It has become clear in Sulem Urbina’s 22 years that she is persistent and thrives when she is tested.
It’s why when the Mexican-born Ahwatukee resident talks of competing in the Olympics or winning a world title in her boxing career the words come with a little more punch.
“Boxing is going to take me where I want to be in life,” she said. “The thought of being the best in the world is what motivates me.”
As confident as Urbina is in her ability, she isn’t quite sure what she wants to do with it.
The 2016 Olympics trials for Team Mexico are a few years off (visa problems kept her from competing in 2012) and the idea of turning pro is an everyday question.
“I’m debating which would be better for me,” she said. “Fighting as an amateur is difficult, but the Olympics are everyone’s dreams. Right now, I just know I am going to keep fighting as an amateur as long as I can.”
Her career will continue on May 17 at the Celebrity Theater where she will fight on the card as an amateur against an unknown opponent in hopes of improving her 45-10 record, including national and international competition.
Urbina, who was the 2007 and 2009 Golden Gloves Champion in Arizona, got involved in the sport at age 10, following in her brothers’ footsteps, but her mother put a stop to it.
“She didn’t like it at first because it kept me from helping out at home and away from my chores,” she said. “The busted lips and black eyes didn’t help.”
Urbina, who competes anywhere between 110 and 122 pounds, eventually returned to the sport at age 17 and now her mother is at her gym, Knockout Boxing Club in Phoenix, as much as she can and attends all of her fights.
Another person Urbina had to convince was her trainer, and now husband, Andrews Soto.
Soto did everything he could to turn Urbina away by putting her through a rigorous and intense training session. He was testing her commitment and resolve.
Six years later, he is in her corner in more ways than one.
“I am just happy to prove them wrong,” she said of Soto and her mom. “He was training me so hard and pushing me. He told me later he was trying to get rid of me, but I wasn’t going anywhere.”
It’s no wonder considering the family-type environment the duo have developed at Knockout Boxing. Phoenix resident Carlos Castro, a professional fighter out of the gym, asked Soto and Urbina to be the godparents of his child.
“I’ve been training since I was small and he’d care for me,” said Castro, who will put his 4-0 record on the line at Celebrity Theater on May 17. “He was a parent and took me under his wing. It means everything to me that they are part of our family.”
Soto said it was any easy decision to invest in Castro after seeing the potential.
“When Carlos was 10 years old, I remember taking him to boxing competitions,” Soto said. “When we arrived, he would begin to change into his gear and warm up without anyone having to say a word to him. His dedication to boxing, his focus, and his ability to take instruction were more advanced than other kids. I knew he was special.”
All boxers have a similar trait in being fearless when it comes to stepping into the ring knowing there is a chance of being battered by the opponent.
“I’ve always enjoyed the discipline that is involved,” said Urbina, who plans on transferring to Arizona State from Phoenix College in the fall. “I didn’t want to have to rely on a teammate. I wanted to go about it the right way and do it myself.”
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