Australian world champion super featherweight Diana Prazak never imagined that foregoing a trip to Disneyland would change the course of her life.
But that it surely did. While she might have been standing in line for a wild ride, instead she sought out the tutelage of one of the best female fighters of all time, Lucia Rijker, for a single session in LA. But she ended up on a much more exciting journey than the ones on offer at the world famous fun park.
Only a year after ditching the tourist hotspot to train with a boxing legend, she is set to fight the pound for pound queen of women’s boxing, the 12-time three weight division world champion Holly ‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ Holm. This will be Prazak’s greatest challenge to date and no matter the outcome is likely to put her in the women’s boxing history books.
Holm, the pride of New Mexico, is one of the most successful female boxers in modern times and has beaten some legendary fighters like Christy Martin, Anne Sophie Mathis, Myriam Lamare and Jane Couch. The fight is scheduled for December 7 and the two will contest the IBA/WBF light welterweight world title.
On that first trip to the United States in November last year, Prazak never imagined, after only two sessions, that she would end up being the exclusive protege of the best female boxer of all time. Prazak has been training under Rijker since late last year but has struggled to get fights. She was gearing up to face Frida Wallberg to unify the WBC, IBF and WIBA super featherweight championship of the world on November 16 in Lincoping. But Wallberg suddenly withdrew leaving Prazak with only one fight for the second part of 2012 against Victoria Cisneros on the Holm undercard.
But just like a Disney blockbuster, the plot thickened when Myriam Lamare, also in Rijker’s camp and scheduled to rematch Holm as the main event, withdrew from that fight with an injury. Prazak and Rijker decided to take a chance.
‘Diana’s willingness to learn and grow as a fighter and a human being inspire me to work with her,’ said Rijker.
‘I also worked for many years with Freddie Roach who taught me how to work with a fighter with Diana’s style.’
Rijker sometimes refers to Prazak as the Rocky Marciano of the female game. Strong, determined and with a killer power shot that can, and has, put many on the canvas. Her relentless determination saw her stop Canadian Lindsay Garbatt to take the WIBA super featherweight title from an underdog position.
Rijker believes she’s got what it takes to cause an upset against Holm too.
‘Only the strong survive here in America,’ she said, ‘and the fact she left all behind, house dog, man and most of her business and family shows her dedication to making her dream come true!’
Holm’s camp are understandably pleased that the Fire and Ice main event can go ahead with the pride of Albuquerque in the top spot.
“We’re fortunate to have a great fighter like Diana Prazak step-up to fight the best pound-for-pound women’s fighter in the world,’ said Holm’s promoter Lenny Fresquez. ‘Diana deserves a lot of credit for accepting that big challenge.”
For Prazak, this leg of a very unpredictable journey started last year when she was in Los Angeles with her Australian team after seeing her then stable mate Frank Laporto fight Austin Trout in Texas for a world title in November. While there she had managed to tee up a training session with Lucia Rijker.
She got so much out of that one session that she phoned and messaged the legendary fighter relentlessly until she could secure a second one, even if it meant missing out on the Disneyland excursion that the Aussie contingent had planned.
Now, almost a year later, Prazak is Rijker’s first and only full-time fighter and the two are in New Mexico preparing to face the biggest challenge of Prazak’s career.
A lot is riding on her performance. She has had to justify leaving behind her partner, friends, family, pets and her IT business in Melbourne, Australia to put all her resources into her boxing career and getting as far as she can possibly go. After beating Lucia Larcinese in New York in January, under the guidance of world champion Melissa Hernandez, and defending her title in Australia against Fatuma Zarika in April with Rijker in her corner, this third fight is the most high profile and challenging of her career so far.
It has been a tough grind in LA. Prazak still works with her clients remotely, meaning she is often at her desk at night after hard training sessions during the day. But without sponsorship it’s the only way Prazak can fund her new life.
The reason for the sacrifices are, primarily, her trainer. She and Rijker have cemented their relationship and are in it for the long haul.
She said that Rijker was not just a great athlete but also a great communicator and training with her has been worth all the personal sacrifices.
‘She has impeccable timing,’ says Prazak. ‘She’s got to be the most technically perfect fighter male or female. She has the best technique. But not just that. She’s taken the time to learn about me and how to train me, so we can connect with each other. It means she knows not just what to teach me but how to teach me,’ Prazak said. ‘As a fighter she had amazing awareness…of the ring, her opponent and herself. I’d say that is the epitome of Lucia Rijker and I would say that has a lot to do with her spiritual practice.’
While not a Buddhist, Prazak has found some Buddhist chanting has also been helpful to her.
“When you go to a new country and all you have is you. No family or friends and you don’t have time to make friends because you’re always training it helps to have that,’ she said.