Sports history is being made by a pair of athletes who grew up in Sylmar, and more history could be on the way.
Boxers Rahim Gonzales and Iyana “Roxy” Verduzco have qualified for the USA Boxing Trials, and will now try and make the 2020 Olympic team that competes in Tokyo, Japan next summer.
The trials will take place in Lake Charles, LA in December.
Verduzco, who turned 18 on Sept. 30 — just in time to become eligible to qualify — was one of 26 fighters to earn one of the last available spots for Lake Charles during the fourth and final Qualifying Trials tournament that was held last week in Oxnard, CA.
There were 21 fighters in her featherweight class (125-pounds/57k). Verduzco won her first three fights — beating Jahoska Chamorro of Castro Valley, CA (5-0), Olivia Blechschmidt of Brooklyn, NY (5-0) and Erika Sanchez of Azusa, CA (3-2) — to guarantee finishing as one of the top two.
Having incurred a “medical issue” during the week of fighting, and already assured of moving on to the Olympic Trials, Verduzco decided against fighting in the final, instead handing the tournament championship to Mikiah Kreps of Niagara Falls, NY —the other top finisher — in a walkover.
But “Right Hook Roxy,” as she is known, told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol she expects to be 100% healthy in time for the Olympic Trials.
“I’m fine now and I’m getting better,” Verduzco said.
She had the chance to advance to the trials during a qualifying event held in Columbus, OH. Verduzco won her first two bouts, but was narrowly defeated, 3-2, in the quarterfinals by Melanie Costa of Norton, MA.
As she looks back at it now, it was a good defeat for her since Verduzco had won 28 consecutive fights dating back to 2014 (according to BoxRec.com), winning national and world youth championship belts in the process.
“That [loss] woke me up,” Verduzco said. “It motivated me to push and train harder. I had that burden on my shoulders of not having lost. It felt like a big monkey on my shoulders. I was wondering when I was going to lose. Not that I wanted to…but that loss relaxed me.
“Of course, I was devastated the first couple of days after that. But I got through it. It was a close fight, a split-decision. But it also re-booted me to do different things, to change things.”
Interestingly, Verduzco felt the fights in Oxnard were actually tougher due to a different level of passion in the fighters.
“It was a last chance qualifier, so everyone was hungry,” she said. “We were all fighting with our hearts. There was no backing down by anyone. I felt in Ohio, the fights were more skillful and patient. Here, everyone was just throwing punches. It took a lot out of me to fight them. But I pulled through.”
Verduzco will be spending her remaining training time leading up to the Olympic Trials working out at the Wild Card Boxing gym in Hollywood owned and operated by legendary trainer Freddie Roach. Verduzco will still be trained primarily by her mother, Gloria Mosquera, but she will happily tap into any advice Roach offers. She won’t travel to Louisiana until Dec. 6.
Gonzales, 23, had qualified as a light heavyweight (178 pounds/81k) after winning three bouts in a qualifier last December in Salt Lake City, UT, and is currently training in Las Vegas. His motivation is simple; he didn’t make the 2016 team (although he was selected as an alternate at 141 pounds) and had to wait four years for another chance.
“Physically I’m feeling great, Mentally I know what I have to do,” said Gonzales, speaking by phone. “I got so close [to making the team] before but fell short. I felt then it was more a mental thing than physical. I actually got a little too confident.
“That’s why I waited another four years (to try again).”
There will be 104 boxers, male and female, competing for 22 total spots on the USA team. Two of them are from the Northeast Valley. Both are young — Verduzco may be the youngest boxer, male or female at the trials — but neither is going just for the “experience” of going.
As Gonzales said to Verduzco before he ended the call: “Making history. That’s the plan.”
A fundraiser for Verduzco to help defray training and travel expenses is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 16, beginning at 1 p.m., at 647 Orange Grove in the City of San Fernando. For more information, call (818) 404-9383.