‘Beautiful Brawlers VII’ celebrates family, diversity

Blanca Gutierrez’s annual “Beautiful Brawlers” boxing tournament follows one simple format: The best fight the best.

Since its 2011 inception, the tournament has established itself as a platform to showcase female amateur boxing talent from around the world.

It has also quickly become a Labor Day weekend tradition, and Beautiful Brawlers VII kept it going Saturday afternoon with more than 50 fighters bringing hard-hitting action to the Pacifica Cages at 640 Crespi Drive next door to Gutierrez’ Baby Face Boxing gym.

With each successful turnout, Gutierrez, owner of the Baby Face gym, acknowledges the tournament as a continuing celebration of family inside and outside the ring:

“It’s a celebration of family getting together, sticking together and creating something special … but without those girls, this is nothing. They become family because we go through ups and downs as fighters and it’s hard to see some of them lose and it’s great to see some of them win. But when you see them lose, you get really close to them and sometimes a loss makes a better fighter, but it really hurts everybody around.”

Amateur standout Mayra Ruiz – who won her second Beautiful Brawlers championship Saturday – told SFBay it feels great being part of quite an extended boxing family, and she understands the importance of humility among her boxing sisters:

“Everybody here is nice and we don’t mad-dog each other. We’re all humble girls here.”

While the tournament’s format remains the same, it seeks to make a new statement each year.

Last year emphasized how alive and well the sisterhood of boxing is, and this year simply focused on the beauty of diversity in boxing – especially since Gutierrez is aware of the recent instances of racially-fueled tension and violence happening throughout the United States:

“We had (almost) every single nationality here and you could put us all in a room ready to go to war in the ring and then come out friends. Now what the hell is wrong with the world where we can’t do that, when we can do it all right here and we’re fighters?”

Gutierrez – a 2016 Pacifica Sports Hall of Famer – referred to this year’s event as “New Blood” as she brought in new amateur talent in hopes of familiarizing them to her audience.

Among the new faces was one of Baby Face’s newest recruits, Alexis Gomez, who successfully made both her Beautiful Brawlers and amateur debut with a hard-fought three-round decision win over Lauren Garcia.

Gomez, a boxing and kickboxing coach at the UFC Gym in San Bruno, said post-fight that she felt more than just amazing – like she could take over the world:

“It feels great to have been able to compete in this fight and to come out winning like a champ. To be alongside my sisters – who one out of three of us have faced physical, emotional, or mental abuse – it feels great to be one of those women who has experienced that multiple times and come in here and let out all that anger and let out all that stress and let the world know that women’s boxing is not going anywhere.”

She also said she felt great from the moment she stepped inside the ring and could immediately spot Garcia’s slow punches just a minute into the fight.

Her confidence was evident as she controlled a majority of the bout with her left jab and short right hands while also displaying effective footwork.

But she began to tire during the third round which allowed Garcia to sneak in two potshots as Gomez attempted to punctuate her combinations.

Gomez said afterwards that she felt great about her performance, though she wishes she could have improved her cardio, especially after suffering runner’s knee two weeks prior.

Before training at Baby Face Boxing, Gomez trained at the UFC Gym where she works as well as Fire in the Ring Boxing in Brisbane.

Though she has only trained at Baby Face for two months, she said she enjoys working with Gutierrez and the team because of how loving, welcoming and non-discriminatory Gutierrez is towards all female fighters.

Gutierrez, in turn, said she was very happy to see Gomez walk out victorious Saturday afternoon.

She also said she was impressed by collegiate boxer Vicky Zhao’s win over Alexis Martinez, and heavyweights Crystal-Rose Britto and Dana Hill Greene, who threw down in a three-round scrap that Britto won via decision.

Competing in her second Beautiful Brawlers bout, Ruiz – whose nickname “Mostorito” means “baby monster” in Spanish – looked sharp and dominant in her decision win over Melissa Monroy.

Both fighters came out trading punches at the start of the fight, but Ruiz took over by landing a succession of right hands. She also switched southpaw and landed two straight left hands before punctuating the round with a left hook.

Ruiz, a natural right-hander, said she recently started training southpaw so she could get accustomed to fighting in that stance and become equally strong fighting in both stances.

She remained in control of the second round thanks to her pinpoint punching and scraped Monroy with multiple punches against the ropes, prompting the referee to separate them and give Monroy a standing eight count.

Monroy went for broke in the third round and tagged Ruiz with some counter shots, but Ruiz turned southpaw again and solidified her victory with more clean, effective shots.

The bout was acknowledged by Gutierrez as the main event of the first half of the show, which 2020 Olympic hopeful Ruiz said felt great because of the efforts she and Monroy put inside the ring:

“We’re there for a reason so we put on a show, we put on the best we had and we worked hard. So it feels good to be recognized by that.”

Beautiful Brawlers household name Lupe Gutierrez (no relation to Blanca) closed the show in dominant fashion by winning another Beautiful Brawlers title with a decision over Savanah Stewart, while her sister Lela Gutierrez lost a decision to Angela Murillo.

Blanca Gutierrez said she was once again happy with Saturday’s turnout and overall success, especially after unforeseen circumstances caused her to cancel her “Boxing Meets Beauty” all-professional show back in December.

As devastating as it was to cancel the show – which was supposed to be headlined by Baby Face Boxing ambassadors and former world champions Martha “The Shadow” Salazar and “Mighty” Melissa McMorrow – she said it made her realize why she enjoys working with amateurs:

“I learned that the pros out there don’t keep their word, they don’t show up to really fight, and they don’t have the pedigree that amateurs have. So I say this to them: Step up your game! The Beautiful Brawlers are coming out and any of you pros that want to fight them, they’ll fight you, they’ll beat you, and they’ll put you down on the canvas!”

Gutierrez also never takes full credit for the continuing success of Beautiful Brawlers and has made it clear since the beginning that she simply does this out of her love for her boxing sisters – big and small – and women’s boxing in general:

“I don’t have to get on Facebook and tell everybody what I’m doing. I don’t have to give myself kudos. I don’t have to do any of that because all that is just a game. You’re either going to do it and not say it or you’re going to be on Facebook professing everything that you do and not really do it. I’m a doer and the rest of you can be talkers. I do it for the girls, I’ve never done this to make money.”

As she has said before, Beautiful Brawlers is nothing without all the girls who travel out to the Bay Area to compete and it is because of their dedication that she acknowledges every competitor as a champion:

“They’re all winners because they all know that they have to fight the best, and I pick people that don’t turn down fights.”

That same champion mentality makes fighters like Gomez, Ruiz and the Gutierrez sisters further grateful for the opportunity to continue competing on the Beautiful Brawlers stage and – like Gomez believes – making a difference in the fight game:

“Anybody who says ‘Women can’t box, women can’t do this, women can’t do that,’ today as the champions of Beautiful Brawlers VII, we’re proving to the world that women are just as powerful as men.”