Irma “Guerita” Sanchez on the Comeback Trail
By Felipe Leon
Many a times in boxing a fighter retires from the sport when they have reached the end of their peak abilities. More often than not a fighter stops competing way past that time always hoping against hope for that special night when everything comes together as it once did. At times a fighter must also retire before their time because of injury or some other unpredictable or uncontrollable reason. When you cast your eyes toward the female side of the sport there is still another reason.
For 29-year-old former world champion Irma “Guerita” Sanchez (28-7-1, 8KO) of Guadalajara, Mexico, the birth of her daughter, Angelica Margarita, now has given her renewed motivation to reach the pinnacle she once founder herself at.
“I am coming back with double motivation, the first the birth of my daughter and the second the challenge to capture a world title so I can gift it to her,” Sanchez said.
At one time Sanchez was one of the most popular fighters in Mexico and is coming back after a three year hiatus this Saturday night in her native Guadalajara to face the unheralded Maria Guadalupe Atilano (0-2-1) of nearby Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico, in a scheduled flyweight eight rounder. The bout will be part of the Mexican Azteca channel telecast which will also feature the return of former interim WBA light flyweight champion Joselyn Arroyo.
Her story of how she began in the sport is a unique one. Working for a social program in Guadalajara, Sanchez found herself at a boxing gym where to pass the time her and her co-workers strapped on the gloves and went at it. She ended up beating all of them and caught the eye of the local trainer. She began to hone her craft but because of economics, as it always is the case, she had to concentrate on earning a living. Soon a gym opened up in her neighborhood and she began to box there. With hardly any amateur background to speak of, at 19 years of age Garcia made her pro debut in the summer of 2006 stopping Ines Gonzalez in the fourth and final round.
Known for her unstoppable come-forward style, Sanchez rattled off three wins more before suffering her first loss, a points loss against Magaly Avalos in May of ’07.
“When I lost that fight I gained a lot of experience and for the first time I felt the agony of defeat,” Sanchez said. “What kept me going was my will to win.”
After two more wins Sanchez suffered another loss this time to Maria Elena Villalobos via a second round technical knockout. Sanchez pieced together seven wins and a draw in the next two before getting her first opportunity for a world title in mid-2009, the interim WBC flyweight strap held by none other than the legendary Mariana “Barbie” Juarez.
“Guerita” came up short via a unanimous decision with scores of 80-71, 78-74 and 77-75.
“Mariana Juarez is a great fighter with a lot of experience and she beat me via a decision,” Sanchez says of the Mexican icon. “I am proud that I made the distance against a fighter of her level because at the time many thought she would knock me out because of my lack of experience.”
In her very next fight Sanchez began capturing regional titles with her eyes set at another world title challenge. With a unanimous decision over Lucia Avalos, Sanchez collected both the WBC International and Youth super flyweight titles and in her next fight the WBC Youth flyweight and NABF straps with a seventh round TKO of Susana Morales. She strung together three more wins defending her Youth title twice while also capturing the vacant WBC Silver light flyweight title in 2010. A challenge for the full-fledged title came next but she came up short via a unanimous decision in Japan against Naomi Togashi. However, in her very next fight in early 2011 Sanchez finally was able to call herself a world champion with a unanimous decision win over then IBF light flyweight champion Katia Gutierrez.
Her reign did not last since she lost it in her first defense against super power Jessica “Kika” Chavez via a hotly contested split decision. Sanchez decided to go up to the flyweight division in her very next fight while disputing and capturing the vacant WBF 112-pound title with a seventh round stoppage of Panama’s Carlota Santos. Sanchez made her name with that title defending it four times on Mexican network Televisa while fighting under the banner of her promoter and husband Hector Garcia’s HG Boxing. It wasn’t until early 2013 she relinquished the title again to Chavez but this time via unanimous decision.
In her last four fights Sanchez has gone 3-1, 1KO with wins over Tania Cosme, Katia Gutierrez again and Yesenia Martinez Castrejon while dropping her last fight to then unknown Jazmin Ortega in March of 2014.
Despite being away from the ring for the better part of three years Sanchez said she never thought of retirement but instead of giving her young daughter all the attention she could in her early formative years. Coincidentally her next opponent, “La Fiera” Atilano, is also coming back from to the ring after having a child herself.
“This is the first step towards a world title, this is good fight against a tough fighter who is also looking for the same opportunity,” Sanchez said to the local Guadalajara daily. “She is a complicated opponent who has fought world champions and I wanted to face somebody strong so I can prove that I belong here.”
With her break due to motherhood, Sanchez has taken the same route as some of the biggest names in the business like Ana Maria Torres, Jackie Nava and Mariana Juarez among others. “As women it is something we must do, to have to take a break to become mothers but we come back even more motivated to continue our careers and go after world titles. This proves it can be done.”
Her first battle was against the scale since she gained nearly forty pounds due to her pregnancy and after. “It was more of a mental challenge. Not allow myself to even nibble something that wasn’t healthy or part of my diet. That was the hardest part. The rest was easy since I have been boxing for over ten years. Along with that my life changed dramatically, before all I worried was about training and my fights now I have to take care of her as well as train so I am double motivated.”
Her daughter will be in attendance at her fight.
“She will be there and that will be my motivation to win,” Sanchez said. “I have been trying to come back for a while but the timing wasn’t right. Now I am very motivated. There have been times I get home tired and my daughter demands even more of my time but to see how excited she gets when she walks into the gym even though she has only seen me train once, it turned into my inspiration. That is why I decided to come back and be even more motivated, to get a world title and give it to her.”