‘Beautiful Brawlers’ keeps alive sisterhood of boxing

Boxing promoter Blanca Gutierrez’ annual “Beautiful Brawlers” tournament has quickly become a well-known tradition in her hometown of Pacifica and beyond since 2011.

The tradition continued on Sunday as Gutierrez and Baby Face Boxing hosted the sixth installment of their popular amateur boxing tournament, showcasing the best female talent from around the world.

Emanating from the Pacifica Cages next door to Gutierrez’ Baby Face gym at 640 Crespi Drive, Beautiful Brawlers VI was as successful as its predecessors, delivering another exciting night of action complete with 22 hard-hitting, crowd-pleasing fights.

Gutierrez never takes full credit for the success of her Beautiful Brawlers events and acknowledges all the fighters for their efforts inside the ring, which she believes helped make this year’s tournament the best she and Baby Face have hosted so far.

She also believes the competitive nature of the bouts and sportsmanship displayed further promote and embody the sisterhood of boxing that she and her fighters strive to keep alive and well:

“Just because we’re fighting each other doesn’t mean that you treat each other disrespectfully … this is how we learn because not everybody feels that way. So you try to stir them in the right direction and I think that it’s successful because of that. The sisterhood of boxing is alive and they know they need each other, but we want to stress that to them that they will need each other.”

Fifty-year-old Beki Light, who was one of the oldest competitors on Sunday’s card, told SFBay she believes such sisterhood lies at the heart of the Beautiful Brawlers tournament:

“The whole goal is to have great, great competition between people with sisterhood as well, and that just cuts against everything that society tells us – that women have to backstab each other and have to be number one and nobody else can and all that B.S. This just proves all of that wrong and the best female fighters come out of Beautiful Brawlers, come through Beautiful Brawlers, and it’s just beautiful.”

Other older competitors ranged from ages 11 to 35 with younger competitors ranging from ages nine and 10.

Along with the Bay Area talent on display, Beautiful Brawlers VI also featured boxers from Southern California and a few from outside California, including three from Arizona, one from Las Vegas and four from Canada.

Each winner presented their opponent with a consolation medal before receiving a newly-customized Beautiful Brawlers championship that sports both the Beautiful Brawlers logo and that of current WBO women’s flyweight champion “Mighty” Melissa McMorrow.

McMorrow was also on hand to present the new titles alongside former WBC women’s heavyweight champion Martha Salazar and former “Miss Pacifica” Marissa Lau.

Gutierrez – a 2016 Pacifica Sports Hall of Famer – acknowledges McMorrow’s world champion caliber as well as her contributions to Baby Face Boxing and Beautiful Brawlers.

She also told SFBay how nice it feels to have McMorrow’s logo displayed on the belts – especially after McMorrow helped sponsor their production:

“She helps us out tremendously every Saturday and she actually put money towards the belts. It wasn’t all of the money, but it was a good portion of the money. I appreciate that because this event costs a lot of money and I’m not a nonprofit. When a pro fighter helps me like that, it means a lot to me, because a lot of people won’t do that. She did it.”

Citlali Ortiz of Coachella, Calif., earned fighter of the night honors and took home both a Beautiful Brawlers championship and a WBC amateur title following her emphatic stoppage of Kylie Hall.

Walnut Creek’s Ashleigh Morgan Rucker and Heaven Garcia of El Monte, Calif., recorded the other two stoppages of the night by defeating Nicole Manza and Zera Adame, respectively.

Light and fellow 50-year-old Dawn Verbois made history together in their special Masters division bout as they became the oldest fighters to ever compete in a Beautiful Brawlers tournament.

Light proved that age is just a number by winning a three-round decision on the strength of her ring generalship and punch accuracy.

She told SFBay post-fight that she was very excited to compete against a fellow Master boxer and thanked Gutierrez for presenting her with such a special opportunity:

“To me, age is just a number – it’s what you make it. I’m happy to be able to be a part of representing that and hopefully that inspires other people who might not be as young as it’s traditionally expected to be to do this too or do what they love.”

Light credits her victory and performance to the tutelage she’s received from her trainer Oscar Rivadeneyra, who she acknowledges as an effective strategic coach:

“He is the one who’s given me my boxing fundamentals. I also have been training in the martial arts for a long time with Prof. James Hundon, who has also given me a lot of boxing fundamentals. I came into train with Oscar with that in my background, but that was from a martial arts perspective. I think that’s aided me to pick up what Oscar has been teaching me much more rapidly than I would otherwise.”

Gutierrez said it was beautiful seeing both women compete and demonstrate that you can achieve anything you’re passionate about no matter how old you are.

But she also said she was a little concerned for both women simply because she didn’t want to see either of them get hurt or even suffer a heart attack:

“We’re older, so that was very scary. But with the doctors and the ambulance here, that’s ok. I’m not saying that as being funny. People would think that’s ridiculous, but some of us can’t get over that being a fighter, so we’ve got to give them a shot. Those two were the perfect ones to do it.”

Baby Face and Beautiful Brawlers were also represented by Ariana Borrero (Salazar’s niece), Dalia Gomez and Lupe Gutierrez (no relation to Blanca).

Borrero fought hard in losing a three-round decision to Fatima Martinez while Gomez and Gutierrez both won Beautiful Brawlers championships.

Gomez won a close, tactical four-round battle against Canadian River “The Fox” Tucker while Gutierrez displayed her effective boxing craft in earning a four-round decision over Arizona’s Elyza Peralta.

Now a three-time Beautiful Brawlers champion, 2020 Olympic hopeful Gutierrez said it felt great competing in another Beautiful Brawlers tournament and simply loves being around her friends and teammates:

“We’re all here together and we all get to meet up and hang out and just watch each other fight and I love it.”

Beautiful Brawlers VI was not streamed live on pay per view like the previous installment, but Blanca Gutierrez streamed some fights via Facebook Live which garnered her numerous views and comments.

She believes her method was an effective promotional tool since people share her live streams not just throughout the United States, but in places outside it like Mexico as well.

She also believes it moves her one step closer towards securing a television deal so she can introduce her fighters – especially hard-working and deserving ones like McMorrow – to broader audiences:

“The most effective thing is for me to go out into every interview and say, ‘Somebody fight Melissa McMorrow and someone put her on TV!’ We need Melissa McMorrow on TV because if we don’t see her on TV, they’re just trying to shelf her and she’s probably one of the best fighters we have in Northern California. So I have to go out in every interview and say, ‘Somebody fight Melissa.’”

Gutierrez now looks ahead to the future and has started planning her first-ever professional Beautiful Brawlers event for November with hopes of having McMorrow headline the main event.

She also looks forward to bringing her dream Beautiful Brawlers amateur event to fruition next year by hosting a three-day tournament instead of a single day tournament.

With another successful Beautiful Brawlers event in the books, Gutierrez is once again grateful for the labor of love she has received from those closest to her.

While she doesn’t toot her own horn, Gutierrez believes the success she and her boxing family have earned is well-deserved, especially after considering all the hard work she’s put in over the years and sacrifices made along the way.

But no matter how stressful and difficult her job may get, she remains confident and positive so she can continue serving as a proud flag bearer and advocate for women’s boxing:

“You have people that want to support what you do, but they hate what you do. They don’t like to see your success, but you have to put all that aside. There’s many times I want to say something on Facebook, but I never express my negative feelings. I stay positive every time. The most important thing is that I stay positive because when I look at these girls, I’m thinking, ‘They’re champions’ – especially the nine-year-olds. So it makes me feel good.”