More than 600 male and female boxers ranging in age from 8-40 will compete in the 2017 USA Boxing Elite and Youth National Championships and Junior Open this week at the Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake City.
Few, if any, of the participants took up the sport later in life than Park City’s Maryguenn Vellinga.
Vellinga, is a 35-year-old mother of two of Guatemalan descent who grew up on a watermelon farm in Santaquin. She didn’t start boxing until she was 28. Coincidentally, she became interested in the sport after watching the Golden Gloves National Tournament of Champions in Salt Lake City in 2009, the first of three times the city has hosted that event.
“It has kind of come full circle, which is cool,” Vellinga said.
USA Boxing National Championships
When • Tuesday through Saturday
Where • Salt Palace Convention Center, Hall 4, Salt Lake City
Schedule • Two daily sessions with four rings running simultaneously (12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.)
Cost • Admission is free Tuesday through Friday; Saturday’s championship bouts at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Elite Division) are $10
This is the first time USA Boxing will hold its national championships in Salt Lake City. Bouts begin on Tuesday and run through Saturday. Sessions begin at noon and 6 p.m. Tuesday-through-Friday and admission is free.
Saturday’s Elite Finals begin at 7 p.m. and admission for that event is $10.
Only six women are in Vellinga’s division, so she drew a first-round bye and won’t fight until Thursday night. The Payson High, Dixie State and University of Utah graduate, is ranked No. 2 in the Elite Female Division at 112 pounds.
“It is a huge opportunity,” she said. “The fact that I was able to qualify the same year it is in Salt Lake is something I won’t take lightly. It is great to be able to have fans and people I know here to watch. I don’t know that it will be a big home court advantage, but I am looking forward to representing my state well.”
Virginia Fuchs of Kemah, Texas, is the favorite to win the 112-pound division and the woman Vellinga will probably have to beat to earn a spot on the national team. Women’s boxing became an Olympic sport in 2016 and Vellinga has her eye on qualifying for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan, after falling short in her bid to make the 2016 team.
“I am going to give it everything I’ve got,” she said. “I know I will be the underdog going into that finals fight if I win [in Thursday’s semifinals]. It would be a big upset if I beat Virginia, but I am as ready as I’ve ever been.”
Vellinga, who is trained by veteran SLC trainer Rick Montoya, has been balancing a full-time job as a personal trainer and fitness coach at Park City’s Orange Theory Fitness while preparing for nationals by working out five or six days a week. She randomly won a sweepstakes for a weekend of training with USA Boxing in Colorado Springs, Colo., last summer with many of the same competitors she is hoping to beat at nationals this week, said her husband, Luke Hinz.
“I think I will have a pretty big crowd there,” Vellinga said. “I have a pretty decent following from Park City. It is hard to estimate, but I have 50-100 people who have inquired. We will see who shows up.”
Kearns’ Monica Lazalde (106 ), Herriman’s Whitney Gomez (141) and Salt Lake City’s Amber Montoya (178) are other women from Utah who will compete this week.
Only one Utahn — Herriman’s Ismael “Milo” Gutierrez — qualified to compete in the Elite Male Division. He is in the 141-pound weight division.
USA Boxing announced in September that this will be the inaugural year for its USA Boxing Alumni Hall of Fame banquet. That will be held Friday at 7 p.m. and will feature world champions Evander Holyfield, Mickey Ward, Michael Carbajal and Virgil Hill, among others.
Utahns at the USA Boxing National Championships
Elite Female Division • Park City’s Marguenn Vellinga (112lbs.), Kearns’ Monica Lazalde (106), Herriman’s Whitney Gomez (141),Salt Lake City’s Amber Montoya (178)
Elite Male Division • Herriman’s Ismael Gutierrez (141)
Youth Male Division • West Jordan’s Adrian Lopez (108), West Valley City’s Holt Mateo (123), Roy’s Santana De Carlo (132)
Junior Male Division • Payson’s Aaron Garcia (80), West Haven’s Javier Gama (95), Riverton’s Tanner Gurule (101), Salt Lake City’s Yahir Estrada (106), Vernal’s Jesus Rodriguez (106), West Valley City’s Leonardo Sanchez (106), SLC’s Melgar-Torres Javy (125), Kearns’ Zamora Eduardo (138)
Intermediate Male Division • Nephi’s Noah Leidecker (75), South Jordan’s Erik Castenada (90), Ogden’s Elijah Willett (90)
Bantam Male Division • Sunset’s Dylan Bahena Dominguez (65), Clearfield’s James Cox (65), Nephi’s Diego Leidecker (65), Clearfield’s Ozmanny Sanchez (80), Santaquin’s Sergio Sanchez (80)
Pee Wee Male Division • Payson’s Austin Leonidas Garcia (50), Nephi’s Evander Leidecker (60), Santaquin’s Valentin Sanchez (65).