By Brady Fredericksen The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) During the day, Brown cares full time for her mother, Ollie Brown, 78, who is battling dementia and is largely confined to a wheelchair. By night, she boxes. She's only been fighting for a year, but has won a pair of state Golden Gloves belts. Now, she's trying to add a second National Golden Gloves belt to her collection.
It's easy to miss the Winter Haven Boxing Gym.
The small space shares its building with a transmission repair shop in the Inwood area of Winter Haven. The walls are splashed with colorful graffiti, and on an early May afternoon, the gym buzzed with activity.
Bouncing in the ring, throwing warm-up punches, was Carisse Brown.
The 31-year-old George Jenkins graduate was a week away from traveling to Omaha, Nebraska, to take part in the National Golden Gloves tournament that starts today. Brown is thin but muscular, built like a track athlete.
That's what she was in a past life, setting numerous records at Jenkins before competing in the sprints and jumps at Florida A&M. She cut that career short to come back home and care for her ailing father, Charles Brown, who died in 2010.
During the day, Brown cares full time for her mother, Ollie Brown, 78, who is battling dementia and is largely confined to a wheelchair.
By night, she boxes. She's only been fighting for a year, but has won a pair of state Golden Gloves belts. Now, she's trying to add a second National Golden Gloves belt to her collection.
"For years, I've been interested in martial arts," said Brown, who won a national title last year. "Boxing, I never thought I would end up doing it, but I knew it requires great discipline and I needed that discipline back in me and I went ahead and gave it a try."
Laura "Lady Ram" Ramsey, a longtime professional boxer from Lake Wales, took Brown under her wing last year after meeting her at the gym. She says many women have come to her to train in the sport only to "run away."
She says Brown ran to the sport.
"She's becoming a boxer," Ramsey said. "Like me, I came into the sport and somebody told me I could be great. You have that internal anger. That's where she was at, where I saw her. She was at that stage."
Brown has dealt with a lot over the years. She's unable to work because of her mother's condition. Prior to boxing, her only release was running track with Polk County Elite. It wasn't enough. It didn't quell the bitterness she had and her frustrations in life.
Enter, Lady Ram.
"It was very tough," Brown said of her early training under Ramsey. "The switch going from track to boxing was odd because I was more muscular, all my movements would be too stiff. I had to learn to loosen up."
Brown expected to be boxing right away after she started training.
That wasn't the case. They worked six days a week and spent 3-4 months working in the weight room to shape Brown into a boxer. She needed to be loose. She needed better footwork. After that, it was going to be easy, Ramsey thought.
"She had all of the tools to become a boxer, she just didn't know anything about boxing," Ramsey said. "I said, 'I just have to teach her like seven punches; really, more like three or four to start off with.' She was able to pick it up and run with it."
Brown will bring a 4-3 record with her to Nebraska. Boxing has grown into something real for her after starting as a release. She still sees it that way. She's a big fan of meditation and martial arts great Bruce Lee.
"I've grown a lot in my mentality, my focus and especially my discipline," she said.
Her biggest win came in March as she beat Shamara Woods by decision to win the lightweight finals at the Florida State Golden Gloves tournament in Hollywood, Florida.
Brown isn't big on talking about herself, either. She's getting more used to it, but she spends a lot of time with her mother. She's a little nervous about this week, but excited about the opportunity.
Ramsey is too. As with any trainer, she's confident in her fighter.
"Not surprised at all because that was the plan," Ramsey said of Brown's rapid growth. "There's other girls out there hitting, but what I saw in certain events and tournaments, there was not a Carisse-type of fighter."