There is a lot of time that goes into it. My husband is very supportive. He’s the one I hit mitts with. He loves boxing. —Monica Villa
SALT LAKE CITY — Monica Villa didn’t want to live life wondering what she could have been, what she might have accomplished.
So six years after she gave up the sport she loved, she went back to the gym to see just what kind of boxer she is. Just over a year later, she will be fighting in the Golden Gloves Rocky Mountain Regional this weekend for a shot at next months Nationals in Nebraska.
“I never really wanted to let it go,” said Villa, who has two children, ages 6 and 3, and will fight in the 106-pound division at the Salt Palace as the Golden Gloves Regional Tournament will be part of FitCon. “It’s something I never could completely let go, wondering how far could I have gone. I didn’t want to wonder. I wanted to just give it a try, give it my best and see how far I can make it, and then call it good.”
The 30-year-old Kearns resident is one of eight women competing in the Golden Gloves Regional, which is featuring female boxers for the first time in the organization’s history. The tournament begins Friday at 5 p.m., with the finals on Saturday at 2 p.m.
“I think it’s long overdue,” said Nick Butterfield, who runs Fullmer Brother’s Boxing Gym. “I’d been advocating for it for awhile.”
As to what finally persuaded Golden Gloves officials, Butterfield said fairness finally prevailed for the 90-year-old organization that crowns amateur champions each year.
He said the sport is growing much faster among women than men.
"Women really like the workout," he said. "And a lot of them like the opportunity to compete."
In the absence of Golden Gloves sponsored and sanctioned tournaments, women had to find other tournaments and pay their own travel expenses.
“Now the Golden Gloves franchise will pay for the travel,” he said, adding each franchise raises money to help boxers travel to tournaments. “We have a really strong women’s team. It should be a really good tournament for us.”
The “us” Butterfield is referring to is the Utah team, named last month after the state championships.
Villa is among those Utah fighters favored to win a regional title, something she’s been dreaming about since she first started boxing with one of her uncles at age 14.
“I always wanted to compete,” she said. “I started training at 14, but I didn’t get my first fight until I was 18. When I was young, there were even less girls than there are now. There were maybe one or two around, but never in my weight.”
At 14, she weighed just 92 points, and she’d often have to try to gain weight to get to 101 pounds.
Villa said training with a family requires both discipline and flexibility, but she’s managed by making it a family affair. Her husband, Angel Villa, is her trainer, and to limit the time she has to spend away from her children, they’ve begun setting up a gym in their garage.
“There is a lot of time that goes into it,” she said. “My husband is very supportive. He’s the one I hit mitts with. He loves boxing.”
She said they recently hung a bag in the garage, and now her 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son are running around the gym hitting the bag and “working out” with mom.
Villa said her expectations are to win this weekend so she can compete at Nationals next month. It will be a dream come true for her, and a historic moment.
“It’s the first time they’re letting girls compete in it,” she said. “It’s been a long time coming, and I want to be there.”