Melvina Lathan, Chairperson
New York State Athletic Commission
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Sonya “The Scholar” Lamonakis
Sonya Lamonakis is not your typical teacher. After all, how many teachers have aspirations to be world championship boxers. The story of Lamonakis’ entry into boxing started in Massachusettes, where her parents settled in after emigrating from Greece. She worked at her parents restaurant where she would develop the work ethic that would eventually help her in the fight game.
She grew up playing field hockey and softball and it was the latter that propelled her to an education at Springfield College, where she was on the women’s softball team. Upon the completion of her undergraduate studies, she became a speech therapist and pursued a graduate degree in Elementary Education from American International College before eventually teaching elementary school.
Different life experiences motivate different people into the sweet science, and Lamonakis’ journey into boxing did not begin easily. One evening after withdrawing money from an ATM, she was mugged at knifepoint, losing her money and jewlery, but thankfully, she escaped uninjured. The aftermath of this incident left her scared, but it changed her life completely. One day, while working out at her gym and relaying this horrific incident, she was urged to start boxing so she could learn to defend herself. She instantly fell in love with the sport due to the strenght and confidence it instilled in her.
Under the tutelage of Victor James at the Springfield Community Center, she took her first fight, which she lost. This loss sparked a dedication, confidence and determination that would not only help her excel in her boxing career, but also in everyday life. She would eventually go on to win the New England Golden Gloves. However, it wasn’t until she began working with Derrick and Darren Whitley, twin brothers who were professional fighters themselves, that her boxing career really took off. They urged her to move to New York to take her career to the next level.
Upon her arrival in New York, Lamonakis began training at the legendary Gleason’s Gym as a heavyweight and competed in her first New York City Golden Glove tournament in 2006. She went on to win four consecutive Golden Glove titles and decided to turn pro in 2010. Since then, she has won all seven of her professional bouts and was the first female boxer to be signed by legendary promoter Lou DiBella. She is currently the #1-ranked female heavyweight in the country in pursuit of a world title.
What makes Lamonakis’ accomplishments even more impressive is the fact she is a full-time teacher at P.S. 241 – The STEM Institute in New York City, making her time one of her most valuable assets. But her teaching does have its benefits, including having colleagues, students, as well as their parents, come out to support her during her professional bouts. In fact, to many of her students, she is an inspiration.
As a boxer, she would like nothing more than to see the women’s division get far more respect and female pugilists receive the same treatment as their male counterparts. She believes there has been tremendous progress on the women’s side since she began boxing, but obviously, there is more to be done.
For someone so dedicated to the sport, it is interesting that she considers boxing her hobby and not a career. For a career, there is nothing like reaching young minds and changing lives on a daily basis like being a teacher, her biggest accomplishment. With her various graduate and post-graduate degrees and her dedication to helping others, it is no surprise she is known as the “Scholar,” both inside and outside the squared circle.
And coming from an educational background, Lamonakis would like to see more educational opportunities provided for all boxers, so they have options in those cases where a boxing career is cut-short or is not economically viable. “I understand that every boxer wants to be the next world champion and become a millionaire, but just like everything in life, it is very competitive and only a few are able to make it to the top echelon,” said Lamonakis. “Too many youngsters get into boxing because they feel they have no other options in life, and I’d like to offer them a whole new perspective as to what they can accomplish.” Spoken like a true teacher.
Whether it is in the ring or in the classroom, Sonya Lamonakis is truly an inspiration to everyone around her.