Violinist Uses Boxing To Overcome Chronic Illness


An accomplished Chicago violinist was left bedridden for two years due to her chronic illness, but credits boxing for a remarkable recovery and is now gearing up for her debut fight this week.

Noelia Cruz Vazquez first played the violin at age seven and went on to perform alongside famous musicians include Andrea Bocelli, Donna Summer and Marc Anthony. But at age 20, chronic pain in her hands and shoulders eventually led to a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. There is no cure for the pain and inflammation caused by this chronic illness.

Although things appeared bleak for Vazquez, she had a flashback to her childhood and decided to look into boxing.

“I just remembered growing up with my grandma in Puerto Rico and watching fights,” she explained to WGN TV. “Even though she couldn’t move part of her body, she would shadowbox the TV and get so excited. I grew up watching the magic of the sport.”

After realizing “it was love at first punch” after an initial session, Vazquez immediately went full force in boxing. She trains regularly at Hamlin Park, which has produced three Olympians.

“Pain makes you feel so powerless and boxing makes you feel so powerful,” said Vazquez. “Boxing has helped me really fight pain because there’s a sense of honor in this community.”

Although it may appear that the violin and boxing couldn’t be more different outlets, she noted that her time performing has actually helped her improve more quickly as a boxer.

“You have to listen for the snap of the punches, so you really have to develop a good ear to be a good boxer,” explain Vazquez. “Boxing is really musical, if you think about it. It’s all rhythm and when you’re in the ring sparring, you have to be like a jazz musician because you have to improvise based on the situations. The footwork is like dancing, so they’re very connected in special ways.”

Vazquez admitted that her fibromyalgia means that pain in shoulders or hands can still come without warning, but she’s learned how to adapt it. But most importantly, she’s developed a sense of community through boxing that is essential for anyone managing a chronic illness.

“The most beautiful thing I’ve found is boxing is the sense of having a corner,” said Vazquez.” When you feel supported by your corner, you feel like somebody has your back and that you can do anything.”