Houston Texans Cheerleader Toni: The Main Event
Taking her footwork from the boxing ring to NFL sidelines, Houston Texans Cheerleader (HTC) Antonieta has quite the inspirational and dominating back-story.
When you think of an NFL cheerleader, a lot comes to mind. Things like big smiles, unfathomable dance moves, great bodies, bikini calendar shoots, team spirit and boxing. Wait, boxing?
So meet Toni (she goes by this because most people can’t pronounce Antonieta) – having just completed her rookie year as a cheerleader for the Texans, but has been a decorated boxer for USA Boxing since 1999. That’s right – the Conroe, Texas native is the definitionof a knockout.
If you follow the Texans cheerleaders on Instagram, you may have noticed a photo of Toni holding a championship belt, her Texas Female State Championship belt she won in 2005 after beating all the girls in her division. Which of course prompted this interview. Though she spends her times currently on the sidelines at NRG Stadium cheering on JJ Watt and the others, boxing is always top of mind for Toni, “It’s in my blood, I can’t quit.”
Check out our exclusive interview with one of the most impressive women to ever step on an NFL field:
Man Cave Daily: What is the hardest thing about being an HTC?
Toni: Time management. All of us have jobs or go to school so practicing three nights a week along with appearances and events can be overwhelming if you don’t know how to manage your time. We all work really hard and have to be extremely organized to keep up. It’s such an amazing opportunity you don’t want to miss a thing!
MCD: Tell me about your boxing career?
T: I started boxing in 1999 for USA Boxing. USA Boxing is the national governing body for Olympic-style amateur boxing. I started coaching right out of high school and have judged several matches. My record is 10-4, I was the Silver Gloves State Champion in 2000, Texas Female Boxing Champion in 2005, won the Games of Texas a couple of times, along with Golden Gloves. I lost my four fights towards the end of my career.
As an adult making time for my training and practices kept getting harder and coaching was taking a lot of my time. I love coaching and sharing what boxing did for me in my life. I opened up my own all female boxing studio, Miss Boxer, in 2012 and was able to offer Boxing, Kickboxing, Zumba, Yoga & different fitness classes for women. My studio is currently closed as I am focusing on cheerleading and my full time job right now, but hope to reopen in the near future.
MCD: What was the hardest part about boxing?
T: The hardest part for me was being able to be respected as a woman in a men’s sport. There are still people today that don’t think women should box or participate in these types of sports. My generation of female boxers had no choice but to turn professional at age 18. We didn’t have women in the Olympics at that time, so at age 18 our USA Boxing Amateur careers were technically over.
I stayed away from turning professional because my dream at one point was to compete in the Olympics and once you turn pro you can’t go back. Being able to coach and open up my own studio was a dream in itself and after a lot of prayer and soul searching I realized I enjoyed coaching more than fighting. I knew I didn’t want to give up boxing completely but I definitely wanted to teach women what boxing taught me.
Being a female boxer has a lot of meaning; it means that you have to prove yourself in and out of
the ring as an athlete, you have to work twice as hard to be noticed because you’re only a girl, you have to be self disciplined, professional, strong and last but not least you have to fight. This is what life, as a woman, is all about. I always like to share what boxing has instilled in me and it’s that no matter how many punches life throws at us, or how many times we get knocked down we have to get up and keep fighting. Fortunately now we have boxing in the Olympics and we have amazing girls competing and representing us well, like our very own Houstonian Marlen Esparza, who is the first American woman in history to qualify for the Olympics.
MCD: What got you into boxing?
T: My little brother was only eight when my dad signed him up for boxing classes. I was in gymnastics at the time and even though I was considered a “tomboy,” loving the outdoors and riding my go-cart, I never considered taking up boxing. During one of his practices the coach asked me if I wanted to spar. That day they had a few girls in class; I never back out of anything so I agreed to join. I think the coach noticed that even though it was my first time fighting in the ring I wasn’t backing down. He talked to my dad after we were done with our rounds and I joined right after. I had my first Silver Gloves fight shortly after, won by TKO second round and realized I was pretty good and it was fun! The rest is history.
MCD: Do you watch boxing movies?
T: Yes! I love boxing movies like Cinderella Man, Girlfight, Million Dollar Baby, all the Rocky movies! They’re my fave!
MCD: Do you enjoy watching boxing? UFC?
T: I love all forms of martial arts, but I really enjoy watching Boxing in the Olympics. The style is completely different; it’s a lot like fencing and takes a lot of speed and technique. I really like Marlen Esparza and really admire UFC Fighter Gina Carano.
MCD: How has boxing helped your cheering career?
T: My boxing career has helped me in so many ways. I know I mentioned earlier how boxing has changed my life all together, but in cheerleading it has definitely helped me not to give up. I don’t know if you are familiar with our tryout process, but we have more than 1,000 girls try out every year. I tried out last year and didn’t make it so I came back this year a lot more prepared and gave it another try. I work really hard in anything I put my mind to, I don’t take no for an answer and I don’t give up.
MCD: Are people usually shocked to find out you were a boxer?
T: All the time!
MCD: Does your background in boxing scare or intimidate guys?
T: I think at first, but once they get to know me they realize I’m just another girl.
Follow this knockout on Twitter: @HTC_Antonieta
This article originally ran in January on CBS Man Cave Daily under the sports section. Click here to see the original article (and of course more photos).