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Jaime Clampitt-Hayes, Return of the Champion – Brendan Higgins

by Brendan Higgins, contributing writer

Don’t call it a comeback, I been here for years – LL Cool J

     I recently had an opportunity to sit down with 4-time world champion boxer Jaime “The Hurricane” Clampitt-Hayes before her upcoming fight tomorrow night at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick when she will take on Kim Wabik from Revere, Massachusetts. After watching Jaime in the ring for years I was eager to ask her about life outside the ring as well as her experience being a battle-tested ring warrior. I had never met Jaime before and had high hopes the interview could enlighten readers as to who she is. Jaime did not disappoint as she opened up about her career, family, and her business, On the Ropes Boxing and Fitness located at 334 Knight Street, Bldg. 30, in Warwick.

     It was a snowy Sunday morning as I drove up Interstate 95 north to meet this icon of the boxing world. The gym is located off Route 5 across from the Warwick Mall, behind the mill, in a beautiful brick building off to the left, sitting all by itself. It was cold and wet outside as I made my way through the slushy parking lot.

     As soon as I opened the door and walked inside the atmosphere changed dramatically. Music was playing in a room full of female fighters in one of the most well-equipped boxing gyms I have ever seen. The space was immaculate and well lit. Everyone was laughing and joking around in what can only be described as a big supportive family. A cute puppy named Scrappy was sleeping off to the side. Deeper in the room I noticed a full-size boxing ring with a sparring session underway. The walls are full of photos, posters, memorabilia, and of course multiple world championship belts won by Clampitt-Hayes. The energy in this place was electric.

(L to R) Amy Cham, Tracy Lombard, Jaime Clampitt-Hayes, Kathy Lyons

     The first person I met was one of the owners, Tracy Lombard. She is Jaime’s manager or momager as she is known at the gym. She arranged the interview for me. The other 3 owners are Amy Cham, Kathy Lyons and Jaime. Shortly after that Jaime came over and the 2 of us sat down while training surged on around us. The atmosphere was perfect. I felt right at home sitting in this gym. I didn’t want to do a generic boxing interview with this trailblazer of women’s boxing. Her career history speaks for itself. And there is so much more to know about her.

     Jaime, born July 8th, 1976 is originally from Canada. She was born into a sports family. Her father played professional hockey, and her mother was a professional figure skater. Jaime is a highly decorated amateur fighter, having won 2 Canadian national titles before turning Pro in 2000. After that, she compiled an impressive 22-5-1 professional record on her way to winning an astounding 4 world championships. In 2013, Jaime retired from boxing after winning a unanimous decision over Dominga Olivo, just 8 months after giving birth to her second child. She walked away a champion with nothing to prove.

     Some of the words used to describe Jaime include icon, legend, pioneer and trailblazer. Another word used to describe her is – mom. She wanted to spend more time with her husband, Ryan, and their children. They have a 13 year old daughter, Neyla, and a 9 year old son, Cormick. Jaime explained its not uncommon for women to step away from any career in order to be a full-time mom and that is exactly what she did. On August 29, 2019, Clampitt-Hayes took her rightful place in the International Woman’s Boxing Hall of Fame at a ceremony held in Las Vegas.

Professional Boxing Hall of Famer – Jaime “The Hurricane” Clampitt-Hayes

     In addition to being a full-time mom, Jaime is a personal trainer, a boxing trainer, and a teacher on many different levels. She has a strong passion to help other people achieve goals they’ve set in life, and in some cases, she helps people figure out what those goals should be. She is a Holistic Health Coach. In this practice she puts focus on internal and external health. As a vegan she offers comprehensive plans to help clients balance day to day life and nutrition. She feels if relationships, careers, or any life issues are out of sorts, it will throw everything out of balance. It can dramatically affect what we decide to put in our bodies, and she can guide you back to a healthy lifestyle. Jaime also puts a strong emphasis on empowering women. She wants to help anyone of any gender but her experience especially in the early days of her boxing career was not always positive when it came to supporting women. She said it’s getting better (her tone made me think, slightly) but she believes there is still a long way to go. After she stepped away from boxing, Jaime never missed a beat when it came to physical fitness. She competed in high level fitness competitions while keeping a full schedule training and mentoring her clients. As the years passed the idea of coming back to boxing was always in the back of her mind.

     In 2018 Jaime and a team of highly skilled personal trainers and boxing trainers opened On the Ropes Boxing and Fitness. The idea was to offer the science of boxing and unique fitness classes in a fun, supportive, and motivating environment. Prior to opening the gym Jaime was at a point where she wanted to push the reset button in her own life. She was out with her girlfriends one night and she shared the idea of how fun it would be to open a community boxing gym with them. As the owners, they wouldn’t have to answer to anyone. They could do exactly what they wanted to do. It would be their vision – 4 female bosses running the show. At times, a boxing or combat sports gym is not the most welcoming place, and Jaime and her friends wanted to change that and open the doors with an emphasis on welcoming all. She explained that not everyone wants to fight but would still like to be taught the sport of boxing. She wanted to create an environment more geared towards fitness. Some people come to the gym for a release. Her clients are from all walks of life and Jaime and the entire staff look forward to meeting everyone who is interested in boxing without feeling the pressure that they would have to get in the ring and fight at some point. Jaime also shared that no one is going to be judged. The staff wants you to feel comfortable. Perfection is not the goal. They want you to keep coming back and enjoy what you are learning. She said “You will get a great workout and you will definitely sweat. You will also become part of a community and a family.” Clients range in age from children to adults. People from all walks of life including teachers, law enforcement, and the medical community all attend classes on a regular basis. From what I observed Jaime and the On the Ropes team have accomplished everything they set out to do – and so much more.

     With this new venture up and running it was only a matter of time before “The Hurricane” would make the decision to get back in the ring herself. She has always kept in top physical condition and over the years changed her diet and philosophy on nutrition. She made the decision to fight again which was not good news for the fighters in her weight class. Word began to circulate in the boxing world that Jaime, a true living legend was stepping back in the ring. Eventually promoter Jimmy Burchfield from CES Boxing made the announcement that Jaime would be headlining a historic card at the Cranston Stadium on June 19th, 2021. There were 2 reasons this was such a special announcement. First, Jaime who had not fought in 8 years was going to fight a very capable top contender, Olivia Gerula. The second reason, it would be the first time a live professional boxing card would be held outdoors in Rhode Island in over half a century. This was going to be an easy sell to the public, with such a beloved fighter returning to the ring. It was also somewhat of a wild card situation regarding the weather. When it comes to outdoor venues of any kind there is only one thing you can do to prepare for the weather. Cross your fingers and hope for clear skies and a comfortable temperature. The night of the fight saw a capacity crowd come out to see Jaime make her return to the squared circle. The fight was an all-out, full-on war with both fighters bringing their “A” game to the ring. For 6 rounds Jaime kept coming at her capable opponent. They exchanged punches in over 90-degree brutal heat. When all was said and done, the judges ruled the contest a draw. I asked Jaime if she had any thoughts from the fight now that it was in her rear-view mirror. She looked over at me and said “I haven’t seen it yet.”  

Sunday morning at On the Ropes putting in work – https://ontheropesri.com

She made no excuses for the fight ending in a draw, but she told me after the fight that when she removed her shoes, her feet were covered with blisters from the sweltering heat. I asked Jaime if the fight had been held indoors would the outcome have been different. She cut me off and said “It was great. I loved the experience. I was not nervous and probably should have been after an 8-year layoff. I have so much respect for Olivia. Some people may think it wasn’t the right fight because she has so many upsets on her resume, but I think it was the right fight for me. I learned so much from the experience. Starting at that level means I’m only going to get better. I’m not here to make things easy on myself. I’m not taking easy fights. I have long term goals for the rest of my career. Setting the bar high, stepping in the ring with her, was only going to help me. I definitely felt the layoff, but you know what? I friggin’ loved every minute of it. I loved the training camp. I loved the locker room. I didn’t get the W, but I learned a ton, and I had so much fun doing it. Plus, I was in there with someone who has fought everybody. What’s better than that? I came to get the ring rust off and she definitely got it off me.” Jaime laughed but was not interested in making excuses or talking about what ifs. You can see the fight on YouTube and see for yourself the battle these two warriors were in.

     Jaime preferred to stay in the moment with our conversation as she prepares for her next fight against Kim Wabik. At the press conference held at Arooga’s in Warwick last week, Jaime was all business. She showed very little emotion, keeping a strong poker face at all times. That is one of her trademarks. What stuck out to me was her physical appearance. She looks like she could step on stage in a body building competition. I could feel the supreme confidence coming from her. At one point she mentioned Vinny Paz who was in attendance for the press conference. She paid respect to the 5-time world champion and Rhode Island boxing great. She shared with the jam-packed room how much Vinny meant to her. She recalled having the opportunity to train with him early in her career and expressed how she had never seen anyone train at the level Paz did. The room became emotional for a moment as Jaime told us how much she admired him. I for one feel Vinny does not get the respect he deserves for everything he did putting Rhode Island on the map in the boxing world. He sold out the Civic Center multiple times. He is one of the greatest fighters of all time. It was a classy move to mention Paz, but then again class is something Jaime has a lot of.

     During my interview with Clampitt-Hayes I asked her to go into more detail about meeting and training with The Pazmanian Devil. She was happy to do so. She said “When I was an amateur boxer in Canada, I could never get a fight because I was the only girl. I would end up holding a camcorder and filming all the guy’s fights. When I was 16 years old, I bought my first boxing magazine and Vinny Paz was on the cover with the halo. I didn’t know who he was. I was still new to boxing. I remember reading the article and being taken back by everything he had gone through. The magazine had photos of him training with the halo on his head talking about him coming back and all these exciting things, like him not only being able to walk again but getting back in the ring to fight for a title. Then, years later, I got to train with him. For me it was such a huge honor to be in the presence of someone like him. Let’s face it the guy had done everything in the sport, got severely injured, and did it all again. That was pretty amazing to me.”

     I asked Jaime what he specifically helped her with. She said “He is so funny; I was the co-feature on his retirement card, and he would give me tips and advice. We trained together at the same time and while everyone was jumping rope, Vinny was jumping rope in fast forward. He was faster than everyone else. He hit harder than everyone else. The advice he gave me was great, but it was actually mimicking him and his behavior. To this day I have never seen anybody work that hard. I’ve trained with other pros, I trained with national champions, I’ve been to training facilities in Canada, and I’ve trained in Europe, and I never saw anything like him before. He was just on another level, and I think that instilled a lot in me.” If you watch any of Jaime’s previous fights you can see how she was influenced by Vinny Paz.

     Jamie is a role model to so many and I wanted to know who she held in similar regard. In addition to Paz, of course, she mentioned Ultra Marathon runner and fellow vegan, Rich Roll. She also mentioned Peter Manfredo Jr., and Gary “Tiger” Balletto. She said “Both men have always been super kind to me and a big influence. I loved watching both of them fight.”

     Jaime is 45 years old. She is in the best shape of her life. Tomorrow night she steps in the ring with another formidable opponent, Kim Wabik who would like nothing more than to come to the Ocean State and ruin Jaime’s night in front of her hometown crowd. She has expressed she is not afraid of Clampitt-Hayes and is going to surprise a lot of people at the Crowne Plaza. As usual Jaime spoke highly of her opponent and said “I know a lot of people she fought, and she has ring experience. Obviously, I admire her as a female athlete. Her job as a social worker is phenomenal. Honestly, I don’t know a ton about her. I’ve watched some film. We have never met. The feedback I keep getting is she is so tough, and she is going to keep coming.” That of course is also a way to describe Jaime. These two fighters are in very different stages of their careers. Jaime is in a rebirth while Kim is trying to build. They are both taking a risk with this fight. Jaime said “I’m very excited. I can’t wait to get in there.” One thing’s for sure, Jaime will be a heavy fan favorite as she will be literally fighting in her back yard less than a mile away from On the Ropes.

     As a wife and mother of 2, Jaime clearly puts family first. Her children grew up in and around a boxing gym. Her son came home from school one day and told his mother he looked her up on the internet and was impressed at all the content on her. Jaime told me at the end of the day her kids don’t want to see their mom get hurt in the ring. They are very protective of her. If they see a mark on her they are quick to ask if she is ok, and want her to fill them in on whether or not something happened in sparring. Jaime always puts her kids at ease that she is ok. In the end they think it’s cool that their mom is a great fighter. Cormick loves his mom, but he is also a big Micky Ward fan.

Neyla, Cormick, and Jaime
The Hayes Family

     Ryan Hayes is Jaime’s husband. They have built a great life together. They met in the gym over 20 years ago. They were sparring partners and friends for a long time. They have been together for over 15 years. He has always supported her as a fighter; from day one. He sparred with his wife helping her prepare for this upcoming fight. Jaime said, “Ryan is a very calm, Zen type of person, and helps keep me where I need to be when I’m training for a fight.” At this point Jaime got emotional and in a soft tone said “He has been there forever, and I don’t know what I would do without him. He understands what it takes to do this.”

Jaime “The Hurricane” Clampitt- Hayes next to her 4 World Title belts

      I asked Jaime if she trains the same way she did before her 8 years away from boxing. She said, “It’s totally changed. When I was younger I probably over-trained with everything. I ran too much but I was in my 20’s and could get away with it. Today my focus is on recovery, reflexes and speed. Some things like pad work is basiclly the same, but a lot of it we take from a very different angle. Most of my preperation today is mental. Some days I wake up and it’s like “oh, shit” thinking about the training ahead of me. That is all mental for me. Then its focusing on giving it 100% in the gym. That on its own is mental preparation. Then having to think about speed and power and technique, everything we roll into our camp, sparring, I drive to Quincy 2 to 3 times a week to spar, I think all of that combined can be mentally exhausting for anyone. Then you roll in a business, 2 kids, a husband and pets, and as hard as it all is it’s also what keeps me going. “I asked Jaime what is next for her in life. She immediately replied “To be there for my husband and kids.” Jaime feels she will always be involved with the sport of boxing and empowering young girls and women. She feels the gym allows her to have the best of both worlds. Her kids do a lot of different sports so she has the freedom to do what she loves and support her kids. She is also a huge animal lover.

     I asked Jamie if people were sitiing around talking boxing and her name comes up what would she want them to remember about her. She said, “I want people to remember how much passion I have for the sport. I put my heart into this and I just love it. I want to pass on what I’ve learned and be remembered as someone who helped girls (and guys) take it to the next level, or even if they just want to learn more about themselves. I want to give them all of that. That’s probably my biggest thing.”

     Jaime Clampitt-Hayes is an inspiration. She is defying the old school thought that you can’t do certain things after a certain age. I strongly encourage everyone to come out tomorrow night to see this iconic boxing legend in the ring and cheer her on. She may be originally from Canada but in my opinion, she is Rhode Island’s favorite daughter.

     This CES boxing extravaganza will be held at the Crowne Plaza and has a 7pm bell time. Go to CESFIGHTS.COM for tickets and more information. Go to ontheropesri.com to learn more about On the Ropes Boxing and Fitness, or just stop in for a visit. You’ll be glad you did.

A Storm is coming!

____

Brendan Higgins, writer and author, RIPTA bus driver, former professional wrestler (Knuckles Nelson), and North Kingstown resident.

We welcome Brendan as a contributing writer to RINewsToday.

To read a story about Brendan, from our sports department, go to: https://rinewstoday.com/knuckles-nelson-waking-up-from-the-wrestling-ring-to-the-yoga-mat-john-cardullo/

Higgins is the author of “Waking Up: From the Wrestling Ring to the Yoga Mat”

1 Comment

  1. Patricia Grandchamp on February 18, 2022 at 1:18 pm

    Fantastic story. As a member of OTR for the past year, and a fitness enthusiast, I can say with total conviction every thing in this article is 💯.. Thank you .

    Patty ( Pesto) Grandchamp