Sulem Urbina had used her boxing gloves to inflict plenty of pain.
Each combination, quick and powerful, hit the mark and led her to victory, but now those same gloves have some healing powers.
Urbina, 23, recently won the gold medal in the flyweight division at the Mexican Amateur National Championships, Nov. 30 to Dec. 7 in Guadalajara, Mexico.
After each victory the Mexican-born Ahwatukee resident thrust her gloves toward heaven in honor of her fallen brother, Alexis, who was murdered on Sept. 3 in Phoenix.
“After each fight, the ring announcer said my name as the winner, and I always pointed up at the sky, knowing that my brother was with me,” she said. “I did everything for him. As soon as I got home, I placed my gold medal right next to my brother’s. We had planned to qualify for the 2016 Olympics together, with Alexis on Team USA, and myself on Team Mexico.”
Alexis’ murder rocked the boxing community, especially here in Arizona.
Urbina, 17, was found unconscious and covered in blood in his family’s south Phoenix home on Sept. 3, according to police. The teen, who attended South Mountain High, aspired to be an Olympic boxer died of his injuries two days later.
There was no obvious sign of forced entry into the house, but Urbina’s family told police some of his boxing memorabilia was missing.
Urbina won the 141-pound Youth Men’s Division at the USA Boxing National Championships in April at Spokane, Wash.
Robert Chavez, 22, and Joseph Jessie Corrales, 23, were arrested in November.
Sulem turned to training for the Mexican Amateur to help cope, knowing she couldn’t bring him back, but that she would be pushed like never before in his honor.
“Throughout the whole trip,” she said. “I could feel my brother Alexis with me, which gave me strength, and made me more comfortable.”
Urbina advanced to the finals by defeating Jessica Ortiz with a third round TKO, Zaida Enriquez by split decision, and Monserrat Vasquez with a first round TKO. In the finals, on Dec. 7, she defeated Araceli Nava by unanimous decision. Her amateur record now stands at 55-10.
“I was confident that I was going to win this tournament, because Andrews Soto trained and prepared me well,” she said of her trainer and husband. “I don’t believe there was another girl at this tournament that went through a tougher training routine. I work hard so that I’m a tough girl to beat in any competition.
“In Guadalajara, the event atmosphere was great. All the boxers from the tournament were staying at the same hotel, and you could feel the competitive tension as everyone interacted with each other. Everybody wanted to win. I knew the competition was going to be tough, but I was ready, and I had more than one reason to win this championship.”
Soto, who trains out of Knockout Boxing Club in Phoenix, believes the win is just a start for Urbina.
“I’m very happy for what Sulem has been able to accomplish this year,” he said. “She has continued taking classes and is earning credits towards a college degree. She has been doing great things for others as a volunteer in the community. As far as boxing goes, winning nationals is a great way to end the year, because it opens the door for her to participate in international competitions.
“She needs as much international experience as possible, so that she can compete for a spot at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. There are some really good flyweight boxers all over the world. We are ready to test Sulem’s abilities against the best.”
The mission, much like the healing, will not stop until she qualifies for Brazil.
“When Alexis was murdered this year, I knew I couldn’t quit, because that’s not what he would have wanted me to do,” he said. “I know now that I’m one step closer to fulfilling that promise that we made to each other. If the good lord above allows me to participate in the 2016 Olympics, I will be ready.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.