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by Brendan Higgins, contributing feature writer
Photos: Rebecca Lawrence – @camerafly76 on Instagram
She has done it all in the world of boxing. She is a four-time world champion. She is a Hall of Famer. She owns a successful business. She is a wife and mother of two. She is a role model in a world desperate for real role models. So why is Jaime “The Hurricane” Clampitt-Hayes getting in the ring this Friday night at Bally’s Twin River Casino? Because she can.
Jaime is living proof if you want something bad enough you can achieve it. Make no mistake about it. What she wants is to be world champion for a fifth time.
If you don’t know Jaime, she might intimidate you. Her bodybuilder physique and no-nonsense approach to training makes her a true badass. However, I know first-hand she is one of the kindest people you could ever meet. She is a friend to many. She is a mentor and trainer at her gym, On the Ropes Boxing and Fitness, in Warwick. With that being said, once she steps in the ring, she is all business. Just like flipping a light switch, she becomes a warrior, and its game on.
On Friday, June 24th, Jaime, (23-5-2), will attempt to write the next chapter in her boxing career when she takes on Miranda Reyes, (5-1-1), of Houston, Texas. This fight is the main event of an exciting card presented by Jimmy Burchfield and CES Boxing.
I interviewed Jaime a week before the fight. I asked her how training was going. She said, “It’s good, really good. It’s been a different camp this time because it can be difficult for me to get sparring partners at the level I need. They can be far and few between. There are some good female boxers in this area, but I have to travel to get the type of work I need in preparation for a fight. With my busy schedule, jumping in the car and heading to Boston to train is not always possible. Every camp is different. I try to take something away from every camp.”
I was looking forward to asking Jaime about two potential future opponents, Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano. These two fighters recently made history by selling out Madison Square Garden. They engaged in an all-out war that can easily be compared to the greatest fights in boxing history – male or female. In fact, many believe this fight made a strong argument that we need to stop calling it female boxing, and just call it boxing across the board. I, for one, couldn’t agree more.
Jaime was in attendance for the Taylor-Serrano fight, and this is what she had to say about it. “For me, it was really emotional. I started this journey 30 years ago. It’s taken this long for female fighters to get the proper exposure they deserve. It couldn’t have happened to two more deserving women. They are both incredible. I’m not sure if, in the moment, either of them realized the magnitude of what they were involved in. It was so loud we couldn’t hear the ring announcer. I’ve been to Vegas to see Mayweather fight. I’ve been there to see De La Hoya fight. I’ve seen Arturo Gatti in Atlantic City. This was (for me) the biggest fight I have ever attended in person. I was watching the fight with tears streaming down my face because I was so proud of both of them. All of us female boxers have had our struggles getting the recognition we deserve. I know Katie Taylor’s story. I know Amanda Serrano’s story. We have all had our struggles in this business.”
Jaime expressed nothing but respect and admiration for Taylor and Serrano. That was of course the perfect time to ask Jaime if she would like to fight either of these champions. I mentioned earlier when Jaime gets in the ring, a change occurs similar to a light switch being flipped. Well, just asking the question flipped the switch on. She shifted her body to an upright position. The energy changed from us having a conversation to her telling me how it is.
She said, “I would absolutely want to fight either of them. Same weight class. Now that I’m back in the game the word is getting out. The phone is ringing for potential future fights. One of the reasons I came out of retirement was for the challenge of one of these big fights. I still have the drive and desire to do this. Of course, that’s my goal. Jimmy Burchfield once said, ‘Before I sign a fighter, I ask them what their goal is. If they say they want to become world champion, I know they are the right kind of fighter for CES.’ I remember him asking me that question 20 years ago. I told him I want to be world champion. That thought has never left me. I’m still learning. I’m always trying to progress. I want to get in the ring and look like I belong in there. That’s why I work so hard. I need to keep getting these wins and take the steps towards a big fight.”
I asked Jaime how it felt to return to Twin River. She smiled and said, “I’m so excited. In the beginning of my career, I fought at Foxwoods a lot. So that place is special to me. I feel the same way about Twin River. I had a lot of great fights there.”
Jaime is enjoying her return to the ring. When she decided to fight again, she wanted to give it a year. That year has now come and gone, and Jaime revealed she feels better now than she did a year ago.
Jaime is surrounded by a quality team. From promotion to training to family and friends. Her husband, Ryan Hayes, is probably her biggest fan. He is also one of her sparring partners. Yes, you read that correctly. Ryan is no stranger to being a sparring partner with boxing royalty. Vinny Paz has gone on record calling Ryan ‘the toughest sparring partner I ever worked with.’ That is quite a compliment. I spoke with Ryan about his life with Jaime. He recalled the first time he ever laid eyes on her. He said, “The first time we ever spoke to each other was at the gym, Rhode Island Boxing. I knew who she was. Obviously, she is beautiful. I had a crush on her from the first time I made eye contact with her. We became good friends at first. Once we got together it blossomed into a beautiful relationship. On August 12th it will be 15 years for us.”
I asked Ryan how he felt about his wife returning to the ring. He said, “I want her to be happy. I know she can do it. I support her 100 percent. If I thought she couldn’t do this, I would say something. I watch her. I see how hard she trains. I’m convinced she can still do this. I’m not nervous because she knows exactly what she is doing. When she left boxing in the past, she never left the gym. She is always training. She always eats clean. She takes very good care of herself. When she is training, she trains harder than anyone. Her age is a non-factor.”
I asked Ryan about sparring with his wife. After all, he is a much larger body type with 60 lbs. on her. Ryan said, “For this fight, we don’t have any film on Reyes. So, I can’t really mimic her style. I just try to push Jaime. I try to be as quick as I can. I try to make her work the whole time. I try not to let her rest at all. I’m either going after her or making her come after me. I stay in her face. I keep her busy. I keep pressuring her. Always in her face. I’m always the one more tired after the round because she is in fantastic shape.”
I wanted to know what its like to trade punches with one’s spouse. I think everyone would like to know about that. Ryan was more than happy to share about it. “Jaime t’s off on me. I think she is hitting harder than ever before. This camp her power is better than it’s ever been. Especially to the body. She always threw great combinations, but now if she throws six punches, they are all hard. This is the best she has ever been.”
Ryan added, “I think she is now fighting a style where she is sitting down more on her punches. More so than in the past. She has always been strong. Always been a mover and a boxer. Now she is less on her toes, sitting down and being busier. She is staying in the pocket more, slipping and using her defense more to block punches and countering with more power. Now she wants to stay in there and hammer her opponent. I’m excited about it, but it also hurts a lot more sparring with her today.”
I asked Ryan how he felt Jaime would match up against the current world champion Katie Taylor. He said, “Jaime will be competitive with anyone. I would love to see her get a title shot. She deserves it. Nobody is going to out work her. Nobody is going to out train her. She can go with anyone. I think she could fight for a title right now. The sooner the better.”
Before Jaime can look to the future she will have to deal with a much younger Miranda Reyes. A young up and coming fighter from Texas who is showing no fear going into the fight Friday night. Ryan explained, “Jaime will fight anyone. She has never backed down from a challenge. She might say, ‘this will be a tough fight’ but to say no to the fight? Never. As for this fight, Jaime is going to focus on what she can do and not so much what her opponent might do. Jaime has all the tools to beat anyone. As long as she brings them with her, she will be fine. The bottom line is Jaime is fearless.”
Jaime added, “I have to take these fights and I have to win them. I remember when I was fighting in my 20s and 30s. If I lost a fight I was devastated. You might not see me for a week. Today is like, this is amazing, I get to fight again. I’m going to be 46 in a few weeks. Regardless of the outcome, I just try to be in the moment. I don’t worry about all the other stuff.” Jaime is as grateful as a person could possibly be. From where I was sitting, it sounded very much like what Tom Brady says about playing football at this point in his life.
Outside of the ring, Ryan and Jaime live a quiet life. I asked Jaime what the week before a fight is like. She said, “The work is done. I just want to be with my family. That’s it. They put me at ease. Ryan knows me better than anyone. We started in the gym together 20 years ago. He knows exactly what to do. He is my comfort and my security blanket. I like to lay low. We are pretty normal. Usually, I’m in bed by nine o’clock and I’m up early every day. I like to watch TV. I love watching HGTV. You know, home improvements. We just finished watching The Offer. It’s incredible except for one thing. I have never seen The Godfather (laughing). So now I’m halfway through watching the Godfather. It’s taking forever to watch. I keep falling asleep because I’m so tired from training. We also watch a lot of boxing. We watch fights together all the time.”
I asked Jaime if she had a message for her army of fans. She said, “I appreciate everybody for supporting me. That is the biggest thing. There are a lot of people at our gym who never saw me fight years ago. They have been so supportive and giving of their time. Its amazing. I’m surrounded by people who want me to succeed. They want me to fulfill my dream. That is an amazing feeling. I just feel so blessed. I hope they see my passion. I love doing this so much.”
As Jaime continues to climb the ladder on her way to a world title fight, I encourage everyone to come out to watch her fight this Friday night at Bally’s Twin River Casino. You can count on one hand the world champions from Rhode Island. Jaime “The Hurricane” Clampitt-Hayes has been there four times. Let’s all get behind Rhode Island’s favorite daughter as she closes in on number five.
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/
To read all stories by Brendan, here, go to: https://rinewstoday.com/brendan-higgins/
Higgins is the author of “Waking Up: From the Wrestling Ring to the Yoga Mat”