AP NEWS

Boxer fights back from a troubled past

December 24, 2019 GMT

BLACK LICK, Pa. (AP) — Today Rebecca Maine is an aspiring boxer, with 42 bouts behind her — including, she admits, “about 15 or 16 losses.”

She hopes to win Olympic gold, but that likely won’t happen before the 2024 summer games in Paris.

She did make it to the semi-finals for the United States national team going to Tokyo in 2020, but Stacia Suttles, of the Bronx, N.Y., won a unanimous decision over Maine recently in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Still, Maine wants to try again for 2024, she told an assembly on a recent Friday at Blairsville Senior High School.

It is one more hurdle in a life marked by such obstacles as peer pressure.

“It’s a part of everyday life,” she told a student questioner. “Stand up for yourself, don’t give in to peer pressure.”

She was there to motivate the student body as part of an effort funded by a Coach Mike DeRubis Teen Mental Wellness/Suicide Prevention Grant. The DeRubis grant honors the memory of a longtime volunteer coach for many sports in the Blairsville area, who passed away in 2017.

It was awarded by the Best of the Batch Foundation, a nonprofit established by former Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch in his hometown of Munhall, Allegheny County.

“Know that you are not alone,” Maine told the student audience. “I think the biggest thing is seeking help.”

A few years ago she reached a point where she realized she needed help.

“I am not originally from Pennsylvania,” Maine, 28, said. “I moved around quite a bit as a kid. But I graduated from Punxsutawney Area High School. I didn’t fit in very well and, long story short, I fell into drug abuse pretty early on and used anything I could get my hands on.

“It really took hold with heroin,” she told the gathering. “I really lost sight of myself.”

She said her “rock bottom” should have been when she overdosed in California.

“Really, I’m very surprised I came back from that,” Maine said. “There’s been several overdoses that weren’t intentional, but that one was. But my rock bottom was when I realized what I was doing to my mother and my family because when you are in something like that, you aren’t fully aware of what you’re doing to the people that you love.”

She quit a life of hitchhiking and train-hopping. She came home and turned to her mother to help her with rehabilitation, and now she’s been clean for more than six years.

It wasn’t easy.

“There were several attempts to get clean where I did relapse, but I’m six years strong and don’t plan on relapsing,” Maine said to applause from the full house in the high school auditorium.

She was accompanied to Blairsville by Jessica Hatheway, boxing instructor at the Fit4Boxing Club in Murrysville, Westmoreland County.

“We do a program for Parkinson’s disease at our gym,” Maine said.

“Becca fought on our cards twice for Punching Out Parkinson’s for Rock Steady Boxing,” Hatheway said.

A friend of Maine’s mother got her involved in boxing.

In 2017 Maine began attending Penn State-DuBois to pursue a career as a physical therapist and entered the cross-country program as a way to work out toward her goal as a boxer.

“I got a lot of scholarships for school,” Maine said. “I went to Penn State, I have a full degree and only $13,000 in debt.”

“That’s nothing people, that’s awesome, so apply for scholarships,” Hatheway said. “For student debt is not fun.”

Maine’s effort as a runner at Penn State-DuBois led to her being honored in November 2017 as Student Athlete of the Year by the United States Collegiate Athletic Association.

“This athlete’s story is a true inspiration and really tugged on the heartstrings of our entire staff,” USCAA Executive Director Matt Simms said in presenting that award at a banquet in Virginia Beach, Va.

The Best of the Batch Foundation website touted a pair of DeRubis scholarships valued at $1,000 each, one for a male student, one for a female student, at Blairsville High School.

“I sent out a couple emails to all students and staff about a grant,” high school guidance counselor Mark Zerfoss said. “No one applied, so I talked to Susan (DeRubis, Mike’s widow), I applied, and then Susan and I came up with some ideas.”

According to the Batch foundation website, the DeRubis grant provided up to $1,500 for projects including awareness assemblies, large group or classroom speakers, printing production costs for postings, hand-outs, wallet cards, and/or the purchasing of educational materials.

The grant helped bring Maine to Blairsville and print up posters, one of a giraffe telling the reader, “You Matter!” Those posters to be hung at Blairsville call attention to a source of support, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255), or texting “Hello” to 741741.

The hour-long assembly covered a host of questions about such topics as dealing with bullies: “I’ve gotten to go in the ring with them,” Maine said.

And keeping a journal: “I journal every day now, it’s very therapeutic.”

And even, from one student, “what’s your relationship status?”

“I’m single,” was her simple answer.

Maine maintains a “Rebecca ‘the Maine event’” Facebook page.

In the days prior to her going to Louisiana for the Olympic trials, she told supporters, “We still have some funds to raise so please share our GoFundMe page, link in comments. Thank you everyone who is in support of Team Maine and has helped to get us this far. This goes for all of my coaches, teammates, sparring partners, sponsors, family, friends, and fans!”

And one of her comments in Blairsville on Friday echoed a sentiment she posted late last month: “The boxing gym is my haven. This sport truly has all of my heart.”

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Online:

https://bit.ly/34LY1Vm

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Information from: The Indiana Gazette, http://www.indianagazette.com