By: Sean Crose
Ring Masters Championships: Road to the Garden, New York’s premiere amateur boxing competition, has entered its third straight year. New York is famous for its output of legendary fighters, from Gene Tunney, to Mike Tyson, from Jake LaMotta to Riddick Bowe. Those who follow this year’s Ring Masters competition may indeed be looking at individuals who will someday enter that prestigious list of names. The tournament started last weekend in Jamaica, Queens, and will conclude this April at the famed Madison Square Garden. There are a total of 20 dates scheduled for this year’s tournament, which will cover a total of 19 locations.
It’s hard to write of Ring Masters without writing of Sonya Lamonakis, a professional fighter and Language Arts teacher from New York who dedicates yeoman’s time and effort to the competition. “We have around 500 entries for the tournament,” she says of this year’s Ring Masters. “Winners in the senior divisions get custom made championship rings. Junior Olympic, Masters, and Youth Champions get belts.” These are no small thing in the world of amateur boxing, when one considers just how big the New York fight scene is. “We have about 500 entrees for the tournament,” says Lamonakis.
Fighters move ahead bracket style in this year’s Ring Masters competition, as they did last year. “Brackets are posted after every show,” Lamonakis says, “on 2020 Ring Masters Championships The Road to the Garden : City Limits.” Just how big a deal is it for a fighter to do well in the Ring Masters Tournament? According to Lamonakis, last year: We had 2 winners from Ring Masters win gold at the National Golden Gloves. Krystal Dixon, Champs Boxing and Orville Crooks from Mendez Boxing.” For those who take the sport seriously, succeeding in the tournament can be a significant achievement. As Ring Championships points out: “Our first two shows have been sell out crowds. We have a packed schedule, hungry boxers, and an organization running the best tournament in the Northeast.”
As for Lamonakis herself, the teacher/boxer/organizer is keeping busy as always. “I’m recovered from my rotator cuff tear,” she says. “I’m back in the gym and looking to have a couple more fights before I retire. The problem is there are not a lot of female heavyweights. I have 15 pro fights and I’m not looking to box the same people again and again. There are a couple in Canada I would like to box.” Lamonakis also takes part in “Corporate Fighter,” a charitable endeavor that introduces donors to the challenge of the boxing ring.
“Corporate Fighter is in the recruitment stages now and will begin March 2,” she says,” “with the charity fight night on May 8. I’m excited to be working with this organization. They let the boxers pick the charity they want to box for from a wide variety of choices. They have had about 50 successful shows in Australia, and I think will be a big success in NY. After they set up shop in NYC they will be branching out to all major cities in America. There are a few slots available if anyone is interested (http://www.corporatefighter.com ).”
In an uncertain world, one thing seems to be inarguable – no one will ever accuse Sonya Lamonakis of being lazy.
New York’s amateurs fought on this week in the Ring Masters Championships, vying for a spot in the April 19 finals in Madison Square Garden and bragging rights as Metro’s best.
On Friday, March 1, the tournament returned to Main Street Boxing in Mount Vernon, where Mike Stellate mixes hardcore training with a family atmosphere. A packed house cheered the fourteen-fight card, enjoyed the DJ, and sipped sangria from Zhañay Winery.
“Coach Mike is amazing,” said Devon of sportswear sponsor Samuk. “All the kids he’s training are humble. He gets them in off the streets, and they don’t want to fight in the street anymore because now they have more confidence.”
A stylish showdown in the men’s 165-pound open quarterfinals won Dana Ford Fight of the Night. Heavy-handed Mike Passade of John’s Gym, a 28-year-old Marine veteran, took the split decision over classy Alexis “Chop Chop” Chaparro of NYC Cops and Kids, who divides his time between boxing and walking the runways of the world.
Passade had lost to Chop Chop before and was familiar with his style: “I knew if I sat there on the outside, I was going to get outboxed. I wanted to keep the pressure, not give him his space, turn it into more of a brawl.” He advances to the semifinals to face Freeport PAL’s Famous Wilson.
The King of Sting Power Punch went to light heavyweight Joel Telles of Sweatbox for his dominating first-round stoppage.
On Saturday, Metro woke up to a snowstorm but finished with a firestorm at Heavy Hitters Boxing in Ronkonkoma, a USA Boxing member gym offering training for all levels from pee wee to adult in a colorful space adorned with graffiti art.
“We always look forward to hosting Metro shows because they’re so much fun,” said Christine Morales, owner of Heavy Hitters with her husband Jason, a Suffolk County police officer.
The fireworks started in the opening bout, when Ashley Longchamp of Elmont BC sent his opponent tumbling with a hook, right combo that won the King of Sting Power Punch. Longchamp advances to the 152-pound semis to face Kalief Lindo of Church Street.
The 90-pound bantams closed the show with the Dana Ford Tough Fight of the Night, a unanimous decision for Anthony Pearson of Rockaway Ropes over Ruben Martinez of Champs.
“It was Ruben’s first fight, and he looked really sharp. He just needs to throw more punches,” said Coach Ryan O’Leary, who leads one of the largest squads in this tournament. Champs Gym sent 22 fighters to the Ring Masters, 17 of whom are still undefeated on the Road to the Garden.
Join the party this Saturday 3/19 at a special early matinee show hosted by the Freeport Recreation Center, featuring the 114, 141, and 152-pound men’s novice divisions and the women’s 152-pound open class. Show starts at 1 pm. This show is a benefit for kids living with cancer. Come join us for a day of music, boxing, fun and games!
UPDATED BRACKETS CAN BE FOUND ON: www.citylimits.org/boxing19
Tickets are going fast for the finals in MSG on Friday, April 19! Get yours here:
By: Sean Crose
“I started boxing in 2002,” says Sonya Lamonakis “after a tragedy when I was jumped and robbed.” Lamonakis’ searing situation ended up having a silver lining, however, as the New York (by way of Massachusetts) native took up the sweet science and found a new road to travel. “I won the Golden Gloves with Danny Jacobs and Marcus Browne,” she says. The fighter then landed a top manager and a professional sports career. “In 2010,” Lamonakis says, “Lou DiBella offered me a pro contract.”
That was nine years ago. Fifteen fights and almost a full decade later, Lamonakis is still going strong.
For, with a record of 10-2-3, the heavyweight has no interest in slowing down. “Heavyweight Women is not a big division,” claims the fighter, adding that it can be difficult to land professional bouts. Not that Lamonakis is sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. Besides being a Language Arts Teacher in the New York Public School system Lamonakis can also be found guiding potential fight stars of the future via “Ring Masters Champinships: Road to the Garden,” a highly touted amateur competition that boasted of “600 applicants in 2018” and where participants “received a belt if they won their division.” No small thing in amateur boxing, especially for a competition its size.
“We are extremely busy,” Lamonakis says. This year’s winners, who will emerge via a brackets system (such as the kind employed the NCAA basketball tournament), “will move on as a team to the National Golden Gloves,” which is the crème de la crème of the amateur scene. “We’re going to have 20 shows,” states Lamonakis. And, as Ring Masters Championships makes clear, the “senior finals will be held at Madison Square Garden April 19, 2019,” where the top competitors will face off in boxing’s (and perhaps the world’s) most famous arena.
Although her schedule is undoubtedly busy, Lamonakis makes sure to find the time to do what she clearly loves. “The good thing about being a school teacher,” she says, “means I’m out about 3:30,” each afternoon. “I never expected what I found,” she says, speaking of her entrance into the boxing world all those years ago, “the smell of the sweat, the ring of the bells.” Enticing stuff…the sort of stuff Lamonakis hopes will continue to entice young competitors as Ring Masters Champions continues making its mark on the amateur boxing scene.