Best Local Hope for a 2016 Olympic Gold

You’ve heard of Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao. Now meet Little Miss Pacman: Berenice Hernandez, a 17-year-old Canyon Springs High School student who sports an impressive 13-3 amateur record (four knockouts), packs a mean left hook (just like the southpaw champ) and has her sights set on a women’s boxing gold medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. All this despite taking up the sport just four years ago, and not by choice. After getting jumped by some high-school girls when she was in middle school, Hernandez turned to the ring as a matter of self-defense. Now the sport is her passion, even if it comes with a price. “Boxing does get in the way of my social life, but I have to make a choice: Do I want to hang out and have fun with my friends, or do I want to make a better life for myself?” Although Hernandez recently lost a controversial split decision to an opponent seven years her senior—thus costing her an official tryout spot for the women’s Olympic boxing team—she did advance far enough to earn a shot at another qualifying tournament in October. “I feel good,” she says. “I think I can make it.”

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