In many ways, Carolina Raquel Duer is a typical middle-class Jewish kid. She attended a Jewish day school, spent time working and traveling in Israel and celebrated her bat mitzvah at a Conservative synagogue.
But when she steps into the ring tonight at Club Atletico Lanus, she will be showcasing a set of talents not commonly associated with the Jewish women of Buenos Aires.
Duer, 33, is the World Boxing Organization’s super flyweight champion. Her Friday night fight, against the Uruguayan fighter María José Nuñez, will be her third title defense.
Known by her nickname, “The Turk,” Duer, 33, is the daughter of Syrian immigrants to Argentina. She attended the capital’s Jaim Najman Bialik Primary School and spent over a month in Israel in her younger years, working on a kibbutz and touring the country. On weekends, she went to the local Maccabi club and attended Jewish summer camp. It was there that her feisty personality was first evident.
“I liked the social activities of the Jewish community, but sometimes I got in trouble because I stood up for some disadvantaged kid,” Duer told JTA. “Injustice has always bothered me.”
Last year, Duer hit a thief who tried to steal her purse on the street. “The ambulance came,” she recalled. “I don´t think that guy would dare steal from a girl again.”
Her bat mitzvah was celebrated at the Iona Hebrew Center. “It moves me when I go to the temple,” Duer said. “Last time I went for a tragic situation, and I was there with my family. It´s very touching for me. I’m very Jewish in many ways.”
One of those ways is through food. Duer was the producer of a television show about Sephardic food and even worked as a waitress and bartender in her family´s restaurant. “Hummus, lajmashin, kibbeh, falafel—I love them, and I know how to cook them, but usually I can eat very little because of my profession,” Duer said. “I´m always training and trying to reach the right weight for the fights.”
Duer’s life changed forever in 2002 when she accompanied a friend who was trying to lose weight to a gym. There she was approached by the legendary Antonio Zacarias, a well-known local trainer, who asked if she had ever boxed before. Zacarias wanted to train her, and Duer loved the idea.
As an amateur, she won 19 out of 20 fights. In 2007, she went professional. Three years later, she won the WBO title by defeating Lorena Pedazza by decision. She has a professional record of nine wins and three losses.
Like her ancestors—Syrian immigrants were renowned as traders—Duer has an entrepreneurial spirit, which she brings to her boxing. She actively seeks sponsors and carefully manages the business of fighting. Asked how much she expects to earn from the Friday matchup, Duer declined to answer. “I won’t tell,” she said, “because I will be envied.”
Duer is the eighth Argentine woman to hold a WBO boxing championship and the first Jewish one. But she’s hardly the first Jewish fighter. As in the United States, decades ago Jews were leading figures in the Latin American boxing world. In 1940, Argentina’s Jaime Averboch won the welterweight title but died the same year without defending his belt. But the real legend is Moises Ortemberg, who won 42 fights as a professional and retired unbeaten in 1943—still a record in South America. Recently retired Mariano Plotinsky (“The Demolisher”), who has fought with a Star of David on his shorts, held the OMB Intercontinental title but lost his bid for a heavyweight class world title in 2010.
In the future, Duer hopes to live in New York and train at the legendary Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, home to another celebrated Jewish fighter, Yuri Foreman. She also hopes to get more involved in educational activities.
“I would like to teach kids the difference between boxing and fighting,” she said. “My family were always very good people. I think this is a characteristic that comes from Jewish education.”
Duer’s fight will be streamed online at www.tvpublica.com.ar/tvpublica/.