Interview: Beautiful Brawlers & Babyface Boxing Promoter Blanca Gutierrez
FFP: When did you first start boxing? Why and how did you get into it?
BG: I first started as a kick boxer in 1997, I had a late start at 32 years old. The reason I joined was because I was on a wrestling team and one of the 250 lb guys in my class was flipped on top of me and broke my leg in 3 places. After getting 9 screws and 3 plates in my leg and wearing a cast for 5 months, I had gained 10 lbs and wanted to lose weight. I went to a kick boxing card in San Jose and the minute I saw the only female bout there I fell I love with it, and knew that is what I wanted to do. So once the cast was off and I had the ok from the doctor I began kick boxing to lose the weight I had gained and to begin my journey in a new sport. 6 months after I started training I had my first bout, which I won by unanimous decision. I would go on to have a record of 15-5 and would win several kick boxing titles.
I started BabyFace Boxing because when me and my girls were coming up there was just kick boxing and barely boxing back then, men trainers really didn’t show much interest in us. I even had one boxing trainer tell me he didn’t and wouldn’t train women or ever even be in the corner of a woman. When my friend Martha Salazar and I first started, it was also difficult to get bouts because trainers or matchmakers didn’t take the time out to match bouts correctly which was detrimental to the sport back then because it made women’s bouts look bad. So after training out of Martial Arts Enterprises, Physique Magnifique, and in any front yard we could, I decided to open my own gym and welcome girls and woman who trained with an open heart and arms. Soon we had girls showing up from as far as Fresno and Sacramento to come get some sparring in.
As the years progressed and I realized that boxing was starting to become of serious interest to some females, I started reaching out to other gyms and let them know that I had females meeting for sparring and soon I started matching female bouts on local boxing cards. I decided then that because the females most always gave the best show on the card that I would created a spectacular all female boxing card one day that would rock the amateur boxing world. Soon after, I created the Beautiful Brawlers all female Amateur boxing card and made history in September of 2011. Not only did I pull this off, I was nominated for Best Boxing Card of the year, Best Promoter of the Year and Best Coach of the Year. I also received an award from WBAN that is the top site for female boxing, and a huge honor and acknowledgement.
Who is behind Beautiful Brawlers? Can you tell me a little about some of the fighters?
Many girls are tired of hearing why do you box? You are too pretty to fight. We box because we want to and because we have talent. That is why I started the Beautiful Brawlers and I had 200% support from my husband, my friends former heavy weight world champ Martha Salazar and former light weight champ Eliza Olson. We started mini day camps and sparring which many girls came to and we created a sisterhood of boxers young and old. This was a key component for the success of BB.
I had gained the respect of many male coaches that had a problem finding their female boxers a fight. They would call me and knew they had a better chance of matching their boxers now because I had made a lot of contacts and made a roster of girls and women looking for bouts. Soon I had the reputation of being the female to contact to get their girls on a card or a bout.
Many if not all of the Local Boxers on the Beautiful Brawlers I met at local bouts and sometimes I scouted at Desert Showdown or other tournaments. I have followed their young careers or heard about them from their coaches who convinced me that they had to be on the Beautiful Brawlers card. Some girls who are standouts are: Brenda and JO Champ Nancy Gutierrez, Melissa Monroy, 10 years old and Silver Gloves Champ Graciela Ortega, 11 years old from Caballeros, B Streets, Adidas Champ Casey Morton, Old Schools Tatiana Almaraz, JO Champ Marisol Lopez, 15 years old, out of Atwater, out of Reno Jo Champ Maritsa Guilan and Jessica Galvez, El Centro’s Sparta has some outstanding boxers like 4 time world champ 14 year old , Danika Lara. Velardes always has girls ready to box, an upcoming great little boxer is Ellie Sanchez, 11 years old. I have my own girls from my gym Megan Siordia, 13 years old and Ayla Moreno. I was very impressed with boxers who came from out of town from Duarte and Ocean Side Boxing. Out of Southern California we had Faith Franco, Lisa Porter and Poula Estrada who are absolutely outstanding boxer open boxers. I can go on and on with a list of very talented boxers but those are the girls who stand out for me.
I was really impressed with the level of talent and dedication that was showcased at BB. There were a lot of young women and girls there which was awesome! I think there are many athletically talented girls out there that would love the opportunity to do something like this, but there is a lot of social stigma preventing them from having access to sports like boxing. Can you talk about why you think it is important for parents to support their daughters who want to fight and why boxing is such a phenomenal opportunity for these young women?
I know a lot of girls who like to box, but only a select few of them like to actually get in the ring and fight. Once you get punched in the face a few times you will know whether you want to train to fight or just train for fitness. Boxing does so much for these girls. Boxing changes their lives. The girls who train with me are athletes and have confidence and a level of self worth that is extremely important. They love the physical aspect of boxing but mostly the mental strength that comes along with the grueling training and sparring. I have some really great athletes in the gym and their parents won’t let them box in a real bout. It sucks because it’s usually the most talented girls that don’t get the support of their mothers. Some moms think that boxing is not for girls. Many of the girls who train with me come from single parent homes and they need something positive to do with their time, so those girls are in the gym. And I thank God every day that I can give them a place to hone their talents, be safe, become stronger woman and have friends.
I know you pretty much grew up in the world of boxing and your father was inducted into the California Boxing Hall of Fame. How did your relationship with him impact your love for boxing?
My father was my best friend. He died 11 years ago but every day of my life I remember him telling me about his fights. He used to cry when he talked about his past. Those tears were joyful and a longing for those days again. He was a champion in Acapulco and Mexico and became the California Bantam weight champ in the 1950’s. When my dad came to California he was a pioneer for boxing in California History. My dad never bragged about how good he was. In fact I didn’t even know how talented he was until after his death when I started digging around about his history as a boxer. When I contacted the Veteran Boxers in Los Angeles, a man by the name of Frank Baltazar told me just how good he was and Don Frazer the president of the CBHOF saw many of his bouts. He said he wanted to induct my father into the California Boxing Hall of Fame and I was glad that I called him. That gave me new energy for my passion. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my dad and what passion he gave me for this sport. At the end of his life, I was still kick boxing and he or my mom still had never seen my fights in person. That didn’t hurt me though, he always gave me tips. I would win the IKKC Fly weight belt in 1999 and the IKKC atom weight belt in 1999. When he was dying he told me to go fight at a tournament to try and when the IKF Belt. I lost that tournament in the finals because I was losing my dad and I was distraught. I would go on to be asked fight on the Worlds Team where I would compete in France and would take the bronze in Kickboxing for USA. I would win the IKF West Coast Atom weight Title in 2000.
Correct me if I am wrong, but your daughter also boxes too? Can you talk about how it’s impacted your role as a mother and understanding of family?
My daughter Sylver also knows how to box but she is a soccer player and runs cross country. She doesn’t compete in boxing because she hasn’t demanded that she get in that ring yet. If she ever does want to compete, she will be ready and I will support her 100%. I will support my daughter in any sport and will never stop loving her for what she wants to do in her life. She is incredible on the mitts and has a mean punch but she is only 11 years old and I do not want to push boxing until she really wants it. When I have a bunch of strong woman at the gym like Martha Salazar and Eliza Olson, around I make sure Sylver is there so she can see how powerful, confident, and athletic women are. She does very well in her sports because of it. The one other great thing about being a boxing mom is that no one picks on your kid.
I would love to hear about your experiences and thoughts about growing up in the boxing community with a specific focus on women’s boxing especially in light the recent developments within the Olympics. How has it evolved over the years? Where do you see it going? How can people get more involved and support it?
I always grew up thinking that boxing isn’t a sport for women. But that changed as I changed and I realized that it was in my blood and I couldn’t stop the feeling I got when I put the gloves on and hit somebody. I got to spar in the garage and beat up boys when I was younger but that wasn’t enough. I was tired of coaches not taking me seriously or putting me down for wanting to box. I decided to make changes for female boxers and I will keep doing the Beautiful Brawlers Forever. I even hope to make my event a national tournament in a few years. I am so glad that female boxers got to compete in the Olympics this year and I had a hand in helping a woman achieve her dreams. Even though Claressa Shields won a gold medal, I am not sure that the attitude towards female boxers will change in the USA. Promoters here in the USA don’t think they can make enough money off the females. It’s sad because Mexico, Germany and Argentina treat their female champions and boxers very well. I think that the more talent that is created with the younger girls in the amateurs is going to carry this sport to another level. It will take some time but I do see that happening. People should support female boxers by telling promoters they want to see more female bouts on shows, donating money for equipment and travel, and letting girls know it’s ok to want to beat people up, just do it in the ring, as a sport! (lol)
Truth be told, I don’t know too much about boxing. For those of us who are uneducated, who are some of the top female boxers out there we should know about? What makes them so uniquely talented and how would you characterize each one’s style?
The Bay Area has some of the best boxers in the world. World Champion Ava Knight just beat Mariana Juarez who was the #1 ranked champ in the world. Ava Knight went to Mariana’s home town , out boxed her and out powered her and became the Reigning World Champion. She is definitely one to watch, she is strong, talented, dedicated and humble. Melissa Mc Morrow with B Street went to Germany and took the World Title away from one of the best boxers in the world Susie Kentikian. Melissa is a thinker, a counter puncher , slick movement and outworks her opponent. A match between Ava Knight and Melissa Mc Morrow will pit the best fly weights in the world against each other and both are from our Bay Area. I also want to mention former World Champion Martha Salazar who is one of the most feared Heavy Weight World champs in the world. She is coming back to the ring December 1. She is a boxer, powerful slugger with a smooth style and an incredible athlete. Definitely one of my heroes and someone to watch!
Shout out and thank you to all the people who helped make a difference. My Best Friends, Martha Salazar, Eliza Olson, and Carol Kutznitsky, Nicole Ortiz
Shouts outs to the coaches who helped make the Beautiful Brawlers event more successful this year by bringing their boxers to the show; Marcus Caballero, Hervi Estrada- AV Kickboxing , Fernando Lara- Sparta, Louis Vanezuela- Duarte, Steve Tiller- Velardes, Austin Smith- Warm Springs Indian Nation, Armando Mancinas- Atwater, Elloy Ramirez with Gladiators, Paris Alexander , Keynoe Fenner, Bosco Basques, Ryan Maquinana, Jerry Hoffman, The Pacifica Moose Lodge, Melissa Mc Morrow, and Sue Fox, and Horace Hinshaw, Dr. Spriter, Ed Clemens, Charlie Hilder, my husband and GOD