Maldonado to compete in national tournament

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee’s Karina Maldonado is now on her way to Madison, Wis. to compete in the USA Boxing National Junior Olympics Tournament happening June 24-29.

Ever since becoming the Junior Olympic Regional boxing champ back on May 18, the Okeechobee freshman has been hard at work training for the upcoming tournament while at the same time taking college courses at Indian River State College.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Manuel Sanchez
Karina Maldonado circles her opponent during the Southeastern Regional Junior Olympics Tournament in Rock Hill, S.C. on May 18.

Karina’s coach and Boxfit Okeechobee owner Manuel Sanchez has been right by her side throughout all the preparation.

“Training has been intense,” said Sanchez. “Karina continues to improve and has demonstrated it in sparring and fights around the state. She has really progressed in her ring generalship.”

One of those fights around the state was at the Sugar Bert Boxing tournament held in Punta Gorda from June 7-9. Karina faced Faith Mendez, a 30-fight veteran currently ranked third in the nation in her weight class. Sanchez says that Karina had what he considers her best performance thus far in the ring against Mendez, but ultimately fell short against the experienced fighter. Still, fighting against someone with that kind of resume can be an invaluable learning experience for a young boxer like Karina. Mendez and Maldonado might just meet again in the ring in Madison.

After Karina was crowned the regional champion following her win at the Southeastern Regional Junior Olympics Tournament in Rock Hill, S.C., the Okeechobee community rallied around their hometown champion to ensure she had enough funds to make the trip to the national tournament.

“Okeechobee has been amazing in helping with Karina’s fundraising efforts,” said Sanchez. “We were able to meet our goal to cover travel, lodging, and meals for the trip. Individuals, small businesses and families have come together to help Karina pursue the national championship. We’d like to thank all those involved and encourage everyone to visit the Boxfit Okeechobee social media page to help recognize our sponsors.”

Karina’s mother, Tracy Frontino, says her family is completely in her corner. “She is and continues to be a light in everyone’s life, she does 110% in everything, always,” Mrs. Frontino said. “We couldn’t be more proud.”

The first weigh-in for the National Junior Olympics Tournament is scheduled for June 24 at 7 a.m. with the tournament draw occurring afterwards.

“I feel honored and proud to have an athlete of Karina’s caliber,” concluded Sanchez ahead of the national tournament. “Karina puts in the work, has the skills, athleticism, and most importantly the heart to be a champion. I truly believe Karina can win the national title.”

Richard Marion is a staff writer and photographer at Lake Okeechobee News and can be reached at rmarion@newszap.com.

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