Belcastro breaking boxing barriers
Six-mile run, 200 sit-ups and at least 10 rounds in the ring.
This is not your typical sorority sister at Olivet College’s Nu Gamma Xi.
Alissa Belcastro is a boxer, and a good one.
The 19-year-old Grand Junction native recently won a United States Intercollegiate Boxing Association national title at 178 pounds while fighting for the Michigan college.
This is not a new endeavor for Belcastro.
It all started with a trip to a Mixed Martial Arts fight.
“My grandpa took me to my first MMA fight in Grand Junction and I sat there and watched, and I told him ‘I really want to try this,’ ” she said.
There was one problem. MMA fights are for adults, so the 14-year-old had to take up boxing instead.
“The next week I was in boxing camp,” she said.
It’s been a long process, but Belcastro was determined and dedicated to the sport.
Her unanimous decision at nationals was a by-product of that dedication to the sport.
As a girl fighting in a male-dominated sport, Belcastro said it’s actually benefited her over the years.
“I’ve been practicing against upper weight classes and against men,” she said. “It’s a piece a cake to take a punch from a girl after fighting men.”
For the first couple of years, it was nothing but practice and sparring. Then she got her first chance at competition in a match in Casper, Wyoming.
“That was the best experience I’ve ever had. When my hand was raised it was the best feeling in the whole wide world,” she said.
There was finally a reward for all the hard work and hours of practice.
There’s a lot of family pride too.
“I’m really proud of her and so is her dad (Bobby Belcastro),” said Ralph Belcastro, Alissa’s grandfather. “I used to wrestle, so I know how tough it is being in a sport that’s just one on one.”
In his office at Belcastro Motors hangs a huge framed photo of Alissa having her arm raised after winning that Casper match. Her dad has one in his office down the hall, too.
Taking her seriously
Alissa does admit that it’s not always easy being a female in that male dominated sport.
“It’s my biggest pet peeve, I hate hearing the words, ‘Oh you’re a girl.’ I’ve always heard those words, and things like ‘you have a pretty face, why do you want to get hit?’ “
The expectations and stereotypes that some men try and set for her just fuels her motivation even more.
“There are just as many opportunities in this sport for women as there are for men,” she said. “The sport is growing for women.”
The Olivet boxing team has accepted Belcastro as a teammate, but there are still challenges.
“They eventually saw that I was just as serious as they are. There’s still a few guys (who don’t) but they have to stop looking at you as a girl and look at me as a boxer,” she said.
Belcastro, who graduated early from Grand Junction High School in December 2015, calls herself a heavy-handed boxer who hits “harder than most females.”
Being self-motivated is the key to succeeding in the sport. That means hours and hours in the gym, and fueling her body with a strict diet.
“It’s all about eating, you have to put in the work, of course, but eating is the hardest,” she said.
Making it even tougher, is that she is now looking at dropping down to the 152-pound weight class.
That’s quite a drop considering she arrived at the college at 198 pounds.
She makes a meal plan and prepares all her meals in advance and it’s all about protein and vegetables, and counting every calorie. She also drinks a gallon of water a day.
Egg whites, turkey burgers, salads with no dressing, veggies and not giving in to temptation.
“It’s tough sometimes being in a sorority because everyone is going to have good stuff to eat, you have to have that willpower to say no and not go off your regiment,” she said.
But the sorority is also a key to her boxing regiment.
“It’s such a huge support system,” she said. “A lot of my sisters motive me, they run with me (at times) and they help out with my meal plans.”
The learning process of boxing continues virtually every day. Things that are just important as hitting hard, like breathing and footwork.
“That first round is always the nervous one. Then after that, it’s just like sparring. You have to learn how to breath and pace yourself,” she said. “It’s something I’m still learning as a new fighter. If you don’t pace yourself, you’re going to be gassed by the third round.
“There’s always something you can work on, and one of my key things is that I have to move my feet more,” she said.
“If you don’t move your feet, you can get hit a lot and lose points, so I’ve really been focusing on moving my feet. You have to have good offense and good defense.”
As for the future, she’s laying the foundation for that ultimate goal of most boxers.
“Right now,” she said, “I’m training and looking at possibly trying out for the 2020 Olympics.”