It’s because things didn’t go as planned — be it their plan or a parent’s — that these two young women, Lauren Amongero and Aimee Pezo, will fight each other in the main event of the eight-bout Knockout charity boxing show at the historic Montgomery County Fairgrounds Coliseum on Saturday night.
In the case of Pezo, a colorfully-tattooed 26-year-old from East Dayton who was a Chaminade Julienne High School athlete and is now an assistant general manager at Donatos Pizza, she ended up in the ring because she’s not more of the “girly girl” she said her mom, Osdela, hoped her only child would be.
“My mom is a girly girl,” Pezo said with a smile. “She likes to get her nails done, her hair done and look nice. She runs her own business making customized dresses and jewelry. She was hoping I’d be more like that. That I’d be more like her. And I turned out nothing like that.”
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She rolled her right arm to show off the tattoo sleeve above her elbow. There were more tats on her waist and a large Puerto Rican flag inset with her grandparent’s names was inked on her back.
“Yeah, my mom doesn’t like my tattoos. Or my boxing and a lot of other things,” she laughed. “But the boxing….noooo!…she doesn’t like it at all. She worries I’ll get hurt.
“I remember one time at CJ, I got hit in the face with a softball at practice and had a huge fat lip. When I came home, she saw me and kinda freaked out. But she loves me and wants to see me succeed and be happy.
“And I am happy that I’ve gotten into boxing. I love the mental and physical challenges it gives me. I’ve really fallen in love with the sport.”
As for the 27-year-old Amongero, her change of plans was initially due to a sadder affair.
A former Oakwood High School athlete, she graduated from Xavier University, got a master’s degree in science policy from Georgetown University and was living in Washington D.C., and planning to start her career.
Last year her dad, Dr. Marcos Amongero, a top orthopedic surgeon at Miami Valley Hospital who also raced sports cars and skied and gave her much of her adventurous spirit, suddenly became ill.
He was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a rare, incurable neurodegenerative disease.
When he got sick, Lauren returned home and was here when he died last August. He was 52.
The loss was devastating and she admits it “threw everything off a bit.”
She said she came to Drake’s Downtown Gym to get back in shape. Although she didn’t say it, it had to give her another focus in life and maybe lift her spirits. She wasn’t totally unfamiliar with the sport — she had gone to gyms before and even boxed in a charity event similar to Saturday’s last year in Philadelphia.
Although she now works as a medical scribe, where she deals with physicians in the emergency department at Kettering Hospital, she’s also become a regular at Drake’s, which is putting on Saturday night’s show.
While Amongero and Pezo have gone on different paths in life, they are similar in many ways, too. They’re close in age and are within range of each other in weight, though at 130 pounds Amongero has about 14 pounds on Pezo.
And both have Hispanic roots.
Amongero said she is half Argentinian and Pezo is half Ecuadorian and half Puerto Rican, which explains the flag tattoo.
Most importantly, said John Drake, who runs the gym, the pair are both “hard workers” who have dedicated themselves to their training.
That’s why he matched them and has made them Saturday’s main event.
“I think they’ll be skilled and energetic,” he said. “I think this will be a really entertaining bout.”
For a good cause
Drake said Saturday’s charity show will benefit Brigid’s Path, the Kettering-based, non-profit treatment facility that provides inpatient medical care for drug-exposed newborns. It also gives non-judgmental support to the mothers and, in partnering with community organizations, offers educational services to improve family outcomes.
“You’d have to live under a rock to not know the problem we’re facing with heroin addiction,” Drake said. “But it’s not something most people think about — that there could be a problem for the poor babies who are born to heroin-addicted mothers.
“Through no fault of their own, these babies come into the world addicted to heroin and somebody has to help them get off it so they can have some sort of life.
“The work these people do, when you hear the situation and actually see it, it’s hard to keep a dry eye.
“They actually wean the babies off heroin with an eye dropper and little drops of methadone. This is while the babies cry and scream and tremble. It’s awful.
They have people volunteer to rock the babies and give them love, but it’s pretty overwhelming.
“I think it’s a really worthwhile cause, so our show is trying to help out with that.”
Some of the Knockout proceeds — advance tickets are $15, tickets at the door are $20, show begins at 7:30 p.m. — will go to Brigid’s Path.
People also can help by volunteering or providing monetary support.
To find out more, call Brigid’s Path at 937-350-1785 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org. A check can be sent to Brigid’s Path, 3601 S. Dixie Drive, Kettering, Ohio, 45439.
While Pezo was a high school softball player and Amongero a swimmer, both say boxing is tougher than any sport they’ve undertaken.
“Softball wasn’t as hard physically and it was all about teamwork and communication,” Pezo said. “It was the same with basketball. But this is really physically challenging for me and it puts your mental toughness to a test.”
Amongero agreed: “On an individual level, it’s the toughest sport I’ve done. You have to confront a lot about yourself.”
Some of the more difficult lessons have come when they have gotten hit.
Pezo ended up with a bit of a black eye and a fat lip when she started sparring a few months ago.
Amongero laughed and said one of her first sparring sessions “was not a good experience.” She ended up with a bloody nose.
While she won that first exhibition she had a year ago, she said she didn’t fare so well in a bout at Drake’s show last summer. She ended up mismatched, pitted against an athletic woman who she said outweighed her by 50 pounds:
“She knocked me down twice and I popped my eardrum.”
Pezo said with the challenges of boxing “you really learn a lot about yourself. I’ve got to say it’s been a true journey.”
After Saturday’s exhibition, she hopes to get some amateur fights, beginning, Drake suggested, with a bout at the Ohio State Fair.
For Amongero, the journey will continue to take her to the gym: “I look forward to coming in here and learning combinations and doing mitts. It’s ended up being my favorite part of the day.”
As detours in life go, that’s not bad.