Okeechobee’s own Karina Maldonado became the Florida Junior Olympics boxing champion on April 13 in Fort Pierce.
The championship qualifies Karina for the 2019 Southeastern Regional Junior Olympics Tournament in Rockhill, S.C. happening on May 16. If she is victorious in the regional tournament, Karina will move on to the USA Boxing National Junior Olympics Tournament scheduled to be held in Madison, Wis. June 22-29.
Karina, who is 15 years old and currently attends Okeechobee Freshman Campus, trains at Boxfit Okeechobee under her coach Manuel Sanchez. Sanchez has trained Karina now for about two years, though he has known her for four years. Sanchez teaches math at Osceola Middle School and was one of Karina’s teachers before she moved on to the freshman campus.
“Karina did well considering it’s been four months since her last fight, she had only a two weeks of fight camp,” said Sanchez. “And she fought against an awkward southpaw. She is only going to get better. It takes a team to accomplish what we’ve accomplished. Our families, assistant coaches, gym members, and community are all passionate about this win.”
Sanchez acknowledged that the competition will get more intense in the regional round, but expressed confidence in his young boxer.
“Next month Karina will compete against the winners of Georgia, the Carolinas, and other nearby regions,” explained Sanchez. “We are going to be going up against fighters we haven’t seen before and who are also champions, so competition will be elite. The way she’s developing and putting together her athleticism and skills, I believe Karina will win that tournament as well. With continued support I have faith we can one day have a national champion.”
That confidence may be well founded as Karina already has a 5-1 record in USA Boxing sanctioned events.
Although athletics appear to come naturally to Karina, she was the quarterback for the JV flag football team at Okeechobee High School as well as a member of the JV volleyball team, she also excels academically. She’s enrolled in all honor classes and scheduled to start taking dual enrollment this summer. Karina’s mother, Tracy Frontino, was in attendance at the state tournament in Fort Pierce.
“She’s had a lot of fights, but this was a really big one for her,” said Ms. Frontino. “It’s always very nerve-wracking, especially as a mother. But it was amazing and I’m super excited for her.” Now Karina’s family has moved into fundraising mode to help pay for the costs of traveling to South Carolina to represent Okeechobee in the regional tournament.
A fundraiser is scheduled for May 11 at Seacoast Bank located at 1409 S. Parrott Ave. Tickets can be bought by reaching out to Coach Sanchez at 863-801-3974 or Karina’s father at 863-801-3974. The family and Boxfit Okeechobee are also seeking donations or sponsors for Karina in her journey for gold. In return for a donation or sponsorship, Boxfit Okeechobee will ensure you’re recognized and promoted on their social media pages for your help.