Iron Barbie, queen of the boxing ring

Pink gloves and shedloads of attitude makes Carolina Duer a world champion


By Jonathan Gilbert, July 19, 2012
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In a gritty Buenos Aires gym, Carolina Duer punches furiously, ducking and shuffling her feet in between jabs.

Duer, a Jewish Argentine known as "The Iron Barbie", is super flyweight world champion and successfully defended her title for the fifth time earlier this month.

"I dominated the fight from start to finish," she says. Duer overcame Romanian Corina Carlescu on home soil when the referee stopped the bout in the fifth round.

"I landed so many body shots that Carlescu vomited," Duer, 33, told the JC. "Then in the fifth, I hit her with a few combinations. She had no response."

Duer's grandfather was born in Damascus, and was part of an Arab immigration wave to Argentina during the early 20th century.

She was originally referred to by another nickname – "The Turk". But her feistiness in the ring, together with her good looks and pink gloves, mean "The Iron Barbie" has stuck.

Duer is one of 11 female world champions in Argentina and the only Jew.

"I like to go to shul sometimes," she says. "The Jewish people have a beautiful history. I'm proud of that and I love Yiddish food."

Duer was born in Buenos Aires – home to around 200,000 Jews – and went to a Jewish primary school. She also had a batmitzvah and toured Israel aged 17.

Nearly a decade ago, she was looking for a way to get fit and accompanied a friend to the same gym where she trains today.

As she watched, a man shouted to her from across the ring: "You're a boxer! Come back on Monday and I'll coach you."

Duer returned and began to train under his tutorship, though she had no intention of fighting. "I was chubby," she says. "All I wanted to do was lose weight."

But Alberto Zacarías, now 52, knew he had come across a special talent. "From the first session I knew she had it," he says. Duer would become his first and only world champion.

She contested her first bout in 2003 and won 19 of 20 amateur fights. In 2007, Zacarías told her she could make it as a pro.

But Duer's career nearly ended after she clashed heads with an opponent and cracked her eye socket.

She recovered, however, and became South American champion, before claiming her world crown in December 2010 when she beat Italian Loredana Piazza on points.

"It was an incredible feeling," she says. "I was so happy, I didn't know how to celebrate."

With her victory over Carlescu, Duer has won 12 pro bouts and lost three. She holds the World Boxing Organisation's belt, but there are three others in her 52kg division she is now eyeing.

"I don't know how long I'll go on for," she says. "But I'd like to unify the division." That could mean trips to Mexico and Japan, her first fights outside Argentina.

Duer used to box between shifts as a waitress at her family's restaurant. Today she works as a manager for younger fighters, eroding the dominance held by a handful of promoters in Argentina before her rise to fame.

Duer views boxing as a tool for social cohesion and discussed the idea last year with her president, Cristina Kirchner, to whom she also gave a pair of her famed pink gloves.

"I do a lot of work with kids on the street," she says. "I explain to them that boxing isn't violent. It can be used to give them focus. It's good for both body and mind.

"I've come a long way since 2003 when I'd arrive for training with make-up on. I went from nothing to world champ in nine years, and today boxing is everything to me."

Last updated: 2:00pm, July 19 2012