Out of the Past – Elizabeth Quevedo Parr. Among the Best Ever. Part 1
By David A. Avila
Perhaps the best female fighter I’ve ever seen was a tall, brunette super lightweight from Southern California named Elizabeth Quevedo Parr.
Not many people saw her fight.
“I’m not exactly super friendly. I never went out of my way to be friends with people,” said Quevedo Parr whose birth name is Elizabeth Quevedo. Her husband is Yas Parr a highly recognized strength and conditioning coach.
Back in the early 2000s Elizabeth Quevedo was a brick in a glass house and dominated whatever weight she fought. She was the best female fighter in the world according to more than one person who saw her in action.
“She was a beast,” said Franchon Crews-Dezurn the current WBO super middleweight world champion and a longtime friend of Quevedo.
Crews and Quevedo fought on the same USA international team that competed in the amateur world championships in Russia. Both still recall their battles together overseas and for Quevedo it remains one of her favorite moments.
Boxing was discovered by Quevedo when she was 14 and looking for a sport to keep her busy in her hometown South Gate, a small suburban city southeast of downtown Los Angeles.
“I always was into sports but I was into dancing. I wanted to do gymnastics but I would have to go late and my dad didn’t want me to walk home late at night alone. I wanted to do contact sports like karate, kickboxing, wrestling or boxing and he loved boxing so the choice was made,” said Quevedo.
Choosing a gym close to their home was between Azteca Gym or Commerce Boxing Club in 1999.
“My dad used to play handball at East L.A. Park in Commerce now called Bristow Park and he put me there. He originally was going to put me in Azteca Gym but he decided to put me in Commerce because he didn’t have to drive extra,” Quevedo said.
Little did they know the tiny gym that housed Commerce Boxing was becoming a boxing powerhouse in the amateur world. A number of future Olympians would emerge from that gym that was the size of a couple of Buicks side by side.
“I loved it immediately,” said Quevedo. “It was really a good place to be if you were aggressive and it kept me there all the time.”
House of Olympians
The first to become an Olympian was Francisco “Panchito” Bojado and he was followed by the twin brothers Javier and Oscar Molina. Almost everyone in that gym would win a national title at some time or another under the supervision of Alfonso Marquez who passed away last year.
“On my first day at Commerce it was probably me trying to show I was tough. Alfonso Marquez kind of just taught me a little how to throw a jab and jump rope. And he put me on the bag and I was hitting the bag for 10 rounds as hard as I could and I was exhausted. I remember Lilly Magana was there. I don’t remember if she had started the month previously. It was me and her. Honestly I don’t remember but I’m pretty sure Carlos Molina and the twins were there. They were already there for sure and I think Panchito was out fighting in some tournaments so I didn’t see him for quite some time.”
In a short matter of time Quevedo took part in her first amateur show.
“It was a mess. I fought in South El Monte and we fought outside on a Friday night. I fought a girl a lot heavier than me. We put coins in my pocked to make me only four and a half pounds off. But I think she was 10 pounds heavier than me,” said Quevedo. “I didn’t know what to expect. I was used to dancing in front of people but I didn’t understand I was supposed to be afraid. But I think it was a mess I think it was her second fight and my first. We fell all over the place and probably looked like windmills.”
Quevedo was hooked.
When she first arrived her team mate Panchito Bojado had qualified for the Olympics for Mexico. It caused a sensation all over Southern California that a youngster from East L.A. and this tiny gym in Commerce, California had made the Olympics.
“It was unreal. It was hard to wrap your mind around it. This kid not much older than me was going to the Olympics. He was obviously real good and it made my goals very real,” said Quevedo. “People were throwing money at him. I was, I can do that. I can do that.”
Suddenly the Olympics became Quevedo’s goal though women were not included in previous Olympiads, she was confident it would happen.
“At the time my main goal was going to the 0lympics; more than going pro,” said Quevedo. “I remember when Panchito went to the Olympics there were talks about it in 2000 including it (women’s boxing) in the next one in 2004.”
It did not happen but its inclusion seemed nearer than ever.
Quevedo worked harder than ever perfecting her craft and quickly blazed a trail of wins with an aggressive style that focused on her ramrod left jab and a cobra quick right cross. At 5’10” in height she was an imposing figure for any 138 pounder and quickly became a national champion.
“Carlos (Molina) and the Molina twins were winning all these competitions. Since they were winning all these competitions I said, I can do that too,” Quevedo remembers. “I was the first person from my gym to get a national title 17 and over.”
During the early 2000s the women were not included in Team USA but were separate. All would arrive for tournaments at their own expense and hotels and food were not provided.
Quevedo participated in the nationals but fell short in the finals in her first attempt. She did not fail in her second that took place in Florida.
“I think there was a team of us from California including me and Kaliesha West. I can’t remember. I do remember Kaliesha being there. Girls didn’t have a whole lot going on,” said Quevedo. “There were a lot of girls from California. Everybody went with their own coach.”
Tournaments of this magnitude were still brand new for female boxers.
“That was a really good one. I don’t remember the person I fought. She was a kickboxing champion and had been fighting a whole lot longer than me. I remember thinking I’m going to hit her so hard and I’m going to annihilate this chick and I did,” said Quevedo. “I think it was because I lost and got silver and lost by one point the year before. The following year it was not going to happen again and it was not even an option.”
It would be the first of four consecutive national titles.
The following year because of bad blood with her trainer she stopped boxing for weeks. A tournament for the nationals was taking place in the state of Washington, but Quevedo had no trainer, no gym and no money.
A journalist who knew about the nationals coming up telephoned her for an interview and asked how she felt about defending her national title for the first time? Quevedo responded she was not going and had not been training.
The journalist convinced her to go anyway without a trainer. She took the advice and scraped together some money and headed to Washington solo, though she did not have a hotel.
“That was a good year because I didn’t have anything. I think I trained for about a week and a half. I met Anna Mirandi from New York in the nationals a year earlier and she was going to go again. It was her and some girls from New York staying in a hotel. I didn’t have any money,” Quevedo said. “I stayed with her one night and Panchito Bojado called me and found out. He was already pro and people were throwing money at him. He called me and said he would be there on the second day. He said I’m going to fly over there and got me a hotel room for the rest of the tournament. He gave me money for food and that’s how I managed to finish the tournament.”
Quevedo found her way to the tournament location, registered herself and found someone to work her corner.
“I asked the New York people to corner me. They said ‘where is your corner.?’ And I told them I didn’t have a corner,” said Quevedo matter-of-factly.
Despite having limited training and no coach Quevedo destroyed the competition and picked up her second national title. A few days later she returned to Southern California and received a phone call from the journalist asking how she fared.
“I won,” Quevedo said.
“I’m not surprised,” said the journalist adding that he could not imagine anyone that could beat Quevedo.
That journalist was me. I had followed Quevedo’s career since discovering her in a tournament held in South El Monte around 2002. I had been asked by a boxing coach to watch a particular girl he was training perform in the tournament. While the other girl fighter was good, the tall aggressive Quevedo caught my eye with her fierceness and form. She won her weight division that day and was voted the best fighter of the tournament.
About a year later the prestigious Blue and Gold Tournament was taking place in Baldwin Park, Calif. It was considered the best amateur tournament in the country at the time and boxers from all over arrived to participate. Quevedo was considered one of the favorites.
True to form Quevedo ransacked her welterweight class and made the finals. She was eager and ready to showcase her fighting skills when it was announced that the other finalist pulled out.
People in the audience collectively let out a sigh. Quevedo had gained a reputation as a potential star and fans were disappointed they would not be able to see her perform. Luckily, the finalists for the middleweights were also incomplete. A girl had pulled out with an injury and one of the organizers suggested that maybe the welterweight finalist could meet the middleweight finalist?
Both girls agreed and fans gathered to see what would happen.
When the buzzer sounded Quevedo calmly moved across the boxing ring and delivered a five or six-punch combination and had the middleweight on the floor for a knockout win. It took less than 20 seconds for Quevedo to score the quickest knockout in Blue and Gold history.
“I thought you were going to feel her out and see what she has,” I asked Quevedo.
“I just saw the opening and took her out,” answered Quevedo.
Russia, No Olympics
Soon Quevedo was invited to take part in the international tournaments and found herself on the USA Boxing team headed to Russia.
“When I had my first international competition we went to Russia. It was a massive culture shock. I went from eating Mexican food which is the best food ever, to going to Russia and eating whatever it was. Nobody was eating. They put some stuff on our plates and it was what the hell? So everybody was dropping down to the next weight class because nobody was eating. Plus, I always suffered from not sleeping,” said Quevedo of her first international competition.
Team USA was having problems keeping weight on and they thought dropping down a weight division would be accepted, but it was not allowed and the American women including Quevedo suffered at their first encounter with the Russian team at St. Petersburg.
“I believe the first competition was in St Petersburg. And we were all fighting the same person twice. The girl I was fighting was the world champion from Russia. The first day I lost and I felt so awful. She was not better than me but I felt like crap,” said Quevedo.
Later in the week, the next phase of the competition moved to Moscow and the same opponent that had defeated Quevedo was a native of the Russian capital.
“Moscow was her hometown and she was the crowd favorite, but I remember feeling so much rage. I was hungry, tired and I was so angry that I’m like going to kill this chick. Everybody was booing because they didn’t like the Americans and I beat the heck out of this chick in front of her hometown,” said Quevedo adding that she weighed 141 and her foe 147. “I always fought at 140 or 141.”
Her victory in Moscow made her the number one fighter in her weight class and other amateurs were gunning for her title.
“In a way I always felt like the underdog and it was that mentality that kept me going. I never felt like I was on top of the world, I always walked in the ring feeling like the underdog and even though people were waiting for me to lose, I fought like the underdog,” said Quevedo.
Rumors were circulating that women’s boxing would be included in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Quevedo trained harder than ever and was excited about the prospect of representing the USA. Her teammate Javier Molina would make the team going to China and Quevedo was looking forward to going too.
It didn’t happen.
“There was a vote to include women. Most said yes but one last country said no,” said Quevedo adding that she was devastated when she heard the news.
“At that time I just thought to myself it’s not like you are waiting one more year. But waiting four more years is not going to work. It was for 2008 that I was waiting for. It happened in 2006 because you have to have two Pan Ams and other tournaments to qualify,” said Quevedo remembering that day.
“I’m not going to school I’m working at a flower shop. I can’t keep working these jobs. I can’t keep supporting myself though I’m not putting down the flower shop. They did a lot for me. My dad said if you are not going to school you have to have a job. I was already in my 20s. I think I was 21. Even then I felt like a complete grownup and felt ridiculous living with my mom and dad,” said Quevedo. “Even though the following Olympics (2012) they did get included, there was no guarantee I would get in. I didn’t’ wait and I went pro in 2007.”
End of Part 1.