- Michael Woods, Boxing
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The 10 hopefuls milled about in the gym, eyeing each other, with different contestants acting in different ways as they awaited the competition. The thump-thump-thump of people pounding the heavy bags at the Mendez Boxing Gym on East 26th Street became white noise after a short spell, with the hopefuls ignoring the periodic rise in decibel levels as they pondered the prize that could soon be theirs.
One after another, they checked themselves in the mirrors, checked out limbs, assessed their game faces.
One of them peered into the mirror, lips pursed, brow furrowed. A tweak was needed and out came a tube ... of lipstick. Contestant No. 5 applied a coat, checked herself in the mirror, decided she was ready to rumble, and gave herself over to the process.
The prize being sought at the gym on Tuesday afternoon wasn't the typical sort yearned for by typical attendees at the facility. No gaudy belts or Golden Gloves berths were the bounty for the taking. No, on this Tuesday 10 women, all models at the famed Wilhelmina Models agency, were vying for three spots as ring card girls for a Nov. 2 event at the Madison Square Garden Theater. That promotion, put forth by K2, and Main Events, portions of which will run on HBO, will be topped by the Kazakh slugger with the baby face and the severely destructive fists, Gennady Golovkin (27-0 with 24 KOs). Power, loads of it, is what the 31-year-old WBO middleweight champ brings to the table, and to foes' faces. Curtis Stevens (25-3 with 18 KOs), of Brownsville, Brooklyn believes that his own power, not to be scoffed at, will carry the day at MSG. Other attributes, though, were what was to set three ladies apart from the seven also-rans in the contest.
Former middleweight contender John Duddy, a fan favorite at MSG, who took a 9-0 record at the fabled building with him into ring retirement in 2010, and PIX 11 fashion forecaster Nicole Young were the other eagle eyes, along with yours truly, taking pen to ballot and narrowing down the pack to the lucky three.
Duddy's advice -- "We should look for the 'whys,' not the 'why nots,'" -- I found appealingly optimistic from the Irishman, who told me he's happily transitioned from the ring to the stage, as an actor, rang in my head as the 10 hopefuls climbed into the ring and waited for the first bell to ring for their audition.
Check back tomorrow for part two, to learn the identities of the lucky three, and to get the answer to a question that has nagged me for ages: Do boxers ever get distracted by the ring card girls during their bouts?