She’s vicious and victorious

She’s vicious and victorious

Victoria D’Errico is all smiles as she is draped in championship belts after posting a split decision victory in the New England women’s title match and main event of Rough ‘N’ Rowdy’s Feast in the Northeast show last Friday at the Rhode Island Convention Center. The 2018 graduate of North Providence High School and Providence College sophomore trains at Legendary Boxing and Fitness on Smith Street.
Former NPHS cheerleader takes home N.E. championship boxing match at Rough ‘N’ Rowdy show

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Victoria D’Errico is proof that you should never judge a book by its cover.

At first sight, the 19-year-old North Providence native and Providence College sophomore business major looks every bit like a former cheerleader. And not only does she have the beauty, but she also has the brains: D’Errico was a National Honor Society student who graduated from North Providence High last year with high honors, as well as the 25th-ranked student in her senior class.

But last Friday night, in the main event of the sold-out Barstool Sports’ Rough ‘N’ Rowdy’s Feast in the Northeast at the Rhode Island Convention Center, D’Errico was in the ring – not as a ring girl, but as a boxer – swapping punches with a tough opponent in Leanna “Bumblebee” Cruz from Allendale, Pa.

In what many fight fans believed was the fight of the night, D’Errico and Cruz waged war in three, one-minute rounds, and when the dust settled, D’Errico, who went by the nickname “Vicious Vicky D,” won the bout via split decision and received the Rough ‘N’ Rowdy New England women’s championship belt.

So what is Rough ‘N’ Rowdy? Barstool Sports, which is a popular sports and pop culture blog, defines it as an event with “amateur fighters with no defense throwing haymakers,” and that was noticeable in almost all of the 24 fights that took place before last Friday’s high-energy crowd.

And what was D’Errico’s real story? While most folks, especially Cruz and most of the Rough ‘N’ Rowdy fans before the fight, regarded D’Errico as a cheerleader who was “putting down her pom-poms” for the fight, very few knew that she had been kickboxing since she was 12, and a few months ago, began boxing at Legendary Boxing and Fitness on Smith Street.

“One of the main reasons I love to fight so much is because it empowers women that we can fight too,” D’Errico said on Sunday afternoon, “especially with my appearance – I love to prove people wrong. Girls can fight too, and hopefully, I can inspire other women and younger girls.”

Entering last Friday’s fight, D’Errico had never fought in an official amateur fight, but she did step into the ring for two developmental bouts, “and in my last developmental fight, they had to stop the bout,” she recalled. “I got (my opponent) in the corner and hit her with two body shots and then a hook to her head. Had it counted, it would have been a TKO.”

And while all the fighters had to send in an audition tape to land a spot on last Friday’s card, D’Errico was simply training one day at Legendary Boxing and Fitness when one of the show’s producers came down to the North Providence gym to check out another fighter on the card, Warwick’s Mike Live, who was scheduled to take on a fighter from Braintree, Mass., for the New England championship.

“They saw me and they were like, ‘I think you would be the best fit for it,’” D’Errico recalled. “Technically, I had zero fights in the books. I had that cheerleader image and I go to Providence College. So I said, ‘Yeah, sure,’ I thought it would be a local, small thing, so I was like, ‘Any opportunity to fight.’”

“And then it blew up,” she added with a laugh. “All of a sudden, I’m on Barstool (Sports). I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m just going to run with this.’”

And the show’s organizers also ran with it, hyping D’Errico’s background as a high school cheerleader for the Cougars and explaining how she was going to “put down her pom-poms” for the fight.

At first, D’Errico was hoping to fight someone from URI and make it an intrastate collegiate bout. But along came Cruz, who welcomed the opportunity to fight a cheerleader and even called her out on social media by getting a male friend to wear a blonde wig and throwing barbs at D’Errico.

“I usually take things to heart,” said D’Errico, “but my family was like, ‘Wow, you’re taking this really well.’ Honestly, it was just funny. These people didn’t actually know me.”

If there were tensions between the two fighters, they clearly escalated at Thursday afternoon’s weigh-in at the Convention Center to the point when, after they checked in on the scale and posed for a staredown, Cruz pushed D’Errico’s face and D’Errico responded with a left hook that would have probably hit Cruz had they not been quickly separated.

“My whole approach was to remain humble, let her think,” said D’Errico. “But I overpowered her by so much that I think I made her nervous for the first time. When she pushed me back, my automatic reaction was to swing at her. And then it got broken up, but it was definitely crazy.”

What happened the following night was beyond crazy. Because their dust-up at the weigh-in received so much attention, D’Errico’s bout with Cruz, which was one of the four title fights on the card, got catapulted to the main event. And while most of the men in the other fights resorted to throwing wild haymakers that fired up the crowd, D’Errico and Cruz brought the fans some true boxing.

“I want to go into some more real boxing after this, so I wanted to show a little bit of skill,” D’Errico admitted. “And she’s also a boxer; she’s been training and she definitely has some skills, so I said, ‘Let’s show them what we got,’ and everyone came up to us after and said, ‘Wow, that was the best fight of the night.’”

D’Errico admitted that she had her share of nerves at the start of the fight, to the point where “I couldn’t feel my legs. I was in front of 4,000 people. I was boxing, but not the best. But I put her in her place at the beginning (of the fight). I went 1-2 and followed with an uppercut, and I think for the first time, she thought, ‘Hey this girl’s a lot tougher than I thought she was.’”

“It was a super close fight,” D’Errico continued. “I think what gave her a little bit of leverage was that in the last few seconds, she really started swinging, and I don’t know how many punches she landed, but I just looked bad. That could have weighed a lot in the judges’ heads.”

But in the end, D’Errico was awarded the split decision, and she emphatically pumped her fist and let out a victory yell before heading to her corner to embrace her trainer, former light heavyweight boxer Jarrod Tillinghast.

“I’m still kind of soaking it in,” she said. “I don’t think it completely (sunk in). I did lose my voice.”

D’Errico, whose senior project at North Providence High was a workshop on self-defense, began kickboxing at Christina Rondeau’s kickboxing school in Johnston, and “she took me to one of my first fights and introduced me to Charlie Sampalis, who has a gym in West Warwick,” D’Errico said. “He took me to some kickboxing fights and we won our first one together with him. It was funny. I would have cheerleading practice and then I would run over to West Warwick where Charlie’s gym was and I would take kickboxing.

“And then I switched over to boxing with Jarrod, and I’ve improved so much,” she added, “especially with my footwork, because boxing is a lot different – you have to move your feet.”

D’Errico, who is currently a fitness kickboxing instructor at Christina Rondeau’s studio on Thursday nights and teaches a program for students at Ricci Middle School, will be back in the ring on Saturday, Dec. 14, at the Rocky Marciano Tournament of Champions at the Bridgewater Vets Club. Unlike her fight last Friday, this will be a sanctioned amateur bout, but like her fight, this one will be a championship match.

And after that fight, what does the future hold for D’Errico? Is a pro career in the cards?

“When I started in kickboxing, people would say that to me and I said, ‘No, I’m just doing this for fun,’” added D’Errico, who also trains with Joe Reverdes at A & D Fitness in Johnston. “But recently, I don’t know, I love this sport so much. When they called my name (last Friday) when I won, I just felt like my hard work really paid off. I put a lot of time into it. I don’t know, anything’s possible, I might do it. You never know.”

Victoria D’Errico, left, receives advice from trainer Jarrod Tillinghast between rounds of last Friday’s New England women’s chamnpionship fight. D’Errico posted a split decision victory.