alyssa with belt

Alyssa Samorano won this belt earlier this year but will be defending it soon.

Alyssa Samorano now has a title belt to add to her boxing accomplishments.

The 11-year-old recently traveled with her father, Albert, to Independence, Mo. for the Silver Gloves National competition and was named the top competitor in her 90-pound weight class. The achievement marked another achievement for athletes to come out of the Sanger Boxing Club, said longtime coach Mario Irazoqui.

“Here’s the champ,” Irazoqui said. “This is the real deal.”

Alyssa slung the red oversize belt over a shoulder while she took a break from working out not long ago. About 50 young people in a range of ages and sizes worked out in the main room of the Sanger Youth Center. Carolina Briones, a 15-year-old contemporary of Alyssa’s, led the rest of the crew in boxing-style calisthenics.

Alyssa said she enjoyed her trip to the national competition — at first. “I wanted to stay there,” she said. “I was excited.”

But the freezing temperatures, Albert said the thermometer read 1 degree upon their arrival, and the snafu by officials that caused Alyssa’s competitor to be disqualified reduced some of the luster from the trip. Alyssa won by default, which isn’t the way she wanted it, she said.

Irazoqui said the next title belt competition arrives in April with the Junior Olympics in Fresno.

Alyssa said she wants to be ready. She said her plan is “working harder, nonstop. Keep on going.”

“This is her first year, so we’ve got to see how everything works out,” Albert said. “We need to work on speed, combinations and foot work.”

Meanwhile, the rest of the members of the Sanger Boxing Club continued to work out. Cristal Cuellar, 13, had taken over leading the workout while coach Ernesto Betancourt carefully worked with each student, offering tips and advice.

The number of boxers has grown exponentially in the past eight months, perhaps as a result of the exploits of Alyssa and her class of fellow boxers and others like Manuel “Chaparrito” Cortes, who has fought at the Save Mart Center, Evan “Gato” Sanchez and Orvelin “Junior” Terrones. In December, Alyssa earned the title of California State Silver Gloves Champion.

Irazoqui said Alyssa’s accomplishments are elevating the club. “The last Sanger champion was Alexis Sanchez eight years ago,” he said. “We’ve never gone there since. This girl’s lighted up the whole city.”

The reporter can be contacted by email at nemethfeatures@gmail.com or by phone at the Herald at (559) 875-2511.

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