Ginny Fuchs: “There have been moments when I wanted to stop my behaviour and I can’t and that is when I realised I have a problem.”
The American flyweight Ginny Fuchs has long held an ambition to fight at an Olympic Games. It’s been her dream since chasing a spot on the American team for the 2012 London Games. The dream was realised in Tokyo, but with Covid still very much a part of our lives and the enforced restrictions that follow, it wasn’t the experience Fuchs had hoped for. The American told FightPost it felt more like a world championships and not the feel of an Olympic Games:
“It wasn’t what I expected I knew Covid would change it obviously. I went to Rio in 2016 I didn’t make the team so I didn’t compete but I got to go so I got to see how the Olympics was. So I knew it would be different because of Covid but I guess I didn’t expect just how different it was. There was nothing going on they didn’t want us to hang out with each other. So it was pretty much go train, eat and then go back to your room. So you can go compete or watch your teammates at the arena but that was pretty much it. But that is pretty much how every international tournament is, so it pretty much felt like any tournament. It felt like a world’s to me.”
Fuchs went into the tournament as one of the favourites, but after winning her opening bout she came up short against Bulgaria’s Stoyka Krasteva at the round 16 stage. Fuchs went to Tokyo chasing the gold medal and leaving without a medal of any colour has left the American feeling frustrated with how she fought and with the decision reached by the judges. It was a close fight and could easily have been scored either way, which in some ways makes it a harder pill to swallow for Fuchs:
“There were definitely frustrations with the fight. I know I made it close, I keep watching it over and over. I still feel like I won it. The frustration is maybe I should have shown a little more dominance to the judges. But everyone is the same after a fight, I could have done that, I should have done that. Watching the rest of the Olympics I kind of saw that the judging was a little inconsistent, so maybe there is a better way of judging the fights.”
The amateur career of Fuchs has been long and successful. National titles, a bronze medal at the world amateur championships in 2018, Fuchs was desperate to sign out with a gold medal in Tokyo. Despite the setback in the Olympics Fuchs is proud of her achievements and while there is a desire to turn professional, Fuchs told FightPost she might just have one last amateur tournament in her before the inevitable switch to the paid ranks:
“I wish I could have finished it with more like a world gold medal which I have been thinking about. The world’s are in October/November so I might go there before I have my first professional fight. That’s kind of what I am thinking, but I am probably leaning more to turning professional straight away. But overall my amateur run was great, of course, it could have been better but I can’t be too disappointed overall.”
Before her boxing life started, Fuchs was heavily into her sports from a very early age. Numerous team sports were followed by a short period of running. But the early years were scarred by the first signs of a problem that would affect her far worse in later years:
“My parents more or less threw me into sports. I knew how to swim since I knew how to walk pretty much, I started water skiing when I was 4. I started team sports like softball, soccer and basketball in second grade. When middle school hit basketball was my favourite sport at the time, I also did volleyball and track. At middle school was when I started struggling with my mental health and my OCD which kind of spiralled me into anorexia and I was very ill with that in my eighth-grade year. So because of that, I had a monitor put on me for my exercise output so all I did was run because that burned off the most calories. In my first year at High School, I was still being monitored, but the track coach would see me running after school around the track. So by the time track season came he told me I was going to run distance, I said I want to be a sprinter. But he told me no, you are going to run the mile and the two miles. In my first track meet, I broke the mile and two-mile record and I kept on breaking it, so that’s kind of how I found my talent for running.”
The running life would come to a premature conclusion thanks to a bet that would by chance move her life into a completely new direction:
“I got kicked off the team because of a prank I did. My friend’s roommate bet me a $100 that I couldn’t break down his door and once I did I took his Xbox and hid it in the bathroom. I got arrested by the campus police and then I got kicked off the team.
“But it was a blessing in disguise, because a year later I met this guy again who I knew previously, we ended up dating in college, but he was a professional boxer. I wasn’t running no more and I said take me to the boxing gym and that’s how I got into boxing.”
Fuchs is best friends with the current WBO super-featherweight champion Mikaela Mayer. They have a close bond, and Mayer has played an important part in recent times as Fuchs struggled to cope with her mental illness:
“We met in 2010 at the National Golden Gloves. It was my first National tournament, Mikaela had been to one before and she was telling me what to expect so that’s where our friendship started. So from then on we always roomed together to split the cost and we did that until the 2016 Olympic Games. What has also made us really close is that out of everybody, besides my parents, she has seen my OCD get progressively worse. It has got really bad these last five years or so, it is the worst it has been been in my entire life. Mikaela has seen how it has affected my life and my mental health because I have been living with her and travelling with her and she is the only person who has really seen it more than my parents.”
Being a long-time sufferer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and the impact and symptoms are severe. For Fuchs, it is an obsession for cleanliness and a fear of contamination. Washing her hands for up to 30 minutes at a time, and other similar problems, a simple shower could take 45 minutes, one long cycle of repetition. Different soaps, different toothbrushes, Fuchs has explained in previous interviews that once her mind has made up that something is contaminated that is it. Through therapy and medication, the problem was under control, but with the Olympics looming Fuchs didn’t want any medication possibly impacting on her performance, the issue has got progressively worse in the last few years.
There was a lack of understanding, then denial in the early part of her life, before the acceptance came:
“My parents could see it, but when you are a child you don’t recognise it. Just because I like to clean and stay clean a little more what’s wrong with that. I didn’t feel as though I had a problem, yes, it was annoying to my parents but I didn’t think anything of it. I handled it pretty well in college but there were moments because I was older I could see little things where this OCD thing is affecting me a little bit. But it is only in these past 5 years where I have accepted I have a disorder. There have been moments when I wanted to stop my behaviour and I can’t and that is when I realised I had a problem.
“It’s the feeling of disgust and filth. It is based around feeling contaminated and the spread of germs. It is not based around the fact that I might get sick and die, it is based around this feeling of disgust, me looking at myself as a disgusting person.”
Now the Olympics are in the past Fuchs will look at trying to get her OCD under firmer control and going back to therapy and possible medication. But there is one solace in her life already that gives her temporary relief from the problems within. Fuchs told FightPost just how important boxing is to her mental health:
“When I am not boxing and just in my everyday life, my OCD thoughts are louder and they can control my behaviour more. But when I am training and fighting I have a focus and those OCD thoughts are not so loud and boxing allows me to control them better and it gives me like a piece of mind.”
What was once denial and then not only trying to cope with her illness, but any mental illness carries a certain stigma around it. That stigma means many people try to hide their problems, rather than be open with those closest to them. With the help of Mayer, Fuchs has opened up about her struggles:
“Mikaela kind of helped talking about my OCD to other people, before I used to try and hide it from people. I never mentioned it and pretended I didn’t have it because I was worried that people would think I am weird or crazy. A lot of people don’t understand it which makes total sense which makes you feel separated or different. But the more I open up about it and talk about it, it is the opposite and I feel less different to other people. So talking about it has helped me feel comfortable about it and feel closer to other people knowing they can understand me more and realise I am struggling with something.”
Fuchs 33, is looking at a new challenge in the coming months. Sooner rather than later she will enter a new thriving world. Women’s boxing is probably the healthiest it has ever been. The only issue outstanding is a relative lack of depth. But seemingly day by day that is changing. The flyweight hopeful is an exciting and welcomed new addition to the professional ranks. The amateur pedigree will ensure a swift advancement up the boxing ladder.
The achievements in her boxing life are considerable, but maybe even more impressive is the fight she has to have every single day of her life. Fuchs is surprised when people tell her that she is an inspiration to others, but that is exactly what she is. A fight where the bell doesn’t sound to end the struggle, mental illness is an opponent that is never really vanquished.
The fight might never end, but by Fuchs opening up about her ongoing problems, many others will benefit. A stigma lost is a potential fight won.