1. Hunt, Loretta

Article Content

Elizabeth Mooney zigzagged left and then right, fists at the ready, eyes locked on her opponent. She lunged forward with a crisp hook, then a straight left and a follow-up body shot that crumpled her opponent to the canvas. The referee stopped the fight. It was her 25th boxing match in the six years since she had first stepped into a boxing gym, and beating an opponent with twice as many professional bouts to her credit was all the more sweet in front of a hometown crowd.


Currently ranked fifth out of the 31 competitive light middleweight female boxers in the world, Mooney is not much different from other women who risk their health for the thrills of this burgeoning niche sport that pays little money-except that she is a nurse.


Mooney excelled in track and swimming in high school, competed in crew in college, and entered road races and triathlons once she left campus. Graduating with a bachelor of science in nursing from the University of Rochester School of Nursing in Rochester, New York, in 1991, she became a critical care nurse at the Albany Medical Center. In 1999, after her second child was born, she returned to work on a per diem basis, and then joined the float pool where supplemental critical care nurses rotated through all of the ICUs. She pared down her work to three shifts and 20-24 hours a week.


Her new schedule gave Mooney a chance to get back into "baseline physical shape." Her husband suggested the local boxing gym for its efficient "three minutes on, one minute off" workout program. Mooney stayed after class one morning for a sparring session. Soon her partners were nationally ranked amateurs.

FIGURE. Elizabeth Mo... - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE. Elizabeth Mooney, RN, right, on her way to winning a recent bout in Albany, New York.

"I had to step back and think, 'Where do I want to go with this?'" says Mooney.


Mooney won her first amateur boxing match in Glen Burnie, Maryland, in 2002 in front of 200 people, the culmination of many hours of work on the speed bag and heavy bag, of jumping rope and lifting weights, and of overcoming her fears-not of being hit, but of facing her physical limitations.


"To actually go out there and utilize the skills I developed, to put punch combinations together and make it work, was very empowering," Mooney explains.


"The first time I sparred and got hit, it almost took my breath away," she continues. "I take the punches now and realize that yes, you're gonna get hit in boxing. Sometimes you have to take a punch to give four or five."


Boxing has become second nature to Mooney, who has accumulated a 14-5 record as an amateur and now a 4-2 pro record (which includes two knockouts) over the last four years.


"As soon as I walk up those stairs on fight night and get in the ring, I just get this overwhelming sense of calm and it's business. I know what to do once I get inside those ropes."


The skills of a boxer aren't unlike those needed in nursing, says Mooney.


"You're on your toes for both," she explains. "Boxing and nursing are high-paced, quick-thinking situations, and not something you can rush through, because they both are very technical. They both bring out my best aspects in different ways. Boxing has made me very confident in myself and my abilities. But, I have a professional job that I enjoy, one that comes easily to me. When there are emergency situations or a sick patient in front of me, I don't question what to do."


Mooney's chosen sport may seem to conflict with the image of nurse as healer and comforter, but Mooney is used to defending boxing.


"It isn't simply a brutal sport," she says. "It is two people getting into the ring with the same goal. They're two people who have trained very hard. A lot of skill, technique, and talent goes into being a boxer."


Mooney has seen injured amateur fighters at the hospital. "I've talked to some of the boxers that have had concussions and I realize it's a dangerous sport. I realize people have died in it and had life-altering injuries," she says. "That's why I train hard and diligently to be able to protect myself."


What of her opponents, though? "I'm not thinking 'Oh, I better not hurt that person,' because I know that person's trying just as hard to win that fight through their own punches," Mooney answers. "In nursing, I'm much more intellectual and personable. I'm a 'people person,' but I don't think being a 'people person' means that much in boxing."


Although her mind-sets for both activities remain separate and distinct, Mooney believes her nursing experience has given her an edge in her pugilistic passion.


"Nursing taught me to think things through, to plan and to expect things but be flexible," she says. "In boxing, if you go in there just stone-headed in your belief in what you're going to do, you're not going to do well. You have to be able to change with the situation that's placed before you."

FIGURE. Mooney check... - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE. Mooney checks a line in an ICU at the Albany Medical Center.

A nurse who enjoys bowling, biking, or hiking in his or her free time might be an easier pill for some to swallow, but to Mooney it's the challenges of boxing that have shaped the person and nurse she is today.


"Nurses don't come in just one shape or size or liking," she says. "You can take care of people and be helpful, but enjoy a sport on the side that challenges you in other ways."