Blanca Gutierrez can proudly call herself a Hall of Famer.
Well-known in her native Pacifica and beyond as a respected advocate of women’s boxing, Gutierrez – owner and founder of the Baby Face Boxing gym – was recognized for her contributions to the sport by being inducted into the City of Pacifica Sports Hall of Fame Saturday night.
Held at the Best Western Plus Grosvenor Airport Hotel in South San Francisco, the 26th annual ceremony was hosted by retired Terra Nova High School and Oceana High School coach Bill Gray, who was inducted into the hall of fame’s inaugural class in 1991.
This year’s inductees include former Terra Nova coaches Gary Johnson and David White and University of Mississippi alumnus Bryan Powers, who is also the youngest inductee in the hall of fame’s 25-year history.
Gutierrez told SFBay she is very honored to receive such recognition and glad to be a part of a great sports community like Pacifica:
“It was really neat to actually get an award instead of watching everybody get an award, a medal, a trophy, a belt. Here I am, I get to get an award, so that was a real nice thing for me. Sometimes we’re left in the background and that’s where I want to be – because I help create champions. But to get an award was really amazing and I thank Horace (Hinshaw, president of the Pacifica Sports Club) for considering me.”
Gutierrez has made numerous sacrifices – both personally and professionally – to bring about change in women’s boxing.
Nobody closer to her knows firsthand about such sacrifices than her husband Charlie Hilder, who acknowledged Gutierrez as his hero during his introduction:
“She was willing to get up at 4:30 in the morning to go to her regular job so she could subsidize her boxing club, because we know you don’t make a lot of money in a boxing club. But she did what she had to do and a lot of kids benefited from it, older people benefited from it. There is a lot of people who needed it and she brought it out here.”
Since opening the Baby Face gym, Gutierrez has produced respected world champions like Martha Salazar and Melissa McMorrow and built young standout amateur talent like Tatiana Almaraz and Iris Contreras among others.
She has even established a stage for those young women to shine on courtesy of her annual “Beautiful Brawlers” events, which showcase the best amateur talent from the Bay Area and throughout the world as well.
The gym, itself, has also become the top Bay Area training facility for female fighters and Gutierrez has garnered numerous awards in recent years, establishing herself as one of California’s top amateur boxing promoters.
She took to the stage following her husband’s introduction and thanked her mother Virginia and sisters Lupi and Lizzy for all their love and support throughout her journey.
She thanked members of her boxing family like Salazar, McMorrow and boxing reporter Mario Cabrera Jr. from Beat the Count for their support as well and acknowledged how important it was for her to share this special moment with them:
“I’m with them all the time. Life changes and your families change in your lifetime. It was great having my mom and my sisters present, but to have my boxing family – the people that I see and who support me – was the most important thing and having Melissa and Martha here, I feel very loved.”
Throughout her induction speech, Gutierrez reflected on the impact sports in general had in her life, from her athletic success at Skyline College to finding her calling in kickboxing and eventually boxing.
She also acknowledged some coaches who bestowed their influence on her – none more influential than her former softball coach Gary Turner.
During a time when nobody believed Gutierrez could excel in athletics, Turner recognized her drive and passion and took her under his wing:
“He took me aside, he brought some pitching machine I’d never seen before and he taught me how to do a drag bunt. I made it to first base almost every single time I dropped that bunt. I had the best batting average there was that season and I was the MVP on that team.”
Gutierrez strongly believes that great coaches like Turner are essential to all sports, and uses his influence to instill in her fighters the importance of never underestimating an underdog:
“Just give everybody a shot and treat everybody fairly because you never know what kind of potential somebody has just by the way they look, because looks can be very deceiving. So always treat everybody the same and give them the same opportunities.”
The lack of support Gutierrez received regarding her athletic abilities is very similar to the hardships she and Salazar endured when they tried to find any local gym that would seriously acknowledge their desire to train and fight.
Those hardships encouraged Gutierrez to open Baby Face Boxing – named after her father, Javier “Baby Face” Gutierrez – and establish it as a place where she, Salazar and their fellow boxing sisters can train and grow together as a family.
Through five successful installments of “Beautiful Brawlers,” Gutierrez and her Baby Face family have ultimately knocked out any notion that all women can’t fight:
“A lot of people think that all girls shouldn’t fight. But guess what, there’s girls that do fight. There’s going to be someone who’s going to protect them, to promote them, and to take them to succeed and follow their dreams. That’s what I do and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last five years and we’ve created champions all over the world.”
Gutierrez brought a picture of her and her father – who passed away in September 2000 – to Saturday’s ceremony so he could be part of the festivities in spirit.
She said she looks at the photo every morning before heading out to work and thanks her father for being her inspiration and instilling in her the importance of hard work and sacrifice:
“I wanted him to be with me because if it wasn’t for him and being born to a boxer, I would never have this beautiful life in the boxing world and I wouldn’t have all these wonderful opportunities and meet these great people. So my whole life is dedicated to his legacy and to make sure that it lives on.”
Gutierrez holds a special place in her heart for the inaugural “Beautiful Brawlers” event from 2011, which happened shortly after her father was inducted into the California Boxing Hall of Fame that same year.
With one hall of fame induction under her belt, Gutierrez’ growing legacy in the fight game may ultimately earn her a California Boxing Hall of Fame induction alongside her father in the future.
Though she said it would be an incredible honor to be inducted into a hall of fame of such caliber, Gutierrez – a director of the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame – wants to ensure that Salazar and McMorrow are inducted first before she is even nominated for any such induction:
“Those two are my champions and they should be in those hall of fames no doubt. So I would be really happy, but I would have to turn it down and say, ‘No. Look at Melissa or Martha first because they really, truly deserve it.’”
With Saturday’s festivities in the books, Gutierrez looks forward to making 2016 a big year for Baby Face Boxing and the Beautiful Brawlers as well as women’s boxing in general.
Her hall of fame induction serves as a testament to everything she and her Baby Face family have achieved together in recent years – and the barriers they have broken so far in the male-dominated sport of boxing:
“It just means that we’re moving boxing forward. That’s what my whole plan was – to move boxing forward and to get us on TV and to get women boxers paid. So it’s all part of ‘the movement.’ A lot of people call it ‘the movement,’ but Martha and I don’t call it ‘the movement’ because we’ve been doing this since 1995 trying to get women’s boxing going forward. So it just means that we’re going to press forward, we’re going to do more, and 2016 is going to be our year.”