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La Mamba Negra: The Open Vein - a Day off with Pro-Boxer Christina Linardatou Duran
Story and Photos by: Zak Varvaresso
Website:  www.varvaresso.com
May 19, 2016
     
   
   

Neighbourhood of Patisia -located 15 minutes away from the city center- is an open place which brings a sense of community into the normal chaos of Athens. Taking the day off from her practice, Christina took a walk with me through her neighborhood down the Patision Street, one of the major and busiest roads of central Athens. 
 

“Aren't you afraid? Even a little bit? I googled your opponent and she seemed dangerous like a beast!"

I started the conversation in a raw manner trying to provoke her.
 

"She is the one who has to be afraid...Because if she is a beast I am a reptile and as you know the venom of black mamba can instantly bring death from paralysis..."

Christina replied laughing, as she kept quoting Tarantino.

It is hard to figure Christina's low key personality as  "La mamba Negra" -her boxing nickname- the  unbeatable professional boxer and entitled International champion (UBF) who is going to claim the WBC world lightweight title against the 4 times word champion Delfine Persoon from Belgium.

 


Christina Linardatou Duran, 27, grew up in the Dominican republic. Her father was a Greek sailor and by the age of 10 she moved with her family to Greece. As she traveled from a place to an other, Christina, a highly energetic kid being used to run barefoot by the river in her birth country, could not acclimate at first in the city and as she was bullied for being a colored "chubby" girl, soon her energy turned into spells of violent outbreaks.
 

The family was advised to channel her energy into sports, and when she moved in Patisia  Christina excelled at boxing, dominating easily the local scene. She returned for one year in her birth country  where she won the national title  and then she came back to Athens achieving her first international tile in England.
 

In Santo Domingo (the capital of Dominican republic) where she first grew up, boxing is a national sport, something like a ritual of the earliest childhood but most important is an effective path out of poverty. Millions of kids without shoes are being trained on the cement by sharing the shame pair of boxing gloves dreaming of the great escape to US professional boxing.
 

Municipal stadium of "Sporting club" in Patisia has been famous for hosting wrestling extravaganzas in the 70s and 80s  but boxing and especially women's boxing is not a custom around here.

“Here boxing is more of a male sport hobby. I've always loved playing football in the streets but boxing was a rare or an unusual thing for a girl to do so when I decided to get into that, I knew first I had to earn it  from my parents. Women in boxing don't have equal chances alike in everything in a male -dominated society and I believe that step by step this can be changed. In Dominican republic I was sparring only with men inside an old gym  and I got trained well competing against the best of them. I became a fighter, am a woman and now this is considered to be “normal” because I said so and I fought hard for it. Now everybody not only accepts it without second thought but they also dig it...“

She concludes offering an innuendo about men

 

Domestic violence and violence against women have increased significantly in the late years but hopefully more and more girls and women are practicing martial arts and self defense techniques to fight back.


 

"As a woman I don't know if practicing martial arts will put you instantly out of trouble on the street. As  a pro boxer, it took me years of hard mental and physical training to reach the point of effectiveness and I still know that If something happens out there I  will try  to survive by any means. The basic thing for women is not to get panicked, never to give up,  to make a warrior out of themselves starting from the mind, to share experiences, to know that they will not be left alone if something bad going to happen."

Since the mid 90s neighborhood of Patisia has been a host of African communities and within the years has been inhabited by many different other immigrant cultures along with the traditional Greek middle bourgeoisie class. Still a safe open place into the social frenzy of the late economic and political crisis.

We take a ride around the "Fix" Park , named after the  famous brewery factory that was built there 100 years ago when Patisia was a provincial suburb of Athens. Now the only remains consist of the family ownership abandoned aristocratic cottage rumored to be have been designed by Ernst Ziller. The last years "Fix" park has hosted various anti-racist festivals and actions organized by citizens. Now during the night around this place female sex workers from Africa make their night shift...Νο safe place for foreign women.

"Things have been in tense last years and you can always see around this type of social hierarchy: first come the natives and the European-looking white people, then the mongrel, then the Africans, and at last people who come from the deep East as they have totally different culture.Women ofcourse are the most vulnerable.

I have been in many places in Greece and in every school I had to give a major fight to impose myself but after that everything was OK and I truly believe that here the society is still open and people are well coming. As a mongrel who grew up here I don't have any problems, Ι feel more than welcomed. Of course the last decade racism has advanced  but at least around here for every racist person there are 5 more who will shut him down instantly. I love Patisia, as people from all countries are gathered here and nobody thinks that this is strange. I don't have much time to go out but Ι like the cafes, the music, the African and Latin music bars."

 


 

We take the way back as Christina has to rest for the upcoming training day. She seems cool and relaxed.

“Overcoming the fear of a loss is what usually takes down a boxer. Have you been thinking about it?

I restate my first question in a serious manner.

 

"I wont forget that the first time I got into an official boxing fight and I was so nervous about exposing myself to the crowd that during the warm up I hided myself in the back. Manos my manager-trainer  quickly took notice and instantly brought me at the front spot so that anybody could see me. I did that and I never returned back. Every person has a lot of fears especially those who one way or an other feel different but first you need to fight the fear and to work in discipline.
 

I know that is something stereotypical to say, but for me everything is like being inside the ring: If I ever get down I won't panic and I will get up sooner or later. In the future years  I don't know how  my boxing career will end. All that I know is that I have the ability to control my fears and I might pave the way  for other women and people to do what they want - as many other did before me- and this is the most important. You just need to keep fighting"

 


Story and Photos by: Zak Varvaresso
First published by Humba magazine, Issue 24, June of 2016

 

 
     
     
   
 
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