Sport hooks a Park City competitor
Woman wants to land a spot on national boxing team
If it were up to Maryguenn Vellinga, a Summit Park resident, she wouldn’t have to talk about her love for boxing. Not that she isn’t articulate on the subject, but she would rather people simply check the standings.
So if you did open your favorite web browser, find USA Boxing’s rankings for Elite Women, and check the 112 pound weight class, there she would be: No. 2.
The ranking speaks for itself, and finally it’s saying what she’s known for a long time: Boxing is her sport, she’s good at it, and it’s worth her time. So good, in fact, she will have a shot at the No. 1 spot in the country come December, when she competes at the Elite National Championships in Salt Lake City.
Other times in her life, she hasn’t had that benchmark to point to, and it’s fitting that one of Vellinga’s weaknesses is her back foot straying too wide. In boxing, it’s a detriment to her balance, something she has struggled with in and out of the ring for years.
When she started boxing as a single mom eight years ago, Vellinga said it was tough to justify her love for the sport. An unsuccessful bid for the 2016 Olympics made it tougher. Then her daughter was diagnosed with Nephrotic syndrome, making her love for the sport even harder to justify because how much her daughter needed her attention. She said some family members didn’t get it, but she built a home gym that allowed her to take care of her daughter and keep practicing.
“Quitting early just didn’t feel right,” she said. “In some ways I think boxing was a stabilizer for me through that time. On the one hand, I felt like I had to give up something. (But) I felt like it gave me strength and, I think on the other side of the scope, I wanted to show my daughter that even when things get hard you keep on going.”
Her daughter’s condition stabilized earlier this year, and so far it’s been Vellinga’s best season, though qualifying for the National Elite Championships is never a cakewalk.
In March she traveled to the Western Elite Qualifier and Regional Open Championship in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Making it to the finals would have secured her place at nationals, but she was eliminated in the semifinals.
“I was super frustrated,” she said. “I had beaten the girl who made it to the finals two weeks prior in a non-tournament fight, so I knew two of the people who had already qualified I had beaten.”
She then traveled to the Eastern National Qualifiers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where she beat India Smith by 5-0 decision and earned a nationals berth as the No. 2 seed.
Now, come December, she will compete to be No. 1, which means dethroning Virginia Fuchs – a considerable force in women’s boxing.
“The girl’s got a reputation and that’s always a little bit of a factor,” said Rick Montoya, who coaches Vellinga. “But the past year, Maryguenn is starting to get her name out there also with judges. Hopefully being here in Salt Lake, she will get the support from local people.”
Vellinga said it would be an upset if she beat Fuchs in Salt Lake, but it would also earn her a spot on the national team, which would set her up for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.
“In March got to train at the Olympic training center,” she said. “I got a taste of what that was like. I didn’t think I could want it more, but I did.”
In preparation for nationals, Vellinga has been practicing five or six days a week, sometimes waking up at 3:45 a.m. to start her day so she can fit in her workouts while working as a trainer at Orange Theory Fitness.
Montoya can attest for Vellinga’s dedication; it’s one of the reasons he coaches her.
“She maintains that (high) level of fitness pretty much all the time,” he said. “Any time she takes time off, it’s no more than a few days here and there. … Maryguenn’s priorities are boxing right now, and obviously its showing.”
Her training pervades her life, stretching into her downtime. If she misses a workout during the day, she tacks it onto her schedule at night.
“I make sure to do that after I put my kids to bed,” she said. “I have to rally and go do sprints on the road, or go do bag work, because I don’t want to ever look back and think ‘If I’d done (that drill), it would have changed something.’ But that is a lonely road sometimes, to tell the truth.”
If nationals go to plan, Vellinga and Fuchs will work from opposite ends of the bracket to face each other in the finals. A technically gifted boxer, Fuchs won’t be beaten with sloppy fighting, Vellinga said. It will be like a chess match.
Defeating her will mean overcoming weaknesses, including keeping her back foot in, and staying steady.