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Old-pro Salazar schools ‘The Scholar,’ all for naught

When Turners Falls native and professional women’s boxer Sonya “The Scholar” Lamonakis landed Friday in Sacramento, Calif., she expected to be picked up by a driver and taken to her hotel room, where she would rest and prepare for Saturday night’s heavyweight bout against Martha “The Shadow” Salazar at the Lion’s Den Convention Center in Sacramento.

But there was no driver at the airport, which, as it turned out, was only the beginning of an unpleasant string of events during what would prove to be a disappointing weekend climaxed by the Salazar bout. Then, after suffering what she thought was her first professional loss, 38-year-old Lamonakis finally received some good news when she learned the bout had been ruled a no-contest due to the timekeeper’s mistake.

The sequence of events leading up to the discovery that the timing of the bout was incorrect was much like Tiger Woods’ “dropped-ball” fiasco that took place at The Masters Saturday morning, when a fan, watching on television Friday afternoon, called Masters officials to inform them that Woods had violated a rule when he dropped his ball in an incorrect spot. Woods wound up being penalized two strokes and was nearly disqualified from the tournament.

In Lamonakis’ case, things started coming unraveled as soon as she landed in the Golden State and found out there was no one there to pick her up and take her to the hotel, something that was supposed to have been arranged by On-Point Promotions. She wound up hopping a taxi, only to find that OPP had not booked a room for her, another unexpected issue to deal with. Lamonakis then had other issues with the pre-fight festivities, but the biggest problem came in the ring, where something she was unaware of until afterward transpired.

A teammate of Lamonakis, who was watching the online feed in New York, texted Lamonakis trainer Marcos Suarez moments after the fight and informed them that the rounds had been three minutes instead of two, the standard for women’s professional boxing. Lamonakis alerted the California State Athletic Commission, which regulates the fight, and after the Commission spoke with the timing official, it was determined that the match would be ruled a no-contest, meaning Lamonakis received neither a loss nor a draw. Yes, it was as if the bout never took place.

Lamonakis said she thought the rounds were running a little long during the fight, but she paid no attention because she didn’t think a mistake like that was possible.

“I mentioned to my corner that it felt like the rounds were long, but they said, ‘Just keep fighting, just keep fighting,’” Lamonakis said on Sunday. “So I did notice a little. But you don’t question that sort of thing in a professional venue. That sort of thing would have never happened in New York.”

Lamonakis admitted her frustration with the California State Athletic Commission, which she thought didn’t adhere to numerous rules prior to the bout. When Lamonakis showed up for her weigh-in on Friday afternoon, she was informed that Salazar would not be attending. Salazar was instead weighed in on Saturday, which Lamonakis said is not legal. Also, there was no official on hand when their hands were being taped, which is something she had never seen. The reason the official is on hand is to ensure that no foreign object is put underneath the tape. But the biggest reason for her frustration was the timing issue.

“It was a big mess. The whole thing was crazy,” she explained. “I’m disappointed in the unprofessionalism by the California State Athletic Commission. I’m still upset that it went down that way.”

As for the fight, Lamonakis said she learned a lot from the 43-year-old Salazar, a former two-time champion on the comeback trail. Salazar hit Lamonakis with an uppercut during the fight that bloodied her nose, then later hit the Powertown pugilist with a punch that produced a black eye. Lamonakis, who is still unbeaten at 7-0 with two draws, said that Salazar was heavier than her and that she got caught up fighting Salazar’s style, getting in close to exchange punches. Lamonakis, who has lost nearly 30 pounds in recent months, said because she is faster than Salazar, she should have been moving more to try to tire Salazar out.

“I was much faster but, when I would get inside, I was allowing her to throw across the middle, and that was her fight,” she said. “She was a better fighter than me, but this was a good learning experience and she didn’t knock me down. She’s a great boxer. This was the biggest test of my career. I’m probably going to take another fight, but I’d like to rematch her in New York.”

Big props to The Scholar. Rough weekend. All kinds of potential excuses. Sonya made none. Fought her best. Got beat by a better fighter. Unlike most pro athletes today, who have an excuse for everything that goes wrong, Sonya didn't come up with a single one. All The Scholar had was great sportsmanship and respect for her opponent. She'll be back. I've done some training at Gleason's, and The Scholar can bang with just about anybody there-- man or woman. Good luck with that new speed and those dreams of being world champ!

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