It begins with Ayanna Tramont, a single mother of two, practicing karate with her sons.
It continues with one of Tramont’s former Kenmore West students, who kept suggesting she visit WNY Mixed Martial Arts & Fitness. She was hesitant. He was persistent.
“And I went in and took a couple of classes and I absolutely fell in love with it,” Tramont said. “It was amazing. And then I stepped into the ring. And I thought I was pretty good at karate, until I couldn’t defend any punches.
“So that’s when I thought, ‘Oh, gosh. I’m that bad?’ Here I am going to karate, and I thought that I was pretty proficient in my skills, and I couldn’t defend myself. You know? That’s when I decided to move on over. And the more I did it, the more I was like, ‘Let’s try this fighting thing out.’ ”
That was about five years ago, before a successful amateur kickboxing career and two New York State Golden Gloves championships.
Now, Tramont is preparing to fight 28-year-old Ashlee “Mob Wife” Gambino of Akron, Ohio, a former MMA fighter also making her pro boxing debut, in a super-welterweight bout Friday at the Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino in Niagara Falls. The fight is scheduled for four rounds. Each lasts two minutes. It will be broadcast by Telemundo.
“I believe, she believes, everybody believes that she can fight 22-year-olds, 25-year-olds, 30-year-olds,” said Tommy Neff, her longtime coach and boyfriend.
Back to the perfectly rational explanation:
Tramont was 39 years old when she began practicing Muay Thai and competitive kickboxing.
She went 7-1 in eight fights. But she also grew tired of the physical punishment, coming home with all those welts and bruises, even in victory, so Neff suggested she switch to boxing.
“It’s a lot less wear and tear on the body,” Neff said. “The training regimen is still the same. You’re still putting in the same amount of hours in the gym. But I think it’s just a little bit less stressful on the body. You’re not getting kicked in the knees, everybody’s not cranking on your neck for clinch work and stuff. It’s a little bit more scientific and I think she really appreciates the science of boxing versus the sheer brutality and just physicality of kickboxing.”
Tramont, who played basketball at Kenmore West and Erie Community College, went 4-0 as an amateur boxer – 5-0 including an exhibition in Canada – and said she was humbled by the outpouring of support from not only her boys, Nick and Jonah, but also the community, as former coaches, colleagues and even students filled the seats at her fights.
“When they’d come to my fights they would make posters: ‘That’s my phys ed teacher in there kicking your (butt),’ ” Tramont said, laughing.
“It’s definitely great that I have the opportunity to not only teach them, but to inspire them as well, because a lot of them have gotten into mixed martial arts. It’s nice to be able to have something other than your typical basketball and softball and football to talk about, because there’s definitely different competition out there that we don’t offer in the schools.”
But soon, there was a new problem – a lack of competition.
As an amateur boxer, Tramont had to fight women in her age group and weight class.
“And in this area, in Buffalo, there’s really only two other females that fit that criteria and she’s fought them both,” Neff said. “She fought one three times and the other one two times. And she beat them, so she’s kind of run out of competition in this area.
“We could travel down south to Florida and Texas for these tournaments, but in amateurs, you’re not getting paid to do all that. You’re taking time off work, and these tournaments are like five or six days long, and she didn’t have aspirations for that.”
Professional boxing has no age restrictions.
“So that opens up a whole new world of competition for her, people that she can fight,” Neff said.
While Gambino is 16 years younger than Tramont, she’s also far shorter.
Gambino stands 5-foot-4, while Tramont, who goes by the nickname “The Tower of Power,” is just over 6 feet.
“This should be interesting,” Tramont said.
The main event Friday pits Emmanuel “Pinky” Colon against Richard Zamora in an eight-round bout for the WBO Regional Junior Welterweight title.
Hosting a pro boxing event on Native American land allows the organizers to circumvent a 2016 New York State law that requires fighters to take out a $1 million minimum insurance policy in the event they suffer a traumatic brain injury, an onerous hurdle for small promoters.
Ruben De Jesus, the director of operations at All Star Boxing, said the standards set forth by the Seneca Nation of Indians Athletic Commission are stringent and similar to those in Las Vegas, New Jersey and elsewhere.
He also said Tramont has sold more than 125 tickets to the event, more than $5,000 worth, far more than any other fighter.
“She knows a lot of people. That’s a fact,” De Jesus said.
Tramont said she’s keeping her foray into professional boxing in perspective.
“I know that I’m not going to be doing this forever,” Tramont said, “but we figured that we’d go ahead and try our hand at the pros. And the pros just opens up so many more options than I had available before. So here I am, at 44, making my pro debut.”
Seems perfectly rational.