In the tiny western York County town of Sharon – population 413 if you include the baying hounds – there is a liquor store, a bank, a grill and a few other businesses.
In the middle of it all, in an old storefront, behind a red door, sweats a lady.
Not just any lady, but a lady made of steel coil whose ring nickname is “The Guillotine Garland.”
Because this lady – a 33-year-old wife, mother, college student and personal fitness teacher who paints her toenails – maybe does one thing better than any other woman in America at her 140-pound weight.
Lisa Garland proves this by hoisting what she earned March 2, after she was introduced to a roaring, screaming crowd in Nashville with the Jason Aldean song, “She’s Country.”
It is a white leather, gold-buckled, jewel-studded, 13-pound world title belt for welterweights, awarded by the Women’s International Boxing Council.
It is almost like the belt Ric Flair used to hit Dusty Rhodes over the head with in wrestling matches.
Except boxing is real.
“I am the champ,” Garland said.
Nobody in her fitness center in Sharon, Champ’s Gym – filled with firemen and teenagers and other boxers – argued.
Garland has fought for years. She has traveled around and paid her dues enduring punches that would bend backward the knees of a longshoreman.
And now, after living through 10 three-minute rounds in her title bout – a fight so long and bruising she said it is being investigated as possibly the longest women’s bout ever – she might be the first-ever champion from York County, man or woman.
Her husband, a former professional boxer in New Jersey, trains the champ. The men and boys working out at the gym are asked if Lisa Garland is a boxer to be reckoned with.
“She smashed a guy’s nose in sparring,” yelled out a 13-year-old kid named Hunter Grayson.
“The blood was on the wall,” said teen boxer Alex Lowery.
In the ring is Thomas Brown, a seasoned boxer with many fights where he has tried to mash an opponent’s head like a rutabaga. On this day, Brown spars with Garland, who throws enough punches from enough angles that the only other sound is men in the gym moving away from the ring in fear each will be asked to spar next.
“Tough?” asks Brown as he climbs out of the ring. “She’s great. And good people. Nice and generous. A super lady who is a champion boxer. Makes me happy sometimes I fight men.”
A 6-year-old kid in the first grade, hanging around the place, points and says, “she’s my mother.”
The kid identifies himself as Tommy, with a nickname “The Bad Boy.”
“Boxers have to have a nickname,” he said.
Tommy tells of his straight-As in the first grade where he took his mom for show and tell last week. He made sure she brought the big title belt; those kids must have thought that Tommy had the coolest mom in the whole wide world.
Garland spars, smashes the speed bag, the heavy bag – all of the stuff that means boxing. A sign, written in marker states: “Fatigue makes cowards of men (and Lisa.)”
Because boxing is a sport of sweat and smells that are not perfume. The gym is no plush fitness center with yuppies ordering smoothies afterward.
This gym has two tractor tires in it, which can be rolled, maybe thrown. A bell sounds every three minutes, meaning all must punch and sweat until the bell sounds again, giving 30 seconds of rest. Garland is the sole woman.
Her next fight is tentatively scheduled for April 27, another charity fundraiser like the one she won to take the title belt. She hopes to help lady boxers prepare for the Olympics, too.
“I am just trying to show that a fit life is a good life,” Garland said. “I balance college and being a mom and a wife and my work. I make it all work.
“If I can help lift women up, show that women can be good mothers and wives, have a career and be fit and healthy, even better.”
Then this champion, sparring, hit Brown, a grown man and boxer in great shape, with a left hook to the ribs.
The bell sounded, Garland stood there in the ring, barely breathing heavy, and asked, “Who’s next?”
Nobody raised a hand.