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Jennifer Moreale, a second-year economics Ph.D. student, recently made history as she became the first female U.S. Intercollegiate Boxing Association (USIBA) Collegiate Middleweight National Champion.
The USIBA National Championship, which Moreale attended as a member of the WVU Boxing Club, was held at the University of San Francisco in April.
"It was the first time females could compete at a national level in college. It was the first competition that grad students were also allowed. It was a big deal," said Moreale, a native of Udine, Italy.
In Moreale's first match, which lasted only 40 seconds, she handily defeated USF's Eileen Macias-Mendoza by TKO.
"The following day was the championship final. There was an entrance song and everything," Moreale said. "It lasted all three rounds. It was against (Elizabeth Brunton) from Georgetown (University). I won all three rounds. There wasn't any discussion. Now I've had four fights overall. I'm undefeated. It's pretty cool," she said, grinning.
Moreale has been boxing since her junior year of undergrad at Loyola University in New Orleans, La., but her love of the sport formed long ago.
"When I was little, I remember that I was interested in (boxing.) I would fill up my duffle bag and just punch it, thinking (about being) a boxer. Although Moreale dabbled in other sports like volleyball, soccer, basketball and tennis, nothing gave her the desire to compete until boxing came along.
"Initially boxing was really difficult to find, but when I was in New Orleans there were several gyms that offered it," she said. "I loved it. I loved the challenge and it was the first time I actually wanted to compete."
"The first year I strictly conditioned with a personal trainer. The second year I started boxing technique-wise. After undergrad, I took a year off and went back to Italy. I kept training a little on and off but it was difficult to find a place that had female boxers," she explained. But when she returned to the U.S. to begin her doctorate studies at B&E, she joined a boxing class taught by John Mouser in Stansbury Hall. After a year of training there, she joined the WVU Boxing Club.
For Moreale, training is a time commitment of 2.5 hours a day, four days a week. Twice a week, she also lifts. This is, of course, in addition to her work as a Ph.D. student and her graduate assistantship in the economics department.
"I think it's important to balance both studying and physical activity, and boxing is what I love," she said. She explained that the training keeps her focused, although the balancing act is a "non-stop process."
"I wake up, I lift, then right after that I go to the office, hold office hours and have class. My work day goes from early in the morning until 5:30 or 6:00, and then I go straight to training. Then by 9 I'm studying until it's time to go to bed," she said. "It keeps me within my deadlines because I need organization. I organize myself for work, but also have to organize myself for training because I only have certain hours for it. It's a good balance that teaches me to handle pressure."
But boxing has taught Moreale much more than just how to deal with pressure.
"I have learned a lot about myself through boxing. There's the training, the mental preparation, the physical preparation. When you're in the ring, it's up to you. You have the support of your team, you have your corner, but it's only you. It's up to you to really win the match."
She compared it to pursuing her Ph.D. in economics.
"You have your professors. They can support you, they can teach you. But it's up to you to do research. It's up to you to get published. I think (both situations are) metaphors of what life is. In the end, it's up to you," she said.
Moreale said that each new accomplishment in her boxing career is satisfying, but it always prompts her to ask herself, "What else can I do?"
"When you're in the ring, it's silent," she said. "I'm concentrating 100%, but I'm not really thinking. What I've learned, I apply. You can see all of your efforts. It shows you what you're really capable of. The first time that you dodge a punch it's such a great satisfaction, because it's hard. I really like it because it's challenging and you learn so much about yourself. The satisfaction is huge."
Moreale is still building her research in the Ph.D. program, a program that lasts at least four years. Her main interest lies in the relationship between monetary policy and the financial market, particularly concerning the role of the central bank in today's economy. She will take her first swing at teaching this summer 2013 with a macroeconomics course.
"I've taught classes but I've never organized a whole course. I think I will really like it. I'm excited to get a concrete idea of what teaching feels like," she said. So far, she has enjoyed her time at B&E.
"At B&E the atmosphere is great. The relationship we have with the professors and students is like a big family, it's like a team. The atmosphere is laid back but really professional. (The professors) treat you really well and with respect. It's a good atmosphere to learn," she said.
Moreale intends to remain in the U.S. after completing her degree and has no plans to give up boxing.
"I train so much and I want to see what I am able to do," she said, noting that she wants to continue fighting in the Pittsburgh area throughout the summer. When asked how many more matches she'd like to win, her answer was quick.
"All of them," she said with a big smile. She already has next year's national championship in mind. The 2014 championship will be hosted by the National College Boxing Association.
"They're going to offer it for the first time to females, too, so (the WVU Boxing Team) will probably do that. There's more competition (in that organization) so that's exciting."
Moreale feels immensely proud to be a part of the progressive changes for women in collegiate boxing.
"I have this huge belt. It's really exciting, especially because it was the first time (women could compete.) It's a turning point in history."