By Ryan Maquiñana
The heavyweight pool in women’s boxing is a shallow one, but the majority of the top fighters reside in the United States. One of them, unbeaten native New Yorker Sonya “The Scholar” Lamonakis (6-0-2, 1 KO), is coming off a draw against Tiffany Woodard (4-6-3, 3 KOs) to cap the pair’s trilogy on the latest installment of Lou DiBella’s Broadway Boxing last Thursday.
Boxingscene.com caught up with Lamonakis and her new trainer Buddy McGirt to talk about the fight as well as where they would like to go from here.
BoxingScene.com: Sonya, you were coming off a split draw with arguably the top-rated American heavyweight out there in Carlette Ewell last time out. This time, you were facing a fighter in Tiffany Woodard who you had previously beaten twice. What happened last Thursday? There were reports of issues you had in training.
Sonya Lamonakis: About three weeks before my fight, I ended up firing my trainers, so I was sparring alone, doing cardio alone, just doing the best I can. I teach school during the week, so my big sparring day was always Saturday, when I could do eight to 10 rounds with a guy. During my camp one would not pay attention to me and the other one would come late. It kept happening again and again, including the Saturday before my fight, so I fired them.
That’s when I called Buddy McGirt and told him my situation. He had worked a couple weeks with me in the gym before, so I asked him if he would come up to my gym, which is Gleason’s. He said, “Sure, no problem.” Next thing I know he’s flying up from Florida and worked my corner.
BoxingScene.com: As far as the fight is concerned, what were your impressions of the six rounds?
Sonya Lamonakis: Well, things were different. I was heavier than I was when I fought her last time. I worked the day of my fight on Thursday, which was a big mistake. I thought I’d be fine, but I was exhausted. I’m glad I walked away with a draw. I still feel I won—I gave her the first round and the sixth round—I thought I won the other four rounds. I was a little upset about that, but with no loss, no injuries, I’m O.K. with that.
Buddy McGirt: She pressed the action. She scored the most effective punches. What more could she do? She dominated the fight. Not taking anything away from the other girl. She gave her a hell of a fight. But when I watch a fight, I’m not just looking at my fighter, I watch both of them. I thought she won at least 4-2 (rounds).
BoxingScene.com: Buddy, I know it was on short notice, but what do you like from what you saw in Sonya, and what needs improvement?
Buddy McGirt: With the short notice and her working the day of her fight, I think it was an accumulation of that which caused this. I love her, she’s a hell of a fighter, and if they had a rematch, she’d stop the girl. If I had two or three weeks with her, she’d stop the girl.
I didn’t tell her everything I wanted her to do, because I was coming in so late, and I’m a realist. We just ended up going over a quarter of what I wanted to do. Regardless of that, I still think she won the fight.
She’s got a hell of a jab. I need a good two or three weeks to put her through some drills to work on that. It doesn’t matter how short you are or how tall you are, the jab is the most important punch in boxing. It sets up everything.
Ray Arcel once told me in November 1989, that he had three world champions, and all they had was a left jab. Ray Arcel said that these guys couldn’t punch, they didn’t have a good right hand, but they had a left jab. Larry Holmes had a great jab.
BoxingScene.com: Sonya, tell me about the dynamic of your relationship with Buddy, as brief as it is?
Sonya Lamonakis: I met Buddy before on the Victor Ortiz-Andre Berto card when I fought on there. He didn’t work my corner, but he told me what I was doing right and wrong. We became friends after that and talked frequently. When Matthew Macklin was here training, Buddy came up again and I was able to work with him for three or four weeks.
It wasn’t a difficult transition because he’s relaxed. He doesn’t get hyped. I don’t like to be screamed at in the corner, and he doesn’t do that. He coached me and told me what I needed to do. The only problem I had, again, was being exhausted.
BoxingScene.com: Where do you go from here? Do you have an idea of who you’d like to fight next? Would you like a fourth fight with Woodard to make amends for this one?
Sonya Lamonakis: Unless it’s 10 rounds for a title, no. The official gave her nine warnings for hitting me in the back of the head and he never took a point away. She didn’t hit me once after the bell; she hit me twice after the bell, and that second time, she pushed me down to the ground.
So I was a little disappointed with the officiating especially since if they had taken a point away, it would’ve been a draw. It was a very dirty fight, and Buddy kept telling me not to get upset because she was trying to survive. My face looked fine after the fight, but if the back of my head were my face, I would have looked like she lumped me up.
So yeah, I want to fight 10 rounds, I want to fight Carlette Ewell again if I can, or Gwendolyn O’Neil. I could fight Tanzee Daniel again, but I want her to get a win first. Mexico has a heavyweight who’s 3-0, Berenice Cubillas, who I’d like to fight if I can get a hold of her.
Buddy McGirt: I told her move on. Don’t dwell on it. The great Satchel Paige said, “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” If you look back on your past, it’ll catch up with you. She needs to keep it moving. Don’t look back, baby.
BoxingScene.com: I guess that’s a nice segue to my next question, Sonya. You’re unbeaten and virtually top 10 in the world, but finding quality opposition can be challenging, especially at heavyweight, as can be the case with a lot of female weight classes. At the same time, women’s boxing will definitely get some exposure in London 2012 because it will the first Games to showcase the sport. What’s your take on the impact?
Sonya Lamonakis: I’m happy they’re bringing it to the Olympics. Marlen Esparza earned her spot, and we’re getting representation in each weight class, so that’s good. Marlen is a great fighter. I think she’s going to be a world champion. She’s got the whole package. Can it help the sport? Definitely.
BoxingScene.com: How does that compare to the landscape now, in your opinion?
Sonya Lamonakis: Really, I’m happy to being put on cards. I’m thankful to Lou DiBella for giving me the opportunity to fight on Broadway Boxing because it’s not exactly happening for women’s boxing in America. I’ve got great fans though. With my Greek heritage, the Greek fans come out and support, too.
I’m still happy with my situation. I’m still young as a heavyweight. I think heavyweights bloom later in their careers. Buddy said I have to use the jab more. Learning more is all I can ask for. I think the next fight is going to be early fall.
I have one more fight signed with DiBella. I pay my own medicals because I have insurance, and DiBella hasn’t paid a dime on me for the almost two and a half years I’ve been signed with him. The reason is that I always sell enough tickets to cover my purse and cover my opponent’s expenses.
BoxingScene.com: You’ve had quite a few fights on this series now. Do you think the fans who might not have been as receptive of women’s boxing are now warming up to you?
Sonya Lamonakis: Every time I fight I see my fan base gets bigger, because I don’t stand and wait for punches. I get after it. What’s the point of boxing? To pose? No. It’s science. You want to make them miss, but you have to make them pay.
Ryan Maquiñana writes a weekly boxing column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at email@example.com, check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.