NEW YORK - All Hail… The Queen.
"My name is Queen It’s Queen or Mitt Queen. They don’t call me by Ann," says Ann Najjar, a San Diego, California native.
It’s that simple, Ann Najjar IS the Mitt Queen. She is a professional boxing coach at Bomber Squad Boxing Academy in San Diego, Najjar trains boxers, mixed martial arts fighters, professionals, amateurs, and any athlete that does mitt work.
Najjar explains how she is able to hold the mitts when doing speed work with men twice her size.
"For me to catch these quick punches for these other fighters that I have, it's because I'm fast as well. So you still have to be at that level too. It's being light with your hands. I'm light with my hands. So it’s enough to move them fast enough, to keep up with his hands," she says.
Najjar coaches several female fighters too.
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"What people don't understand is how hard it is. If I'm holding mitts, I'm calling out a new combo, but catching the old combo at the same time as I'm calling out the new one! People don't understand the art behind it, it's very difficult! For me, it's so normal because I do it so regularly," continues Najjar.
The 32-year-old has been coaching for seven years. Her clientele continues to grow, as well as her popularity.
On April 14th ESPN, in coordination with their MMA coverage, posted clips of Najjar and her mitt work on Instagram and Tik Tok. The video has nearly 3.5-million views combined and counting.
"I'm still so humbled by it," exclaims Najjar. "It's so crazy to me that they're watching me, not my fighter. And usually, it's the other way around. You're watching the fighter. But I know I am one of one, there's not many females doing this, and I can hang with the big guys."
When Najjar was 18 years old, her brother Sean was a professional MMA fighter, so she took a boxing class to learn more about the sport. And she was sold.
"I took my first class and I never went on to anything else. I loved it so much," she says.
Najjar said taking regular boxing classes changed her life.
"I was holding mitts in classes, which was normal. And then it became a thing where I'm helping out in the classes, and it became a thing where I'm taking over classes, and helping out what these classes. And so really, I have to owe it to my brother, because I really wanted to understand the sport, to know what was happening when he was in that cage fighting," she says.
Fighting was fine for Najjar's brother, but with her family being from Iraq, taking punches was not considered the norm for a woman.
Najjar says, according to tradition, "I should be at home. I should be married. I should have kids. I should be taking care of the family. I shouldn't be in a male-dominated sport. So what's so awesome … Is that I'm a female, a middle Eastern female and a male-dominated sport and it's okay. And I'm killing it!"
Someone you see in many of Najjar's training videos, is also one of her top athletes, 20-year-old Jonny Mansour.
One day after completing Olympic training camp, Mansour says, "She really caught my eyes the first time that I saw her, because of the way she would hold the mitts, it was different than any girl out there has."
Najjar had Mansour’s support from day one.
She says, "He's one of the five fighters I would say, that did not care what anybody said when I was going to hold the mitts for him. He let me hold mitts for him. He preached for me, ‘just because she's a girl doesn't mean anything.’"
Mansour is a flyweight and a 2021 Tokyo Olympics Alternate, currently training with Team USA.
He says, "I love working with her because the flow is different. She holds mitts the right way and she makes us throw a lot of punches. She makes us sweat a lot. And you know, what, what else could we ask for?"
"And the fact that she can keep up with my speed. It's pretty crazy!" claims Mansour.
Yet, for all the millions of views and tens of thousands likes Najjar's training videos get on social media, the Mitt Queen has one, strong message, and it is directed at young women, and females working in male-dominated industries.
"For me, being in this gym with only males, I am the only female here. I get respected just as much as these guys do because I am confident and they see that it is true," She says. "And it should be so for any female out there. You go out there with confidence. And let me tell you, it's gonna work … It's gonna work!"
And that confidence is clearly working for The Mitt Queen.