The smack reverberated across the playground.
Everyone turned to see a young Franchesca Alcanter getting beat up by a bully — an older girl who left a searing mark on Alcanter’s face.
The next year, it was a boy tormenting her when her teacher told her it was OK for her to stand up for herself.
Alcanter finally let him know enough was enough.
And soon after that, everyone wanted her to be their elementary-school bodyguard.
Alcanter, 41, is still a fighter. This week, she’s preparing for her retirement bout as a professional Saturday at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan. And she still fights bullies by raising awareness for domestic violence and missing children.
Alcanter, whose last fight was in 2011, said the thing she’ll miss most after hanging up her gloves is the accountability.
“It helps motivate you to keep in shape knowing there’s an opponent out there waiting to try to knock you out,” said Alcanter, who is 19-10-1 as a fighter (2-0 in MMA competition). She’ll fight on Saturday as a super-bantamweight, checking in somewhere between 122 and 126 pounds.
Alcanter’s daily training consists of intense workouts and twice-weekly sparring sessions with Brain Spice, the first manager to train her. Spice has declared that this will be his final fight as well.
“Yes, you could say everything’s kind of come full circle,” Spice said. “She fought a low self-esteem from the bullying and her situation at home, but she’s got the strongest heart, and I think that inspires others.”
Alcanter actually dreamed of becoming a professional volleyball player and was a standout for Turner High in softball, basketball and track.
Sports served as an outlet of expression for the shy girl who shared a three-bedroom house with seven people and was ashamed to ask friends over to play because she felt poor.
Even though Alcanter picked a fight with the toughest bully in school to send a message not to mess with her in sixth grade, she was also known for looking after others.
“There was a girl who had combat boots on, and the preppies were giving her a hard time,” Alcanter said. “When I stood up for her she really appreciated it, and I kind of took that to heart.”
Boxing became Alcanter’s chosen path as she discovered more about her past — particularly her grandfather Joey (“The Bombarding Mexican”), who was once ranked the No. 10 contender in the nation in 1936.
Alcanter’s uncle was also a professional fighter, picking up bouts at regional circuses and carnivals, as well as Memorial Hall.
In the ring, Alcanter goes by “The Chosen One.” She feels like she was chosen to carry on her family’s mantel of prize fighter.
As Alcanter worked her way up through the ranks, her appearance made for quite a stir in the boxing world. Before boxing, she was a Hawaiian Tropic model and ring girl.
“It was my first professional fight (April 1999) and the headline screamed, ‘Beauty Queen Boxer to Make History in Terra Haute,’ because I was the first woman to fight there,” Alcanter said.
Alcanter said her appearance made her want to prove herself even more, and her career was highlighted by an ESPN bout that was televised via pay-per-view in 2000. Photos of that fight even made their way into Sports Illustrated.
“It was so strange to be among all these celebrities when I felt like I was just a girl from Kansas,” Alcanter said. “But knowing I had got (the fight) partly because of my looks made me want to fight even harder, because I knew that I was taking some other girl’s shot, and I was going to make it my best.”
Alcanter later became known for fighting for lost children, participating in fights to raise awareness for missing girls Kara Kopetsky, Cathy Schmitt and Ashley Martinez. Their photos are still kept close by in her phone.
Lakeysha Williams, 9-18-3, is Alcanter’s opponent this week. Hailing from Philadelphia, she’s known as “The Total Package.”
Alcanter is grateful that her retirement fight will come before her hometown fans.
After Saturday, Alcanter dreams of strengthening her financial foundation, which is designed to empower women, especially those who have been victims of domestic abuse. She said she dreams of building a permanent facility, and a portion of the proceeds from the fight will benefit the foundation.
“I was in two abusive relationships, so I know how tough it can be to escape,” Alcanter said. “But I want to help build self-esteem and self-value in those women — and men — and let them know that they can finally have peace like I have.”