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She fought for her life, then fought in the ring: woman breaks boxing world record

The fieldwork of my youth proved arduous. Bone-chilling winters cast icy spells upon us, and sweltering summers enveloped us in relentless heat. Such was the reality of poverty. Engaged in what felt like a constant battle, I persisted and kept my dreams alive.

  • 12 months ago
  • July 16, 2023
10 min read
Alejandra Alejandra "Locomotora: Oliveras stands with her title belts. She is a world champion boxer who holds a Guinness World Record. | Photo courtesy of Team Locomotora
Interview Subject
Alejandra Oliveras, known as La Locomotora, is an Argentine boxer who broke the Guinness World Record for number of world titles in different weight classes. A truly exceptional and unparalleled athlete, Oliveras overcame abject poverty, teen marriage, and severe domestic violence before taking on boxing. After working as a young person in the peanut fields, she took a job as a narrator reading news stories on the radio. A coach heard her and offered to take her on after she expressed interest in the sport. In boxing, she has experienced rampant gender discrimination. She is the mother of two – Alejandro and Alexis Oliveras.
BAckground Information
La Locamatora has won championships in the WBC Super bantamweight division (Tijuana, 2006), WBA lightweight division (Río Cuarto, 2011), WBO featherweight division (San Antonio de Areco, 2012), and WBC super lightweight division (Santo Tomé, 2013). Between August 2005 and July 2015, she fought in the Argentine Boxing Federation (FAB). During that time, she had 37 bouts, emerging victorious in 32, suffering three defeats, and securing two draws. Later, she joined a lesser-known entity, the WPC (World Boxing Commission), where she won two more titles, the last in May 2019. 

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — My name is Alejandra Olivera, but people know me as Locomotora. My nickname perfectly reflects my indominable spirit. Locomotives embody strength. Forged from iron, they propel forward relentlessly. In 2006, I became a world champion boxer in the WBC super-bantamweight division.

From that day forward, I began a quest to become the first boxer in history to win four world titles in all different weight divisions. In 2015, I reached that goal and won the Guinness World Record. [Every title shot ended in a knockout.] My accomplishment put me on par with the legendary American boxer Floyd Mayweather.

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Throughout this journey, I experienced tumultuous relationships which inflicted deep pain, but I refused to give in to despair. Instead, I channeled my energy into raising my kids, while devoting myself to the relentless pursuit of greatness.

Working the peanut fields at seven years old

My life story has always been characterized by struggle, transformation, pain, and an unyielding refusal to surrender. Born into abject poverty, my family faced dire circumstances. Hunger gnawed at me constantly as a child. Without proper clothing, I often found myself making my own sandals and improvising.

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I yearned for a pair of pristine white sneakers. When I closed my eyes, I could see them in my mind. I dreamt of a home – something more than the meager dwelling we lived in, with its tin roof. It seemed the only solace I had came from watching the fire we used to heat water.

Amid that destitution, the spark of a dreamer emerged within me. Every obstacle, every arduous situation, compelled me to seek answers and carve out my own path. I embraced a joyous existence, savoring every morsel of food I put in my mouth. By dreaming, I found the motivation to fight, embark on new adventures, and pursue an education. I toiled tirelessly and made resolute decisions for my life.

Quite often, I took on tasks not traditionally assigned to women in my country. At the tender age of seven, I mastered driving a tractor and went to work in the fields alongside my brothers. That work sustained our family.

Each time we completed the peanut harvest, the field owner provided the workers with a meal. Even now, I vividly recall the tantalizing taste of the succulent meal lingering on my tongue and dancing across my palate.

Swept away by a wolf in sheep’s clothing

The fieldwork of my youth proved arduous. Bone-chilling winters cast icy spells upon us, and sweltering summers enveloped us in relentless heat. Such was the reality of poverty. Engaged in what felt like a constant battle, I persisted and kept my dreams alive.

The experiences gave me a deep appreciation for every glass of water, morsel of bread, and sip of mate that graced my lips. Every pair of shoes meant the world to me. I also recognized the profound value of offering neighbors a helping hand. Countless people around us suffered the same deprivation.

By the time I reached 14 years old, love swept me away, but the prince charming I met soon transformed into a monstrous figure. Underneath, he was a despicable creature, devoid of compassion. Despite the warning signs, I moved in with him and became pregnant a year later.

While my parents opposed my decision, they let me choose, and my life descended into chaos. I became a victim of gender-based violence. One day, I dared to leave.

My son, only a few days old, wailed through the night when, suddenly, my ex-husband rose from the bed and unleashed a brutal assault upon the fragile body of our infant son. My heart shattered. In what can only be described as a primal scream, I shouted, “Murder! Killer!” He turned his wrath upon me.

Mercilessly pummeling my body, I unleashed piercing screams and tears flowed from my eyes.  A resolute thought surfaced. I vowed this would be the final blow – the last time he laid his hands on me. I was determined to break free.

The worst beating of my life

A few days passed before my ex-husband went crazy again. In a moment of volatile rage, he tried to hit me, but something surged deep within my heart. I fought back, delivering a powerful punch and forcefully pushing him to the ground.

Swiftly, I snatched up my son and hastily swaddled him in a protective blanket. I left and I never went back. That day marked my rebirth.

I sought refuge in my parents’ home, immersing myself back into work. I became a street vendor, peddling an assortment of wares—combs, threads, needles, and even empanadas. Although I tried to pursue my studies, the odds felt stacked against me. Living a hundred kilometers from the school made regular travel impossible. I tried to hitchhike but could not keep up the pace.

From the depths of despair, I became stronger; I came to understand that women are far from feeble. Embarking on a journey of self-love and affirmation, I came to understand I was never meant for misery. My life would be marked by unbridled happiness.

Despite the echoes of bloodstained cheeks and the fear I often felt at my core, I moved forward.

I knocked out formidable opponents time and again

Soon, an opportunity arose at a local radio station. Gifted with a captivating reading voice, they offered me a position to narrate stories from the newspaper. One day, I stumbled upon an article about renowned boxer Mike Tyson. Involuntarily, the words escaped from my lips: “Wow, how I would love to be a boxer!”

I never stepped foot in a ring, yet I inadvertently broadcasted that sentiment through the microphone. An esteemed, former boxer heard my words and came to the station. “Who said they wanted to fight [on the radio],” he asked. “Was it you?” Our gaze locked and I replied, “Yes,” as a smile graced my face. “I will train you,” he commanded.

I poured every ounce of dedication into our sessions and in a month’s time, a much-anticipated boxing festival took place. The town butcher served as referee. The jury watched as I ascended the steps. The fear disippated, replaced by a fierce adrenaline coursing through my veins. Goosebumps formed all over my skin.

Suddenly, the sound of the gong resonated through the air. I landed my blows on my opponent with force, and the victory was mine! That day, I became Locomotora – an unstoppable force and a true champion.

I gave myself over fully to boxing and when I finally raised my hands in the air, holding the Argentine flag, it felt spectacular. Mayweather achieved his victories through points. I secured mine through sheer power and the impact of knockout blows. A knockout win exemplifies a decisive victory – an unequivocal triumph over a formidable opponent. I triumphed against the best in the world.  

Women face severe discrimination in this sport

Despite reaching incredible heights in my career, the male-dominated boxing industry’s ingratitude infuriates me. Discrimination runs rampant. We face a stark reality. Female boxers earn a fraction of their male counterparts, not even one percent. As women, we find ourselves in an endless battle for recognition, fighting both in the ring and against a deeply engrained machismo culture.

The Argentine Boxing Federation (FAB) felt more like a mafia, so in 2017 and moved to the World Boxing Commission (WPC). My greatest milestone – knocking out Mexican boxer Jackie Nava to take my first belt – never even lit up on the news. While male boxers carry hundred dollar bills, smile with gold teeth, and drive a Rolls Royce, I never made a living from boxing.

Alejandra overcame so many obstacles in her life to take her place in the annals of history in world championship boxing. | Photo courtesy of Team Locomotora

For my first world title in Mexico, I won $2,800. My second title in Argentina garnered 12,000 pesos; and my third, 20,000. When I fought my last fight on May 11, 2019, I promised to leave boxing, and I left on major high. The fight became the first ever where a woman’s bout spanned 12 rounds of three minutes each. Defying the conventional 10 round, two minute framework became historic.

For me, my life in the ring mirrored the battles I fought in my everyday life. Boxing signifies a steadfast commitment to never surrender. Every time I stumble and fall, I rise with determination. I refuse to give up or back down.

Boxing, like life, presents a relentless force which strikes, hurts, and threatens to leave me on my knees. I will never throw in the towel.

Saying goodbye to the world’s best coach

From my coach Amílcar Brusa [recognized as a “world’s best coach” in the boxing Hall of Fame in Minnesota], I learned valuable life lessons. Amílcar taught me that passion and dreams fuel our will to live. At the age of 89, he continued to train me, defying the notion that age restricts potential.

During Amílcar’s darkest moments – when he was in intensive care hooked to a respirator, pneumonia ravaging his body – I remained steadfast in his honor, diligently documenting my training routines. I stayed by his side, clasping his hands as he lay in the hospital bed. Amílcar showed me that life endures until the very last second.

As his final moments approached, the doctors advised me to bid my farewells. I gazed upon him as tears streamed down my face. Amílcar opened his eyes, looked at me, and burst into laughter. Surprised and curious, I asked, “Why are you laughing?” He replied, “Why are you crying, little one?”

I choked back my tears and said, “I cry because I don’t want you to leave. We have so much left to do together. We won the world title as a team. You are like a father to me.” Curiously, I asked, “And why are you laughing?” He simply said, “Little one, it happens to all of us. We all depart. It warms my heart to see you like this. Did you think I would be immortal?”

Discovering the dignity my father wanted for us

The passage of time has not diminished my resolve to highlight the injustices within my sport. Women’s boxing continues to face disadvantages, and it still does today.

I started boxing to escape gender-based violence. My story serves as an example of endurance and overcoming. Despite everything I went through, I persevered and fought for my place in the world. I want to inspire others by showing them that they too can rise above their circumstances.

From the daughter of a truck driver who took our family from our home in Jujuy and moved us to Córdoba – from a little girl with homemade sandals working in the peanut fields – I found the dignity my father sought. Love became the wellspring of strength in my life, and the driving force behind my fights.

Today, I train boxers in the gym and I take part in social initiatives – delivering motivational talks throughout the neighborhoods. I hope to inspire others to strive for greatness.

Alejandra on Instagram.

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