For Jodi “The Fish” Mae Calderon, bartending and boxing go hand in hand. Both are “all about technique, looking graceful and knowing when to call the shots.” The 5-foot-5 bartender at The Normandie Club — a speakeasy-inspired cocktail lounge in Los Angeles’ Koreatown — may be new to the sport, but she’s looking forward to stepping into the ring with another fearless competitor.
The Bartender Boxing event is so different from other events and organizations created for bartenders, Calderon explains, which is what drew her to the organization to begin with. She’s also participated in other contact sports, including Jiu-Jitsu, Taekwondo and kickboxing, to stay in shape. This felt like a natural step to take.
“As bar professionals, we are surrounded by drinking and this was something completely the opposite,” she explained. “Being committed to this competition has really shown me to relax under pressure and have fun all at the same time. It has also helped me create a balance between bar life and fitness life.”
It hasn’t been an easy balancing act. Calderon is juggling a busy work schedule with her training. But Calderon was up for the challenge from the beginning and continues to push herself hard.
“Being a bartender and training simultaneously has its pros and cons. Pros meaning the sport is teaching me to have discipline and patience,” she explained. “A big con for me would be when I do close the bar and stay late nights, not having enough sleep affects my training. Also, sometimes I have to sacrifice not having a social life.”
Her focus is unquestionable, though, and she doesn’t mess around when it comes to her actual training sessions. In fact, when Tales of the Cocktail first reached out to her, she was in the middle of a deep sweat prepping for her upcoming match.
“I am naturally competitive and I am involved in a variety of sports five times a week,” she said. “I am training to win. I am training to push my limits. If I don't feel like vomiting, I am not training hard enough.”
For Calderon, as long as she’s being consistent in her training schedule and maximizing every second at the gym, she knows she’s going to excel in the ring. And having her team at The Normandie Club is also fueling her along the way. She said, “they are beyond excited for me to compete.”
As for her strategy, Calderon said that she’s focusing on being able to switch from offense to defense quickly while getting into her opponent’s head. She also said that her strengths as a bartender — including “consistency, speed, and being able to problem solve under pressure” — will be to her advantage in the ring, as well.
“This competition has been hard, but also has been beyond rewarding,” she says. “This will challenge me beyond the physical, and I am up for the challenge.”
Calderon added that she hopes to see the competition return next year and become a mainstay in the community, helping to create healthy habits for bartenders.