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Boxing: Amy “Hard Hands” Lemenager finally to get back in the ring Saturday

Duluth boxer, Minnesota’s only female pro, looks to improve to 3-0 with first bout in more than two years.

DULUTH PROFESSIONAL FEMALE BOXER
Minnesota's only professional female boxer, Amy "Hard Hands" Lemenager of Duluth, hits a double end bag on Tuesday, April 12, 2022 at the gym in the basement of the former Bethany Lutheran Church in Duluth. Lemenager, an advocate for women's athletics and the benefits it yields, feels it is important to get as much exposure as possible, with the goal of showing young girls that they can compete and play sports just as competitively as their male counterparts.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — The sign outside the old Bethany Lutheran Church in Lincoln Park last week still said “Everyone Welcome,” in bold black letters, even though the building is no longer used for services.

Outside, the wind was whipping and conditions were overcast and blustery, but inside the lower-level addition to the church, things were starting to heat up as Duluth middleweight boxer Amy “Hard Hands” Lemenager (2-0) was busy preparing for her upcoming bout with “Kaptain” Kaitlin Lavigne (1-1), part of a scheduled nine-bout professional boxing card at 5 p.m. Saturday at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota. The card also includes Duluth’s Danny Huffman (6-1-1), who will duke it out with Damion Hill (4-14) in a super welterweight bout.

For Lemenager, who turned 24 last week, this has been a long time coming.

“I’m very excited,” Lemenager said. “We were supposed to fight back in December, but I had an injury to my hand so it got put off. I’m very excited to get back in the ring.”

The bout is scheduled for four rounds and will be Lemenager’s first action since earning a split decision over Leslie Pope Jan. 25, 2020 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

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Lemenager said she is Minnesota’s only professional female boxer and the first one ever from Duluth.

“It’s pretty cool,” Lemenager said of those distinctions. “I like it, but I’d also like to see more female boxers get into it, go professional. Amateurs are awesome, I was an amateur for several years but you kind of run out of opponents. There’s not a ton of female boxers, so if we could get more professionals in Minnesota I’d love it. I’d have some more sparring partners, which would be really cool.”

Lemenager, a former standout goalie with the Proctor/Hermantown girls hockey team, was asked if the fight were tomorrow, would she be ready?

“Absolutely — 100%,” she said. “I’ve been training my butt off, and Aaron Resberg, my coach, has been putting me through the ringer here at the gym. I definitely feel prepared for this fight.”

Twin Ports Boxing’s makeshift gym is cool, it’s old school, Rocky-esque. How’d they end up here?

“I don’t know,” Lemenager said, laughing. “They found it somehow.”

Resberg doesn’t charge anyone for using the gym and all the training is volunteer.

There’s a sign on the entrance reminding everyone to keep the door closed and to turn the heaters off when they leave.

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Never mind that carpet is less forgiving than canvas or that the ring dimensions aren’t up to spec. The fact is, it works.

“I think it’s perfect,” Lemenager said. “I wouldn’t want anything else.”

Wherever there’s space, you can make it a gym.

“That’s all you need,” said former professional boxer Andy “Kaos” Kolle, who comes down on Mondays and Tuesdays, when it’s just brothers Santino Amborn and his older brother Isayah Smith working out, for the most part.

Lemenager works as a patrol officer with the Duluth Police Department but gets to the gym whenever she can. She was asked how she balances the two.

“It can be hard, definitely,” Lemenager said. “I have 12-hour shifts, and shift work can be difficult. I’m on nights right now, but it’s all about the balance. I think I do a pretty good job balancing boxing and work and social life, etc.”

Lemenager, whose father Paul boxed, originally took up boxing to stay in shape for hockey. It’s a great workout, and most women, Amy Lemenager said, leave it at that, just a workout, and don’t take that next step and actually get in the ring for a fight.

Initially, Lemenager was just a brawler as an amateur, trying to make quick work of her opponents, which she often did, but as a pro, she will have to be more of a boxer as brawlers can walk into a knockout against a skilled opponent.

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Resberg continues to work with her on movement and toning down her approach just a little.

“She’s just very aggressive,” Kolle said. “I watched her pro fights on the computer, but I watched her live as an amateur a lot and she was very aggressive. The bell rings and she’s going at it. She’s fun to watch. Very strong. She’s still aggressive, but she’s settled down more as a pro.”

Lemenager doesn’t know how far she will take it. With so few female boxers, finding reasonable bouts — against an opponent of the same weight, skill and experience level — can be a challenge.

Lemenager is crystal clear that her career as a police officer is priority numero uno, but she would one day like to fight for a title. She said she gets nothing but love and support from her fellow police officers, many of whom are female.

With a sunny personality and warm smile, she is an easy person to root for.

“I go hard, I give it my all. I definitely have a lot of passion when I fight,” Lemenager said. “My co-workers like to say ‘hard hands, soft heart.’”

DULUTH PROFESSIONAL FEMALE BOXER
Minnesota's only professional female boxer Amy "Hard Hands" Lemenager, of Duluth talks with members of the media on Tuesday, April 12, 2022 at the gym in the basement of the former Bethany Lutheran Church in Duluth. Lemenager, 24, is a patrol officer with the Duluth Police Department and is a former standout hockey goalie with the Proctor/Hermantown Mirage.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
DULUTH PROFESSIONAL FEMALE BOXER
Minnesota's only professional female boxer Amy "Hard Hands" Lemenager, of Duluth double end bag on Tuesday, April 12, 2022 at the gym in the basement of the former Bethany Lutheran Church in Duluth. She won the National College Championship at Middleweight her senior year of college, and has only experienced two losses in her whole boxing career- both as an amateur.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
DULUTH PROFESSIONAL FEMALE BOXER
Minnesota's only professional female boxer Amy "Hard Hands" Lemenager, of Duluth talks to members of the media on Tuesday, April 12, 2022 at the gym in the basement of the former Bethany Lutheran Church in Duluth. Lemenager has only lost two matches, as an amateur, to the present USA Olympic medal winner Oshae Jones, and to the former Canadian champion Taylor Ross, with whom Amy split victories in their two matches.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
DULUTH PROFESSIONAL FEMALE BOXER
Minnesota's only professional female boxer Amy "Hard Hands" Lemenager, of Duluth hits the speed bag on Tuesday, April 12, 2022 at the gym in the basement of the former Bethany Lutheran Church in Duluth. Lemenager is currently ranked 8th in the world as a middleweight by the WIBA despite only having two professional fights.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
DULUTH PROFESSIONAL FEMALE BOXER
Hand wraps hang on the ropes of a makeshift boxing ring on Tuesday, April 12, 2022 at the gym in the basement of the former Bethany Lutheran Church in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Related Topics: BOXINGDULUTH
Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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