One has 10 tattoos, a Mohawk haircut and so much ethnic diversity in her background she calls herself "a little bit of everything."
The other is a fair-haired, fair-skinned Valley girl who put aside a modeling career to fight.
Yet for all their differences, Patricia Manuel, the Mohawk, and Mikaela Mayer, the model, share the same dream: a spot on the first U.S. Olympic boxing team for women.
"There's no higher sports achievement than the Olympics," says Manuel, a former national champion. "And it means a lot to me."
"It comes down to one day," Mayer adds. "You lose, you're out."
And because both fight at 132 pounds, it's a goal only one can realize.
"I think about it all the time," Mayer says. "It would be amazing. Especially coming from where I came from."
That's another thing they share: Each took long, unusual — and in the case of Manuel — painful paths toward a goal that seems to grow more elusive the closer they get.
Manuel, who lives in Long Beach, Calif., discovered boxing in high school, when her grandmother gave her a Christmas-present membership in the L.A. Boxing Club to help her lose weight.
"Now I'm down to 130 pounds," she says. "So the diet worked."
Grandma's plan never called for Manuel to throw a punch in anger. But a few months later the teenager climbed into the ring with a 32-year-old veteran of 26 fights.
"It was obviously a mismatch. It was embarrassing," she says. "I fell in love with it immediately."
Soon Manuel, whose background is primarily Irish, Mexican and black, had talked her way into trainer Roberto Luna's stable at the Commerce Boxing Club. By the end of 2008, Manuel was ready to leave the amateur ranks.
But her pro debut was postponed repeatedly, first by a split lip, then when multiple opponents pulled out days before scheduled fights. So she wound up entering, and winning, the 2009 amateur national championships.
Two months later women's boxing was added to the London Games, and Manuel delayed her pro debut indefinitely.
That's when the real problems began. Because of a compressed joint in her right shoulder, Manuel hasn't fought since losing in the semifinals of the Pan Am box-off last March, and she won't get into the ring again until October's national PAL championships. There she'll have to finish either first or second to qualify for next year's U.S. Olympic trials.
"I know I've had setbacks. But in my heart of hearts, I know if I'm 100 percent no one's going to beat me," Manuel, 25, says. "I look at it this way: Certain people have certain mediums to get to where they need to hoist themselves.
"And to me boxing is that medium. That's my vehicle to greatness."
Mayer was also 17 when she first found herself in a gym looking for something other than a spot on the Olympic team.
A party girl who was kicked out of one high school for fighting and was about to flunk out of another, Mayer said she had "an epiphany" after stumbling into a Muay Thai club in the San Fernando Valley.