BUENOS AIRES - In many ways, Carolina Raquel Duer is a typical middle-class Jewish kid from Buenos Aires. She attended a Jewish day school, spent time working and traveling in Israel and celebrated her bat mitzvah at a Conservative synagogue.
But when she stepped into the ring Nov. 12 at Club Atletico Lanus, she showcased a set of talents not commonly associated with the Jewish women of Buenos Aires.
Duer, 33, is the World Boxing Organization’s super flyweight champion. Making the third defense of her title, Duer defeated Maria Jose Nunez by a technical knockout in the third round. Duer knocked down her Uruguyan opponent with a left cross, Nunez scrambled to her feet before her cornerman - also her husband - threw in the towel to stop the fight.
A crowd of 2,400 was on hand to watch the bout, including the vice
governor of the Buenos Aires province and world middleweight champion
Sergio “Maravilla ” Martinez. National Public Television aired the fight
Known by her nickname, "The Turk," Duer is the daughter of Syrian
immigrants to Argentina. She attended the capital’s Jaim Najman Bialik
Primary School and spent more than a month in Israel in her younger
years working on a kibbutz and touring the country. On weekends she went
to the local Maccabi club and attended Jewish summer camp. It was there
that her feisty personality was first evident.
“I liked the social activities of the Jewish community, but sometimes I
got in trouble because I stood up for some disadvantaged kid,” Duer told
JTA. “Injustice has always bothered me.”
Last year, Duer hit a thief who tried to steal her purse on the street.
“The ambulance came,” she recalled. “I don´t think that guy would dare steal from a girl again.”
Her bat mitzvah was celebrated at the Iona Hebrew Center. “It moves me
when I go to the temple,” Duer said. “Last time I went for a tragic
situation, and I was there with my family. It's very touching for me.
I'm very Jewish in many ways.”
One of those ways is through food. Duer was the producer of a television
show about Sephardic food, and she worked as a waitress and bartender
in her family´s restaurant.
“Hummus, lajmashin, kibbeh, falafel -- I love them, and I know how to
cook them, but usually I can eat very little because of my profession,”
Duer said. “I'm always training and trying to reach the right weight for
Duer’s life changed forever in 2002 when she accompanied a friend who
was trying to lose weight to a gym. There she was approached by the
legendary Antonio Zacarias, a well-known local trainer, who asked if she
had ever boxed before. Zacarias wanted to train her, and Duer loved the
As an amateur she won 19 of 20 fights. In 2007, she turned pro. Three
years later she won the WBO title by defeating Lorena Pedazza by
decision. She has a professional record of nine wins and three losses.
Like her ancestors - Syrian immigrants were renowned as traders - Duer
has an entrepreneurial spirit, which she brings to her boxing. She
actively seeks sponsors and carefully manages the business of fighting.
Asked how much she expects to earn from the Nov. 12 matchup, Duer
declined to answer.
“I won't tell,” she said, “because I will be envied.”
Duer is the eighth Argentinian woman to hold a WBO boxing championship
and the first Jewish one. But she’s hardly the country's first Jewish
fighter. As in the United States, decades ago Jews were leading figures
in the Latin American boxing world. In 1940, Argentina's Jaime Averboch
won the welterweight title but died the same year without defending his
belt. Recently retired Mariano Plotinsky (“The Demolisher”), who has
fought with a Star of David on his shorts, held the OMB Intercontinental
title but lost his bid for a heavyweight class world title in 2010.
In the future, Duer hopes to live in New York and train at the legendary
Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, home to another celebrated Jewish fighter,
Yuri Foreman. She also hopes to get more involved in educational
“I would like to teach kids the difference between boxing and fighting,”
she said. “My family were always very good people. I think this is a
characteristic that comes from Jewish education.”