It’s been six years since Alaska sent a boxer to the Junior Olympic Boxing Championships. Arthur Tauiliili went to the 2016 national tournament and returned home a champion, but the state hasn’t had a youth boxer qualify since — until this year.
Three youth boxers from the same gym where Tauiliili trained, Alaska Boxing Academy, are headed to Wichita, Kansas, to compete for the opportunity to be crowned a Junior Olympic champion. Anchorage’s Maliyah Schmid, Martin Delgado and Chanthajon Somvilaysack will be competing starting Monday with hopes of returning home victorious.
“It feels good to know that we have these boxers that are dedicated and want to challenge themselves,” said David Carey, who coaches the boxers.
The trio of young athletes are determined and highly motivated to shine a light on the Alaska boxing community and prove that the state has quality boxers with strong performances at nationals.
“It’s a huge tournament and we’ve got to let them know that we’re hard to beat and put Alaska on the map,” said Somvilaysack.
The 13-year-old homeschooled student is heading into the eighth grade and will be fighting at 114 pounds.
Schmid is 14 years old, Carey’s niece and the most decorated of the three Junior Olympians. She is a two-time Gene Lewis tournament champion and three-time Golden Gloves champion, and will be fighting at 132 pounds.
“I’m very excited,” Schmid said. “I’ve been working and training for this moment for basically my whole life.”
She said she has been boxing since she could walk and was inspired to dedicate herself to the sport by her uncle.
Carey is a former Olympic heavyweight boxer who went to 2008 Olympic Games, was an alternate on Team USA, trained with former WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder and is a five-time Golden Glove champion himself.
“Pretty much ever since she could walk and talk, she’s been throwing punches,” Carey said of Schmid.
When it comes to coaching his niece, Carey said at times, it’s hard to separate being a proud uncle and an unbiased coach.
“I’m hard on everybody but especially my niece because I know the type of potential she has,” Carey said. “I really want to push her to reach her full potential as a fighter.”
He says at times the uncle comes out and he wants to push her even more, but then the boxing coach comes out and he remembers he has to be nurturing in addition to pushing her to be her best.
Schmid being the first female boxer in the state to go to the Junior Olympics is a big deal for Alaska’s female boxing community, according to Carey, and he believes it will encourage other girls to pick up the sport.
“I think boxing has a bad stigma sometimes, especially for females,” Carey said. “Boxing is a sport for men and women. If you train at something how she trains, she can be an inspiration to a lot of girls.”
Schmid says qualifying for nationals took a lot of hard work and determination, and she is motivated to make it all pay off next week.
“I plan to get Alaska’s name out there,” Schmid said. “It’s not every day that you see a boxer from Alaska make it, beside my uncle.”
Delgado is the younger cousin of Nino Delgado, who was a Ringside World Champion and two-time Golden Gloves champion with a 6-1-1 pro record.
“He inspired me and so did my dad,” Delgado said.
His father isn’t a boxer but is a fan of the sport and supports him. While he admires his cousin’s legacy, Delgado is motivated to establish his own and is excited for the chance to make a name for himself at the Junior Olympics.
“I worked hard for this and I’m hoping I can win,” Delgado said, adding that he wants to “put Alaska on the map as well.”
The 14-year-old, who will be a freshman at Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School, has been boxing for seven years and will be fighting at 110 pounds in the Junior Olympics.
He wants to be involved with boxing for the rest of life with aspirations to fight as an Olympian and professionally, and he hopes to coach when he’s done competing.
Somvilaysack has been boxing for 11 years and first grew interested in the sport after watching his brother excel in it.
He is proud of how far he has come and also aspires to go pro one day. He wants be the best in his respective weight division and believes a strong showing at the Junior Olympics by him and his teammates would help grow the boxing community in Alaska by inspiring others to pick up the sport.
“It would help us because there aren’t many boxers or gyms up here and it’d really encourage people to start training and being active,” Somvilaysack said.
Finding consistent matches in Alaska is very challenging and the team often has to travel out of state to face quality opponents.
“It’s only hard for us because we don’t get fights as frequently as the other boxers do,” Carey said. “They can fight every other weekend out there. We can fight once every two to three months.”
They have an urgency to capitalize on opportunities in single elimination tournaments like the Junior Olympics because they might not get another match for months at a time.
“The more they stay in the ring, the more they fight, the more experience they’re going to get,” Carey said.
Schmid said her last match was in May in Seattle. She says the team usually travels three times a year to get matches in Washington, Arizona and California.
“It’s very hard to find matches because not everybody expects boxers to come out of Alaska,” Schmid said.
Registration will take place Sunday, and matches begin Monday and run throughout the week with the finals being held Friday.
Depending on how many boxers are in their respective weight classes, one or all three teens could fight for five straight days or have a bye and have the first or one of the subsequent days off.
One aspect of amateur boxing that Carey said he really likes is that they never know who their opponents are until they step in the ring.
“You have to be able to adjust to any style and be able to adjust to any situation when you get in that boxing ring,” Carey said.
His gym has been open for seven years, and unlike many other boxing gyms in the Lower 48, they were able to survive the pandemic. Despite having to close for six months when COVID-19 initially hit, support from parents and the community helped them keep their doors open and weather the storm.
“I feel really blessed to have the support of the Anchorage community at large,” Carey said.