It’s all about the ring

Sonya Lamonakis is called “Amtrak’’ because she always moves forward in the ring. Sonya Lamonakis is called “Amtrak’’ because she always moves forward in the ring. (Courtesy Sonya Lamonakis)
By Joseph P. Kahn
Globe Staff / July 4, 2009
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To her sixth-graders at Harlem’s Family Academy, a New York City public elementary school, Sonya Lamonakis is a dedicated, compassionate teacher. But in a boxing ring, the 5-foot-7, 190-pound Lamonakis is a force to be reckoned with. The Turners Falls native won her fourth consecutive New York City Golden Gloves heavyweight title this year, reached the finals of the USA Boxing National Championships last month, and will fight in the National Golden Gloves this month. Lamonakis, 34, graduated from Stoneleigh-Burnham School and Springfield College. After teaching in Springfield, Chicopee, and Longmeadow public schools, she moved to New York to hone her pugilistic skills at Brooklyn’s fabled Gleason’s Gym.

Q. When did you start boxing?

A. Not until I was 27. I’d played field hockey and softball in college, but afterward I had nothing competitive going on. A guy suggested I come to his Holyoke gym, and I never left. I won every New England tournament I entered.

Q. It’s not exactly a feminine sport, though, is it?

A. It’s more a science. You have to be smart in the ring. It’s not about getting hit, it’s about not getting hit. I was born in Greece, and the Greeks have always been strong fighters. Something really clicked with me when I got in the ring.

Q. Your boxing style?

A. They call me “Amtrak,’’ because I’m always moving forward. I throw a lot of punches and have a really good left hook.

Q. Do you ever fight women bigger than yourself?

A. Yes, and it’s actually easier for me when I do. I fight like Mike Tyson. I’m an inside fighter. I know how to get under jabs, throw a jab to the body and then an overhand right.

Q. What do your students think of your boxing career?

A. They love it. They print out my picture and stats.

Q. Training regimen?

A. I train year round, but closer to a fight I’ll do more road work, make sure my lungs are really opened up. There’s a big difference between punching a bag and someone punching you.

Q. Ever been seriously knocked around in the ring?

A. Just once, in my third fight, five years ago. That was the worst.

Q. Will you turn pro? How much money could you expect to make?

A. Women fighters cap out at $10,000-$15,000 a fight. I honestly don’t know if it’s worth it. I want to start a family. And as much as I love the sport, women were not made to box. Their skulls are skinnier. Their hips and stomachs were made to reproduce, not to get hit.

Q. So you’re undecided?

A. No, I’ve decided. I’ve lined up my first pro fight for September.