By Sandie Webb

Buckhead accountant Lori Williams-Jones, right, throws a punch during a boxing match.

Roni Williams-Jones walks quickly through the roll-up door at the Decatur Boxing Club. She’s ready for another long workout. Her friends call her a “girly girl,” but after she wraps her hands with gauze and tape, dons the gloves, helmet, and mouthpiece, she is a boxer – albeit the only one with pink accents on her shoes.

From a young age, she participated in athletics such as track, basketball, soccer, and cheerleading. She tried boxing last year to lose weight, and has stayed with it.

“Boxing pushes my body more mentally and physically than anything else I have ever done,” she said.

Williams-Jones, an accountant who is a goal-setter and an over-achiever, admits she needs and enjoys a little stress in her life. In 2010, that meant losing a lot of weight for her May wedding, completing her MBA, and undertaking a challenging new sport. Her weight gain had started as a college freshman, but instead of the “Freshman 15” [extra pounds], she put on 60. Her weight zoomed to 230 pounds in December 2009; today she is a fit and trim 140.

Along with 13 other men and women, the 25-year old Buckhead resident boxed in Atlanta’s first white-collar competition – Corporate Fight Night at Century

Center Marriott on Oct 21. The black-tie event featured seven bouts, each with three, 2-minute rounds; proceeds benefitted Bert’s Big Adventure and the Hirsch Academy.

The boxers were Atlanta-area businessmen and women who accepted the challenge for a good cause. Williams-Jones is a staff accountant with Unified Consultant Group, Inc. in Fayetteville. She earned an undergraduate degree from Georgia State and an MBA from Texas A&M.

The fight was sanctioned by The Georgia Amateur Boxing Association, which required a rigorous 10 weeks of training. Training began in the August heat. Decatur Boxing Club is not an air-conditioned facility, but rather a bare-bones brick building with industrial fans redistributing the heat while loud music blares from the speakers. Promotional boxing posters and motivational slogans decorate the walls.

Lori Williams-Jones, left, took up boxing to lose weight and stayed with it.

Terri Moss, a former women’s boxing champion, organized and promoted the charity event after visiting New Zealand and seeing the popularity of white-collar boxing events. Williams-Jones was already enrolled in a women’s boxing fitness class at the Decatur Boxing Club coached by Moss, and immediately expressed interest in more serious competition.

Excelling at the sport, Williams-Jones won the nickname “The Cobra” because she quietly uncoiled to strike her opponent. Her debut bout against Laura Messier was the co-Main Event. She won.

That night her husband Kevin was in her corner along with older sister Rhonda Williams, who is the current Georgia Games boxing champ. Other family members and several co-workers were in the audience, and she laughs as she talks about her mother’s reaction that night.

“My parents were supportive, particularly my Dad because my sister has been boxing for a while now, but my mother was terrified until the first round ended and she said, ‘Our little girl is mean. I didn’t know she was that mean!’”

Boxing for exercise is quite different from boxing in a ring surrounded by hundreds of paid spectators. Asked why she got involved in the fight-night benefit, she threw a strong right at a punching bag and replied “the challenge.”

“When I watched my sister’s fights,” she said, “I thought, ‘I can do that,’ and hopefully one day I will be better than she is.”

Williams-Jones plans to continue fitness boxing and is looking forward to participating in the next corporate challenge, which still is in the planning stages.

Even with several such events a year, she believes she still will find time to reach her next personal goal – a law degree.