Honoring the world champ

  • Turners Falls native and two-time women’s professional boxing champion Sonya Lamonakis with IBO World Title (left) and the New York State belt (right). Contributed Photo

  • Turners Falls native and two-time women’s professional boxing champion Sonya Lamonakis with IBO World Title (left) and the New York State belt (right). Contributed Photo

Published: 10/15/2018 10:04:03 PM

The village of Turners Falls will be giving a little extra thanks this year on Thanksgiving as it honors one of its own.

On Nov. 24, heavyweight women’s boxer and Turners Falls native Sonya Lamonakis will be honored by the town with a sign recognizing her accomplishment of winning a women’s professional world championship. The ribbon cutting will take place two days after Thanksgiving at 11 a.m. at Unity Park in Turners, where the sign — which will read “Welcome to Turners Falls, home of World Champion boxer Sonya Lamonakis” — will stand.

“I’m very proud and very grateful,” Lamonakis said of the acknowledgement. “The biggest part for me is honoring my parents’ name and showing them gratitude for how I was raised and the education I received.”

The four-time Golden Glove amateur boxing champion began her professional career on June 24, 2010 when she scored a second-round knockout of Kasondra Hardnett at Mechanics Hall in Worcester. Over the next eight years she put together a 10-2-3 professional record. On March 22, 2014, Lamonakis won a unanimous decision over Tiffany Woodard to earn her first-ever belt, the New York State Female Heavyweight title. Nine months later, on Dec. 6, 2014, Lamonakis beat Carlette Ewell by split decision to win the International Boxing Organization World Female Heavyweight title.

Since that time, Lamonakis has had two shots at earning more hardware, as she has twice fought for the Universal Boxing Federation title. She lost to Gwendolyn O’Neil by split decision in 2015 and then suffered a draw against Laura Ramsey on June 10, 2017 when the two squared off at the DCU Center in Worcester. That bout was also the last time Lamonakis has stepped into the ring, although the 44-year-old has no plans to retire. 

“Heavyweights can fight later in their careers,” she explained. “I’m in a weight class that I started late in boxing, and my career will carry me late into my life. The lighter guys who are 120 pounds are done by the time they are 29. My journey is going to be a little different because I’m a heavyweight and we get to go a little longer.”

The reason that Lamonakis has not fought in a year and a half is due to the trouble she has had finding opponents at this point in her career. She is still training six days a week and has her eyes set on a specific goal.

“I’m still looking to fight, but it’s been difficult because there are not a lot of opponents,” she said. “I still want to get the WBC green belt.”

Lamonakis is hoping to be on the first boxing show promoted by MGM Springfield, but is still in early negotiations. 

While it remains to be seen whether or not she will win any more titles in her career, Lamonakis will be forever remembered in her hometown for what she has already accomplished. It’s the doing of Lamonakis’ former classmate Tawnya (Petrowicz) Brunelle, who hatched the idea. Brunelle said that the sign is not just a reflection of Lamonakis’ boxing career, but of all she has done in her life after leaving Turners, as well as to remember all that her family has meant to the area.

“Anyone who grew up in town knew her family. Her mom and dad owned Scotty’s and everyone stopped there. Being a small town, everyone knew everyone,” Brunelle said. “Sonya went on to do wonderful things. First off, she became a teacher. I think that is her greatest accomplishment, the boxing is second.”

“In today’s age, we focus on so much negativity,” she continued. “We just don’t stop and look around and take a moment to say ‘Thank you.’ For me, that’s what this was about. I’ve noticed that the park is getting a lot of use. I see a lot of families having cookouts, I see the basketball courts being used, and this is a chance for kids and people from all over to see that, ‘Yeah, Turners is small, but if you work hard, you can do anything.’”

After hatching the idea, Brunelle approached town administrator Steve Ellis about possibly getting the sign up so motorists would see it when they drove across the bridge from Gill to Turners. The two also discussed several other areas in town, and they finally settled on the idea of Unity. She then needed approval from Parks & Recreation Director Jon Dobosz, who approved it. At that point, Brunelle finally called Lamonakis to inform the champ about what she was doing, and Lamonakis gave her blessing. Brunelle then approached Dan Hale of Hale Custom Signs in Gill in order to keep business local.

The women also needed to raise money for the sign, and Lamonakis came up with the idea that she wanted to offer a one-time scholarship to a Turners Falls High School senior. The GoFundMe to raise $2,500 took only 30 days and the sign will be unveiled on Thanksgiving Weekend. The ceremony will include a cake donated by Second Street Bakery in Turners Falls and is open to the public. Lamonakis will also be signing autographed pictures at the event, as well as giving away gloves and bags. 

As for the scholarship, any interested students should plan to attend the ceremony that morning. Lamonakis will have the paperwork to apply for the scholarship. The scholarship is open to any 2019 grad from TFHS who plans to further his/her education by attending college or vocational school. 

“I just wanted to do it as a way to give back to the town,” Lamonakis said. “Turners is giving me something good, so I wanted to give something back. I’m a school teacher and I value education. It’s because of my education that I had the opportunity to pack a UHaul and move to New York and start my career.”

Lamonakis is in her 19th year teaching and is currently teaching language arts to middle schoolers at Primary School\Middle School 183 in Queens, which is located in Rockaway. She formerly taught mathematics at Greenpoint 126 in Brooklyn, but recently bought a condominium in Rockaway, which has been rebuilt since it was decimated during Hurricane Sandy.

She is also serving as president of USA Boxing Metro in New York City, which oversees all amateur bouts in the city and surrounding areas. 

Lamonakis is the personification of what someone achieve if they put in the effort. Successful teacher, president of New York amateur boxing and world champion. She has done all of this after leaving her hometown, and now she will be forever remembered in it.

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder Sports Editor. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com.

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