Photographs courtesy of Danyelle Wolf
Our story on female boxing’s best kept secret, two-time Team U.S.A. 152lb Champion and 2016 Olympic hopeful Danyelle Wolf, who has just made a change in coaches and prepares for a busy 2015.
When the Greeks first discussed the idea of “The Olympics,” I could imagine they debated as to what the perfect Olympic athlete would look like. The athlete would have to be taller than most, sculpted from stone and be able to excel at various events. Simply put that athlete would need to be special, gifted, someone the people would yearn to see . . . an anomaly.
Danyelle Wolf is nearly six feet tall. Her physique is impeccable despite rarely, if ever lifting weights. And any sport she tries to play, she ends up excelling at, and in some cases perfecting. The perfect Olympic athlete.
If this is the first time you have heard of Danyelle Wolf, then please keep reading. You will be impressed. If you have heard the name, but don’t know her story. Again, please keep reading. You will be impressed. And if you think you know everything there is to know about Danyelle Wolf, then please keep reading because trust me you don’t. Once again, you will be impressed.
The Early Days . . . When One Sport Just Wasn’t Enough
To understand what makes Danyelle Wolf the athlete she is today, you have to go back in time to her childhood in rural Pennsylvania. As a child, Wolf tried her hand at every sport made available to her. Basketball. Track. Soccer. Softball. Mountain Biking. Field Hockey. The latter earned Wolf a field hockey scholarship to Millersville University in Pennsylvania.
At one point, Wolf decided to buy a cheap bike so she can “get away and relax her mind,” as she puts it. One day, while biking, a cycle shop owner noticed Wolf intensely riding straight up hill. The man was impressed with the strength of Wolf’s legs and asked her to compete in a race for his bike shop. Wolf won the race outright. She competed several more times, winning all of her races and suddenly was part of the professional expert class. Unfortunately, Wolf’s cycling career was short-lived due to her obligations under her field hockey scholarship. Nonetheless it was a sport that Wolf quickly excelled at . . . just like the others.
When a group of Wolf’s guy friends were signing up for a triathlon, Wolf wanted in on the action. To their laughter, Wolf signed up and promised she would beat them all. At that time, Wolf wasn’t an experienced swimmer and the chaos that ensues during the swimming portion of a triathlon provided a significant challenge for her. What did she do? She finished the first leg of the event using a backstroke and led the pack. She won the entire triathlon . . . in the men’s bracket.
As her collegiate years came to an end, Wolf was “bummed,” as she puts it and in shock that her athletic career was over and that a “real job” was going to be her focus going forward. With sports as the foundation for the first twenty years of her life, Wolf moved to San Diego and worked as a life coach/private teacher for one family, full-time, lived on their property and was even given a car and cell phone. Wolf explained the rewarding nature of the job, but inside she knew that something was missing on a personal level . . . sports.
A normal person would suggest buying a gym membership or joining a local sporting club that brought former athletes together for one last “hooray” on the diamond or hardwood. For an elite athlete like Wolf, neither of those options sounded good, even though she admittedly did try one.
“I wasn’t playing a sport which was weird, so I decided to join a gym. But I didn’t know what to do when I got there,” she explains. Wolf continues, “I jumped on a treadmill and hated it. I was looking down the entire time and uncomfortable. I instantly got off the treadmill and tried some weights. I didn’t like that. So I tried the cables and thought that was ridiculous, so I left the gym right away.”
An elite athlete avoiding treadmills, dumbbells and exercise equipment? That can’t be. But if you give it some thought it makes perfect sense. When entering most gyms nowadays you would be hard-pressed to find a real athlete. Sure, there are men and women who possess phenomenal physiques, can run fast and can lift small cars. But where are the actual athletes who excel at a sport that requires you to leave the confines of a gym tucked in a shopping center and step onto a field where the sport actually takes place?
“The thing is before I moved to San Diego I was never part of a gym. Before boxing I didn’t have a gym membership, I didn’t lift weights and I didn’t run on treadmills. I never did any of that. I was always training but it was on a field, or a court, or even on a trail where the games actually take place. I was always just playing my sport,” Wolf laughingly tells me.
After a failed gym membership and the burning desire for sports still inside of her, Wolf even debated focusing on her professional career by going to law school. Becoming a lawyer would’ve created a safe future for Wolf and afforded her the opportunity to have a successful career; however, for Wolf the riskier path of becoming a professional athlete was still intriguing. She was at a crossroads with signs both pointing in the same direction. It was sports or it was nothing at all. “I finally decided you only live once. I decided I wanted to be a full-time athlete,” she explains.
The Big Decision
With half of the puzzle pieced together, Wolf was now racking her brain with what sport she was going to take on. With money in the bank and a leap of faith forthcoming, Wolf knew that whatever she decided would be priority number one and that her first decision about the sport she would undertake would ultimately be her final decision.
“I started thinking about Team USA field hockey or even the WNBA. Then I was thinking maybe I should do a triathlon and see how it goes. Those were big in San Diego and I had experience with mountain biking and I ran track in college. I was also really good at running and I was a lifeguard so I knew I could swim,” Wolf tells me.
After moving to Pacific Beach, Wolf began running the bay. “Almost every time I would run someone would stop me and ask me if I was a fighter or what gym I fought out of. This happened so many times. I thought it was a little weird to ask a random fit chick if she was a fighter,” she explains.
And then one day, after being interrupted one more time on the beach, a light bulb went off. What about Boxing? Everyone else seemed to believe she was already an established fighter, so why not? “It felt like God telling me something,” Wolf says.
Finally, Wolf agreed to check out a local boxing gym with one of the people who approached her on the beach. It was the first time she ever wrapped her hands, put on a boxing glove and even threw a punch. Wouldn’t you know it, Wolf picked up the basics quickly, impressing other people at the gym who were easily fooled by the fact that Wolf had just started to learn the sweet science.
Alas, a revelation was made. Danyelle Wolf had found what she was looking for and it came in the form of one-one-one combat with another human being. The interesting part of the story is this. In the end, her decision to pursue one sport and dedicate her personal, financial and social life to that sport came in the form of a sport that she had absolutely no experience with. Rather than take on a challenge she had already excelled at, such as basketball, soccer or biking, Wolf accepted a challenge nobody expected she would ever consider . . . even herself.
“The funny thing was when I made the decision to be a full-time athlete I could’ve picked a sport that I was already good at. But, I picked one that I never played and knew nothing about. Because for me it is about pushing yourself and challenging yourself,” Wolf explains.
It wasn’t long before Wolf started making huge strides in the sport of boxing, while also learning the valuable lessons that the sport has to offer. As is with most new things, whether it be sports or painting, Wolf was fueled by the intrigue of the sport and the unknown future it could hold for her. She also knew that despite her vast experience with other sports and her ability to excel at them, boxing posed some new challenges.
“After that day, I was like wow boxing is like no other sport I ever played. There are just so many variables to boxing that really intrigued me. At the same time, I was really humbled by boxing. I was always really good at sports and boxing truly challenged me more than any other sport,” Wolf explains.
“In boxing you must have great technique, but you also have to be moving on your feet,” Wolf explains as she breaks down the most basic principles of the sport. “Then you have an opponent throwing punches at you, which means you have to add head movement. . . . but at the same time you have to throw your punches . . . the variables in boxing are endless,” she adds.
And it was no surprise that her skills shined through early, as was the case with everything else she took on in life from sports to even art. As an artist herself, Wolf makes an intriguing comparison between boxing and art that beautifully lays out the timeline of her newfound passion. “It is sort of like making an art piece. You start with a blank canvas and then create something beautiful,” she eloquently tells me.
Finding the Right Team
With skepticism from her family and some uncertainty within, Wolf now faced the task of finding a coach and gym she was comfortable with and could take her to the next level. At this point, Wolf was “all-in” and nothing short of a dedicated team that shared the same vision would suffice.
After trying out a handful of trainers in the San Diego area, Wolf decided that she may need to cast a wider net. At one point, late in 2014, Wolf even considered relocating to the east coast to train prior to the World Championships in South Korea. But it was one phone call and a little bit of luck that ended up being the perfect alternate to uprooting her life.
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Last day of training camp with #joeldiazboxing #teamjoeldiaz and @tonodiaz @the_kidd_diaz for the World Championships in South Korea! So thankful to be taken in by these 3 amazing brothers who know boxing and hardwork! I can't wait to come back! Now off to Idyllwild, Big Bear for altitude training! #blessed #teamdiaz #trainwiththebest #palmdesert #indioboysandgirlsclub #dedication #ufc #mma #bjj #fightfans #fighter #boxer #boxing #danyellewolf #femaleboxer #femaleboxing #fightforyourdream
“I was talking with one of my coaches on Team U.S.A. and he suggested I reach out to Joel Diaz and his brothers out in Palm Desert,” Wolf tells me. Joel Diaz, who currently trains Timothy Bradley and Victor Ortiz, is known as being one of the top five trainers in the country alongside the likes of Freddie Roach and Robert Garcia. “I reached out to Joel Diaz first. He picked up the phone and we had a great conversation,” Wolf explains. She continues, “I told him I was looking for a good camp and he agreed. I packed my bags and I left for Palm Springs the next day.”
On the Move
With all the physical tools one can ask for, a marketable name, engaging personality and beauty to back it up, Wolf is the total package. This year alone, Wolf has travelled all over the world to fight. She has earned titles, name recognition and even landed in the annual ESPN The Magazine “Body Issue.”
For Danyelle Wolf, preparing for the future is always at the forefront of her mind. However, it would be an injustice to not recognize where Wolf has been in 2014.
“This year has been crazy. I made the ESPN Body Issue in July and then immediately went to Florida where I won the women’s National Golden Gloves. Right after that we went back into camp in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center to prepare for the Ringside World Championships in Kansas City where I ended up winning the title. I had a small break and walked the red carpet at the ESPY’s in Los Angeles for the ESPN The Magazine Body Issue release party, but then went to Guadalajara for the InterContinental Championships where I won gold,” Wolf explains.
As the year winds down for most, Wolf is back to training and currently in South Korea for the World Championships where she will face a familiar foe and attempt to close out the year with another title to her name. “Now I get to face off against the girl who won the World championships from 2 years ago in South Korea,” Wolf tells me during our time together.
“So many people have been telling me I have had this amazing year, and yes it has been fun. But nothing matters unless I get that final Olympic spot. When I win, I enjoy it for a second and then I put it aside and move on,” she explains. “I am so focused on the future. Sometimes I do think it would good for me to step back and appreciate how far I have come, but there is time for that later,” Wolf adds.
The Ultimate Goal
With titles, belts and trophies taking up precious real estate in her home, Wolf is well aware that her accomplishments are leading up the grand prize, which is a spot on the 2016 Olympic Team.
As it stands, Wolf will be competing in Nationals in January 2015, an event that’s sole purpose is to solidify a roster spot on Team U.S.A. for the upcoming year. But this is where it gets tricky. Wolf has been on Team U.S.A fighting at 152lbs, a weight she desires in a division that allows her to use her strength, height and reach to her advantage. However, in order to fight in the 2016 Olympics Wolf will be required to move up in weight to fight in the female 165lb division. Doing this will certainly affect her as she will have to work her way up to that division, or close to it, by increasing her weight.
“I know I can increase my weight and maintain my strength to make it to 165lbs by November 2015,” Wolf confidently tells me. “For me, I have a distinct height advantage and good power at my normal weight, but unfortunately I need to make the move.”
Danyelle Wolf has been on a high-speed train for the past five years. She has made significant strides as a fighter in a sport that typically requires an unusually early start in life. Fighters such as Floyd Mayweather, Mike Tyson and Julio Cesar Chavez had boxing in their DNA and first strapped on gloves before their first day in kindergarten. To take up a sport like boxing at a late age speaks volumes about the special nature of the athlete, their skills and most importantly their potential. Wolf understands that she is behind the curve, but as usual, she is also aware of her skills and abilities when it comes to competitive sports.
“I am always trying to get as much as experience as I can. I moved up really fast in the sport and I always feel like I am playing catchup,” Wolf explains. With a new coach and trainers in her corner, Wolf has gained a newfound confidence going into World’s in South Korea and plans to bring home another trophy for her mantle.
“Everything is coming together right now. I enjoy training with Julio, Antonio and Joel [Diaz Brothers]. I have improved so much in the last two weeks and I can only imagine what I could accomplish if they worked with me for 6 months, a year or two years,” Wolf explains.
With hard work, motivation and rare physical tools, Wolf has finally reach a point where her potential is mixed with coaches who possess an inherent knowledge of the sport and can help her make strides to the next milestone in her career.
In a sport that fails to highlight female fighters on a national platform, Wolf understands that earning a spot on the U.S.A .Olympic team is a feat that can catapult her career and make her a household name. Currently, you can make an argument that Wolf is the “most well-known, unknown” athlete in the country.
“Sometimes I feel like I have been boxing in a closet. I have a brand ready. I am marketable. I have this great package to offer. So at times it is frustrating. But I have to be patient. And I know that all my hard work will pay off if I keep going and make the Olympic team.”
From this vantage point, an Olympic roster spot is the key that can unlock the door to a prosperous future and an opportunity to represent her country in the Olympic Games. As it is with most Olympic legends, such as Bruce Jenner, Kristi Yamaguchi and Michael Phelps, the recognition of their names only begins when Olympic gold is wrapped around their neck.
“I want to see how good I can be at this sport. I know this is a sport that I can go all the way with,” Wolf tells me.
One day, Danyelle Wolf may be standing on the highest podium receiving a medal. The next day she may be on a Wheaties box. The interesting part about Danyelle Wolf as an athlete is that an accomplishment such as Olympic Gold may only be the beginning.
“I want to be a positive role model for the women’s boxing and for all the young female boxers that are coming up. Female fighting is growing and I want to help female boxing grow just like female MMA has grown in the past couple years. I want to be a pioneer to the sport of boxing and leave my mark.” – Danyelle Wolf
Follow Danyelle Wolf on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DNWolf, Twitter @danyellewolf and Instagram at @danyellewolf to find out where she is and what she is up too. For more information on Danyelle’s story check out her website at http://www.danyellewolf.com