Nisa Rodriguez: Amateur Boxing Standout and NYC Community Volunteer

By James Stillerman - 05/04/2024 - Comments

Highly decorated amateur standout Nisa “La Madrina” Rodriguez made her long-awaited professional debut at the Madison Square Garden (MSG) Theater in front of her hometown fans, winning every round on the judges’ three scorecards except for one en route to a four-round unanimous decision (40-36, 40-36, and 39-37) over Jozette Cotton (0-3-1), on March 15th. 

“It was a surreal moment. I felt like I was going back in time because I fought there when I was in the Golden Gloves,” said Rodriguez, who is 1-0. “I did not realize what was happening until the first or second round because I was caught up in the energy. It was beautiful. It was a great experience.”

She dominated Cotton throughout this one-sided super middleweight bout despite hurting her right hand in the first round when her boxing glove caught the top part of Cotton’s head, which caused her middle knuckle to swell. Rodriguez dictated the action as she outworked and out-landed Cotton. She displayed an excellent jab that consistently landed throughout the fight, as did her straight rights and right hooks. Rodriguez got the better of the exchanges with punishing combinations, and she connected on more power punches, especially in the fourth round when she staggered Cotton several times. 

“I would give myself a four or five out of ten. I worked the jab and body well, but I should have been more active,” said Rodriguez, who trains at the NYC Cops & Kids boxing gym in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York, with her trainer, Jimmy Sosa, whom she has been with for the last six years. “It was good to get the first fight out of the way and continue to work on things.”

The thirty-three-year-old orthodox boxer from Midtown, New York, will quickly return to the ring when she takes on Jordanne Garcia (4-3-3) on June 8th at the MSG Theater (for the second time) in a scheduled four-round middleweight bout. This is her second bout in less than three months. In addition, Rodriguez will showcase her Puerto Rican pride when she fights the day before the 67th National Puerto Rican Day Parade (one of the most significant cultural celebrations in the United States) in New York City (NYC).

“I think this will be a great fight. She faces a tough opponent, but she would not want it any other way,” said Rodriguez’s manager, New York City-based attorney Keith Sullivan, who knew of her in the amateurs and started working with her six months ago. “I will try to keep her as busy as possible with fights between 154 and 165 pounds, preferably around 160 pounds.”

Rodriguez had an outstanding amateur career involving eighty-three fights (70-13, 23 KOs) in three weight classes (141, 152, and 165). She was a three-time National Golden Gloves champion (2011, 2016, and 2017) and an eight-time New York City Golden Gloves titleholder (2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017). In 2017, she won a bronze medal at the AMBC American Boxing Continental Championships and a gold medal at the Central America and Caribbean Games in 2018. Rodriguez made the Puerto Rican Olympic Boxing team for the 2020 Olympics (she lived in Puerto Rico for several years when she was younger), however, she did not participate because she tripped, dislocated her ankle, and sustained two tears while in training camp overseas in Columbia. 

In addition to her deep amateur background, Rodriguez has gained invaluable fighting experience by sparring with several elite male boxers, including former WBA interim world super featherweight champion Chris Golbert (17-2, 6 KOs) and undefeated WBC Youth Silver super lightweight titleholder Reshat Mati (15-0, 8 KOs), as well as eight-time world champion and one of the best pound-for-pound women fighters in the world, Amanda Serrano (46-2-1, 30 KOs). She also spars with her fourteen-year-old son, Emerson, an up-and-coming amateur fighter who won the New York Metro and NYC Ring Masters Championship and will compete for the Ring Masters title this year.  

Nisa Rodriguez: Amateur Boxing Standout and NYC Community Volunteer

She started boxing at thirteen and began her amateur career two years later. Since there were no women at her gym, Rodriguez sparred with men. She constantly got beat up, however, she did not quit and kept showing up, ultimately winning the respect of the male fighters in the gym and getting significantly better over time. 

“I want to fight for a New York belt and then eventually for a world title fight, which is what every professional fighter wants to do. Women’s boxing is a small circle, so there is not much time to grow and flourish,” said Rodriguez, who will look to compete in the middleweight division. “Everything is rushed because the sport is so small, especially in heavier divisions.”

Rodriguez contemplated retiring from boxing over the last few years. She took three years (2021 to 2024) off from the sport when she started her new full-time job as a NYC police officer in the New York Police Department (NYPD) Community Affairs Rapid Response Team (sometimes working as many as 80 hours a week). Boxing had also taken a significant physical toll on her over the years, which included a detached retina in her eye, a collapsed lung due to a blood clot, and a dislocated ankle. However, Emerson was the driving force who convinced her to get back into boxing so she would have no regrets.

“I have a tremendous support system. My trainer and manager handle everything boxing-related. My husband is outstanding and takes care of the kids. He understands that I am a go-getter and do everything at 110 percent,” said Rodriguez. “I keep my kids involved in the department and boxing. My mother [Sandra] has always been there for me. It takes a village to help me accomplish everything I want.”

If Rodriguez was not busy enough being a professional boxer, raising three children (her two daughters, eight and eleven, recently started boxing), and working full-time in the NYPD, she also runs a non-profit program she started with her former trainer Pat Russo called “I Can, I Will.” This program helps serve underprivileged children ages 12 to 21 in the Bronx with free boxing and fitness classes, tutoring, and mentoring at three locations. Undefeated featherweight prospect Bruce “Shu Shu” Carrington (11-0, 7 KOs) credits “I Can, I Will” for his success in boxing and for keeping him out of trouble when he was growing up. He will fight on the same fight card as Rodriguez when he takes on Enrique Vivas (23-3, 12 KOs). For more information about “I Can, I Will,” to donate and be a sponsor, visit their website at Despite all her remarkable accomplishments as a boxer, her most outstanding achievement is helping underprivileged children in NYC. 

“I have always been passionate about giving back to the children in my community, especially growing up in the South Bronx, where kids were underserved. These children need these programs. This is my life’s work. I want to start a program like this in every city in America. My goal is to impact these at-risk communities positively,” said Rodriguez. “My mom worked as a lunch lady and was always there for the kids. She ensured the kids were fed even if it came from her pocket. This was the example I saw, so it became second nature to me.”

For eight years, she was a middle school teacher in Harlem, New York, and was heavily involved in after-school programs. However, she did not feel like she was doing enough, so she joined the NYPD, where more resources were available to help these underserved children. The NYPD offers programs that can help pay for children to attend college, get them civilian jobs, and prepare them for city-wide exams. 

“As a fighter, she is tremendously focused. She is locked in on what she needs to do in the gym and, more importantly, outside of it to ensure that she is in the best possible mindset and physical shape when she gloves up. As a person, she was a NYC teacher and now an NYPD police officer, and I expect solid character from someone taking on those careers, and Nisa does not disappoint,” said Attorney Sullivan, the former Deputy Commissioner for the New York State Athletic Commission. “I think she is a tremendous example for young children, male and female alike. Nisa is living her dream as a driven woman, mother, wife, and professional boxer. She does it through discipline, hard work, and caring about the people around her. She is an excellent example of how we should live our lives.”

Rodriguez started boxing as an escape. She constantly got into fights in school and on the streets and came home whenever she wanted. Rodriguez did not want to go home because she did not have the best relationship with her mother at the time (they are on good terms now) and her dad (Eduardo, who has since passed away), while he was a good father, he struggled with alcohol and was in and out of jail. Boxing offered Rodriguez a safe space away from life, trouble, and her challenging childhood and allowed her to travel the country and the world. 

“I want to use my platform to encourage other children and women to join boxing gyms and to influence other people to pursue their dreams,” said Rodriguez. “People look at boxing as a brutal sport, but they do not consider the art that boxing holds, including discipline, respect for yourself and others, and respect for your body. It also provides a second home to these children and keeps them out of trouble.”

For more information about Rodriguez’s boxing career and upcoming fights, add her on Twitter @nisa_rodriguez5 and friend her on Instagram @sweet_destruction.  

“Growing up, you did not have people you looked up to. You knew you did not want to end up like them. I am trying to break these generational curses. The Bronx has some of the country’s lowest high school and college graduation rates,” said Rodriguez. “We are not trying to get world champions in our gym. Instead, we are looking for children who attend school, get a job they like, and do something with their lives. And then for them to give back to their community.”

Nisa Rodriguez: Amateur Boxing Standout and NYC Community Volunteer