Lamonakis relishing title tilt
New York based Sonya Lamonakis combines her day job as a teacher with boxing in the heavyweight division and can't wait for her title shot tomorrow night, as she tells Martin Chesnutt...
To hear of a boxer with a day job is not unusual, but one training for a world title shot is far more rare.
“I’m a full-time school teacher, then I get out of work, jump in my car and I’m off to Gleason’s Gym for about three hours.”
Welcome to the world of boxer Sonya Lamonakis, as she prepares for her UBF women’s heavyweight title fight on Saturday night, and this woman’s work isn’t even close to done.
“I am also part of the board of directors that governs amateur boxing in New York City, so I have quite a lot of responsibility there too.”
Having his bicycle stolen led the then Cassius Clay to boxing. The incident which brought Lamonakis to the sport was far more frightening.
“In 2002, I was at the ATM late one night, and I got jumped. I was robbed at knifepoint, and I did not know how to defend myself. The dust settled after about a week and I went back to my regular gym I was working out at, and I told my friend what happened. She suggested that I go to a local boxing gym in Massachusetts, where I was living at the time, and learn how to defend myself.”
Lamonakis continued, “I started training, three months later I took my first fight, and moved up the ladder quickly. I took a tragedy in my life and turned it into something really good.”
‘The Scholar’ has Master’s degrees in both General Education and Special Education, but leaves the books at home when her combative side enters the ring.
“I would say I’m a puncher. I’m not a boxer. I don’t move around, I come forward. I’m a short heavyweight, so I’m always moving forward. I want to fight.”
And just to make sure things were crystal clear she added, “I want to stand right there in a phone booth and throw punches with my opponent.”
Having won the IBO female heavyweight title in late 2014, Lamonakis has not been in the ring since mid 2015, while dealing with her father's cancer diagnosis.
“My father was diagnosed about two years ago. He survived about a year with cancer, and about a year ago he passed away. This two-year break was a mental break for myself and my family.”
On Saturday night, in Worcester, Massachusetts, on a show promoted by former two-weight world champion Jose Rivera, Lamonakis returns to the ring taking on Laura Ramsey for the vacant Universal Boxing Federation women’s heavyweight title.
And there is history between the two.
“In 2010, in my second pro fight, I beat up her daughter, and she [Ramsey] told me, after I beat her daughter, one day she was going to face me in the ring, and redeem for her daughter, and I told her I just can’t wait!”
She added, “I know she has a lot of experience. I know she’s been boxing a lot longer than me. I know that she’s strong, and she knows how to box, but I’ve got myself into probably the best shape I’ve been in since I started boxing. I know I’m going to put on a really good show, I’m going to throw a lot of punches and put a lot of pressure on her for all of the rounds until I can get her to quit.”
Lamonakis, 42 years old with a record of 10-2-2, doesn’t plan to stop with the UBF title, and feels that if she can stay active, she has another four or five years left in the sport.
Having previously featured on several high profile HBO and Showtime undercards, for which she is eternally grateful to promoter Lou DiBella, she has her sights set on the World Boxing Council strap.
Two months ago WBC boss Mauricio Sulaiman contacted Gleason’s Gym owner Bruce Silverglade, and he offered Lamonakis a WBC title fight in Mexico – on two weeks' notice.
The timing just wasn't right.
“Unfortunately, because of my school schedule, in two weeks I wasn’t ready to fight. I’d been training here and there, but I wasn’t ready for a world title fight.”
Prioritising her teaching duties, she told Sulaiman, “‘I can’t just take a week off from work, by contract. This is my career, boxing is a hobby.’ I told him that if he can offer me the fight in the summertime, I would be glad to take it.”
Her passion for her day job is obvious, adding.
“I can’t just pack up like that and leave my kids in the middle of the year. My commitment is to my students. That’s why I went to college. My career is my life, boxing is my hobby. I always have to work with my schedule and my commitments to my children first.”
Sulaiman contacted Silverglade again, proposing that if Lamonakis can get by Ramsey, he will offer her the chance to fight for the WBC title against the champion, Alejandra Jimenez, in Mexico.
Women’s boxing has been on the rise, and Lamonakis feels the star power of Claressa Shields, Katie Taylor, and Nicola Adams, who are all backed by high-profile promoters, will benefit many within the sport.
“They can’t fight the air. They’re going to need an opponent so it’s going to help a lot of women who don’t have exposure, get exposure through these women who are accomplished amateur boxers, and I think it’s a great thing.”
If she could change anything about women’s boxing, it would be more equality with regards to television, media and the purses.
“I think it’s progressed over the years since I began 15 years ago, but it’s not equal to men, and I’m not sure it ever will be because it’s male dominated sport, but it has progressed tremendously with exposure.
She added, “Promoters allowing us to fight on great cards. It’s a slow process but I do think it has gotten a lot better for all of us.”
Returning focus to her big fight at the weekend, having put herself through what she considers to be her best ever camp, Lamonakis sounded relaxed, but ready.
“I’ve put away all of my sadness about my father and I’ve channelled it into aggression for this fight, and I think it’s going to give me a lot of strength and power to be successful on Saturday.”