We’d heard about  Dalia “La Pantera” Gomez and her nonprofit venture, Vertical Skillz. We met up in Oakland, California and spent a few hours together shooting and talking.

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Dalia is tough yet gentle and spoke to everyone that passed by us. People were drawn to her, Dalia is quite charismatic, and she loves connecting with people. Here’s our talk.

ARBOL- Where did you grow up?  

DG- Oxnard, California

ARBOL- What’s your heritage? 

DG- Short answer, Mexican. Long answer: Aztec, according to the historian in the family we’re descendants of Moctezuma. (Aztec Empire ruler from the 16th century). And I'm Spanish, Haitian and Native.  

ARBOL- How did you come to boxing?

DG- Basically I lost my basketball scholarship when I got a DUI: I told my coach in her living room that I wasn’t going to go back to Cali because there was nothing for me there and I asked her what if I could prove to her I could be responsible, would she then consider giving me my scholarship back? She said nothing and put her hand out and i shook it. That year I worked five jobs and ran to work because I didn’t have a car and ran into a boxing coach at my YMCA  job and I had three fights only. Then the year was over and I didn’t fight for 10 years and started  fighting again at 31 years old. And I’ve been fighting ever since...

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ARBOL- What are the benefits you especially get out of the sport?

DG- Sports in general saved my life. Right now at my age and with life’s problems and stress it keeps me healthy and balanced to not think negative and more. But besides staying healthy,  most importantly it helps me help people and that’s what makes me smile the most. Helping the kids in my community is the best feeling because I know what coaches and mentors have been in my life...

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ARBOL- What are the main differences between women and men fighters? 

DG- The cup LOL. Besides the pay nothing really in 2019, because women have the technique and discipline just the same. 

ARBOL- You are involved with the community with your project, Vertical Skillz, please talk about that a bit.

DG- Vertical Skillz was created in 2004. It’s  a program design to empower inner city youth by building physical, mental and character strength through mentorship, life skills training, and international traveling experience.

ARBOL- What's a great recent location you went to recently for work?

DG- Well I wouldn’t call it work but I went to Belize to train kids and give away used clothes, shoes, boxing gear and other sports gear. It was amazing. Two years in a row I took two east Oakland kids to Nicaragua to do the same thing. 

ARBOL- What's in the near future for you?

DG- Quitting my job as a Oakland middle school teacher and freelancing as a personal trainer and focus on my nonprofit.  The big plan is to open a gym in Oakland and be the first Latina woman to own a real boxing gym.