Archdeacon: It’s an honor for Wright-Patt airman to be in charity boxing bouts

Black eye. Red eye.

Thanks to her balled-up fists, U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jasmine Aldana has left her “Aunt” Sylvia with both.

Aldana – a former college soccer goalie at Cal State East Bay now stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base – is fighting one of the featured bouts at the AleBeast Summer Knockout amateur boxing show being held outside Drake’s Downtown Gym on Saturday night.

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The 10-bout show – which will feature people from all walks of life who have learned the rudiments of boxing the past few months in order to put on the charity event – will benefit Joseph’s Legacy, a Middletown-based animal shelter, and the Oregon District Tragedy Fund, which has been set up to aid the victims of the Aug. 4 mass shooting that left nine dead and 37 injured just two blocks from the gym on East Fifth Street.

The 24-year-old Aldana was first introduced to boxing when she was a kid growing up in Riverside, California, by Sylvia Rodriguez, her older cousin who was so close to her growing up that she calls her an aunt.

Rodriguez – now working in commercial real estate in Los Angeles – had begun her boxing while a college student and became quite good in the ring. And that fascinated Jasmine.

“She was probably 6 or 7 and she saw the things I was doing and she was like, “Oh, I want to learn! I want to learn!’ ” Rodriguez said, laughing. “So I took her out back in the yard and showed her. We’d go out there a couple of days a week and she really liked it. And she gave me a black eye out there. She was pretty proud of that. After that I was a little more careful with her.”

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Rodriguez went on to a 22-4 record as an amateur, but her career was cut short when an opponent’s punch left her with a detached retina.

After that Jasmine’s mom – Rebecca Aldana – who hadn’t been enthused about her daughter’s fistic fascination anyway, put her foot down.

“My mom said ‘No!’’ Jasmine said. “She worried about me getting hurt.”

Jasmine then concentrated on soccer and became a standout at Jurupa Valley High and then a goalie of note at Cal State East Bay, an NCAA Division II school in Hayward.

Although just 5 feet 4, she said she was able to cover the entire goal without problem.

“I’ve got Mexican hops,” she laughed.

She also has a kinesiology degree and is working on her master’s.

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She joined the Air Force a year ago and in May graduated from basic training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas. Wright-Patt is her first duty station.

With organized soccer no longer an outlet for her, she sought a new athletic challenge when she got here. And that brought her back to an old passion.

“I kind of just magically found Drake’s Gym,” she said. “I didn’t know anyone. I just walked in and have been hooked ever since.”

Competitive by nature, she didn’t want to just work out for fitness sake, so she signed up for the boxing show.

Saturday night she’ll face Katie Schwartz, the bar manager at Warped Wing Brewing. They’ll fight three two-minute rounds.

When she heard Jasmine had gravitated back to boxing, Rodriguez said she wasn’t surprised.

“As soon as I heard she wasn’t playing soccer, I figured she was going to need something to take up her time. I was just waiting for her to come back to boxing. And when she told me, I was like ‘It’s about time!’ ”

And when she heard Jasmine was on the AleBeast card, Rodriguez knew: “I just had to be there.”

She caught a redeye flight from California to Ohio late Wednesday night.

And Saturday night, she’ll help work Jasmine’s corner.

Shooting hits hard

The morning before the attack on the Oregon District, Jasmine worked out at Drake’s. She said she had planned to return to the entertainment district that night, but did not.

Other airmen did and some were hurt in the shooting spree, she said. A couple of others have been lauded for saving lives that night by keeping other people calm and away from the path of Connor Betts, the gunman.

Out in California, her family worried about her well-being.

“My grandparents were freaking out until they could call and hear I was alright,” she said. “My mom texted me and so did other family members and friends.

“This shooting hit me harder than any of the other ones. I’m still new here, but I’m starting to plant roots and meet people and I feel like I’ve really gained a family at Drake’s. And being in the military, we take an oath to protect our country from enemies foreign and domestic. And sometimes, like this time, our enemy really is domestic.”

Several of the fighters on Saturday’s card think the show will help in the healing process.

“An event like this helps project normalcy and strength,” said Nick Bowman, the co-founder and co-owner of Warped Wing Brewing who is fighting Saturday’s main event.

While the show’s proceeds long ago were earmarked for the animal shelter Joseph’s Legacy, promoter John Drake also plans to petition the crowd to donate to the Oregon District Tragedy Fund.

It’s an honor

As you watched Jasmine work on the heavy bag at Drake’s the other night, you noticed the tattoos that decorated her arms and shoulders. Asked which she was proudest of, she thought a second and then pointed to the pair of flags on her right forearm.

“I’d say my Mexican and U.S. flags. In the Air Force there is a thing called ‘The Airman’s Creed.’ It’s like our alma mater and one of the phrases is: ‘I’m faithful to my proud heritage.’ So I have both flags combined to remind me of where I grew up and where my family came from.”

Her grandparents came from Mexico and Jasmine now speaks fluent Spanish.

She also has a Spanish saying inked along her collarbone: "Echaleganas, te quiero."

She explained: “My grandpa used to write me letters when I was in basic training and he’d always tell me to give it my all and that he loved me,” she explained. ”That’s what that means.”

She then turned to show her last name – “Aldana” – inked in script on her upper right arm.

She changed her name in her final year of college, dropping the last name of a father she said she did not know and instead adopting her mother and grandfather’s last name: “Aldana.”

“I wanted my mom’s name on my college diploma,” she said. “Me getting a degree was special in our family and I wanted to honor the people who raised me, especially my mom and grandpa.”

She told how her mom was a hardworking, single parent who beat the odds:

“She had my older brother when she was just 16 and had me eight years later. She worked full time, but she never missed one of my brother’s games or mine. She was always there for us.”

Jasmine said one day she wants to open a gym for children. At present she coaches kids’ soccer at the Huber Heights YMCA.

She said Saturday night she’ll have a cheering section of some 60 people, many of them from Wright-Patt.

And, of course, she’ll have Aunt Sylvia, who’ll serve as the second in her corner.

“There’s just something about the whole thing,” Sylvia Rodriguez said. “I needed to be here for her. I’m so proud of her. I’m excited, but I know it’ll be emotional, too.”

And come the final bell – rather than a black eye or a red eye – Aunt Sylvia may well have wet eyes.


Where: Drake's Downtown Gym, 111 E. Fifth Street, Dayton

Benefitting: Joseph's Legacy animal shelter, Oregon District Tragedy Fund

Tickets: $25 at door

Starts: 5:30 p.m.; first of 10 bouts at 7:30 p.m.

Also: Ales from 12 sponsoring area breweries; adoptable dogs and cats from Joseph's Legacy

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