M. Terry / SFVS

Power, Not “Puff” Girl — San Fernando High junior Roxy Verduzco will try to juggle schoolwork with a busy amateur boxing schedule in 2018.  

Iyana Roxonie “Roxy” Verduzco continues to prove herself to be one of the top teenage boxers in Southern California — and beyond.

The 16-year-old San Fernando High School junior recently claimed another national belt when she won the 119-pound Youth Division at the 2017 USA Boxing Elite and Youth National Championships & Junior and Prep Open in Salt Lake City, Utah in December.

The win places Verduzco at the top of the USA Boxing 119-pound girls’ youth rankings to start the new year. It’s a spot she is quite comfortable being at. She has previously been ranked No. 1 nationally as a USA Junior Olympics level boxer in a lower weight class (114 pounds).

Now Verduzco plans to embark on an ambitious 2018 schedule that she hopes could ultimately lead to a berth on the 2020 Olympics women’s boxing team that will compete in Tokyo, Japan.

From March 4-10, Verduzco will be in Albuquerque, New Mexico to compete in  the Western Elite Qualifier and Regional Open Championships. From March 25-April 8 she will train at the Youth National Camp in Dillon, Colorado, then undergo more preparation at the Youth Continental Championships camp in Colorado from May 7-19 before the the Continental Championship bouts there from May 19-27.

Her schedule continues with the Junior Olympic National Championships from June 24-30 in West Virginia. In the fall, there are the Youth Olympic Games preparation camps in Colorado from Sept. 16-26. Then Verduzco, depending on her outcomes, could qualify to compete internationally in the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina from Sept. 26 through Oct. 12, and the Youth Girls World Championships Nov. 11-25 in either India or Turkey.

The year would finish with a national championship tournament again in Salt Lake City in December.

“I’m able to travel to other countries (to compete) because I’m old enough now,” Verduzco said, “and next year or the year after that I can move up to the Elite level, which is 18 and older. But I’m already fighting 18-year-olds.”

Verduzco will juggle this schedule and try to maintain her status as a San Fernando High School student, where she also runs on the cross-country and track teams. She said she wants to graduate from there instead of being home-schooled.

“I’ve talked to my teachers and administrators, and they understand,” Verduzco said. “They are going to work with my schedule because they also want me to graduate from San Fernando High.”

Make no mistake, however, qualifying for the Tokyo Games in two years is the ultimate goal for Verduzco. This year, as she continues to grow and improve, she starts stepping up in class and competition.

Verduzco’s talent is well known throughout the Valley. She proudly considers herself “a fourth generation fighter in my family” that includes uncles Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, a former world champion kickboxer and martial artist, and William “Blinky” Rodriguez, a champion boxer and kickboxer. “They both help me a lot,” Verduzco said. There’s also Roxy’s late aunt Lilly Urquidez Rodriguez, a world champion featherweight fighter and kickboxer who is in the California Boxing Hall of Fame.

Verduzco continues to be trained by her father Rodrigo Mosquera and mother Gloria Mosquera. Rodrigo has had his differences with the California State Athletic Commission, but has also developed Olympic and professional champion fighters. “I have faith in him,” Verduzco said.

“She’s (primarily) had ‘grassroots training’ since she was 4,” said Gloria, a former competitive kickboxer.  “I first trained her, then married my husband. And he’s taught her enough where she can now go to any other coach.

“She knows a lot about boxing, about what to do, and though the Olympic style of boxing is different, with the skills she has and being a very good listener, she’s able to adjust to the fights.”

That was evident at the December 2017 championships in Salt Lake City. Verduzco had to wait a week for her first bout. She was also fighting three-minute rounds for the first time, and 18-year-old fighters for the first time. She was often giving away weight, maxing out at 116 pounds, the lightest limit to qualify for the 119-pound division. “That was better for me than trying to go down to 112 pounds,” she said. But she still comfortably defeated a pair of Texas opponents — Emily Martinez from San Antonio and Lizbeth Reitz from Alamo  — to claim the division title.

A southpaw, her nickname and Instagram handle is “Right Hook Roxy.” That is one of her jarring punches, along with a good right jab and straight left. She is getting stronger as she matures physically. She is also becoming smarter about her ring generalship. “I feel a bit wiser now about how I throw my punches, and my skill set in the ring. I do punch harder,” she said.

Gloria said she tries to make sure Verduzco “still has a chance to be a teenager” and have some fun outside of her sport. And Verduzco does have other goals, that include college — “I want to study criminal justice” — and a desire to become a law enforcement agent, perhaps with the FBI.

But she is passionate about boxing and focused on her Olympic goal, accepting that it doesn’t leave time for too many other outside activities.

“When I was younger I’d get frustrated because I couldn’t find fights,” Verduzco said. “But now I’m right where I need to be to stay in the game. I have to stay ready. No breaks, not a lot of high school stuff. Track-and-field I can do because it’s during 6th period.

“I realize (boxing) could take me farther than other stuff.”

Along with skill and passion, there is a whole bunch of moxie inside “Right Hook” Roxy.