of God. However, Thelma had become affiliated with charismatic leader James Warren Jones; better known as Jim Jones, Cult Leader of the infamous People’s Temple.
Thelma was one of the many travelers with Jones to Jonestown, Guyana but had refused to drink the cyanide-laced grape flavored Flavor-Aid along with a sedative. “My grandmother was murdered. She did not want to drink so she ran and they shot her in her back,” stated Raquel. “My grandmother had passed away and she was a very big source of protection and financial protection for us.”
Further reflecting, Raquel stated, “When she died it was like life got really really tough for us. I was hurting so much inside and I did not have an avenue to learn how to keep from being vulnerable. Beforehand, I would be like “Why do you guys want to fight me” then after she passed away it was like “You know what, I am hurting so much inside, I don’t care.” I was like “You want to fight me, no problem, I don’t care – I’ll fight you.” But it really wasn’t like I was fighting them – I was fighting because I was hurting inside and I didn’t have another way of expressing myself. So, I was tired of people being confused – because by nature I’m nice and I like to smile and I’m happy and I have always been a happy person. A lot of time girls would look at me as being scared. I’ve never been a bully, but I have always been the type of person that was rough and tough, could fight the boys and climb fences.”
Raquel would go on to have over 20 street fights and when asked – Would your mother be shocked to know you have had so many street fights – she stated, “No, she knows. If you ask her she will go into detail. She remembers vividly a lot of my fights and so, honestly, she used to pray a lot. She would say, “Raquel, you know, these girls are not going to keep on fighting. You are going to get hurt one day if you don’t stop because not many people are going to keep being beat up before they hurt you. And so, she was really really in fear for me and she would pray a lot about it and beg me to please stop.”
When Raquel Miller turned 18 years old she began the process of morphing from a street fighter to a boxer, but it wasn’t until she was 21 years old that took boxing serious. She recalls, “I was 21 years old when I first got serious and started training religiously. I changed the way I was eating and became very serious about it. I went from eating fast food and junk food to eating 6 meals small portioned meals per day. The last meal I will have is about 6pm. I went from junk food to a lot of granola, fruit, vegetables, baked chicken – no fried foods, I cut out a lot of the carbs and just really, overall, transformed the way I was eating into the healthy eating.”
When asked ‘Who is your greatest inspiration in boxing’ Raquel was quick to respond “I have a few. One of my favorites is Sugar Ray Robinson – I love Sugar Ray Robinson, he is my favorite boxer of all time. I really love what Muhammad Ali stood for and I love the fact that he stood up to be whatever he wanted to be and it gives me inspiration to do whatever I want to do. I really like Rocky Marciano because he was a warrior. And, I like Floyd Mayweather because he is a very very technical and defensive fighter who is very smooth and slick – I like that a lot.”
NEXT: PART II: THE BOXER