Toledoan Monica Van Pelt, a Start junior, slugged her way to a fourth national championship after stopping Gabrielle Reyna of Amarillo, Texas, with a decisive 35-18 decision during the 2012 National Police Athletic League boxing championships at SeaGate Centre on Saturday.
Van Pelt's stellar performance gave her a National PAL 106-pound female championship.
"It made me a little nervous because I hadn't fought in front of the home crowd," Van Pelt said.
But it didn't take her long to find her comfort zone. That first right hook that connected squarely with Reyna's headgear eliminated the prefight anxiety for the 16-year-old pugilist who trains five days a week at Toledo PAL.
"This means a lot to me because I really wanted it," Van Pelt said.
Van Pelt fought in one of 31 championship bouts that took place last night before a sparse crowd on the final night of six days of amateur boxing on display in downtown Toledo. This was the second year the National PAL boxing tournament was held in the Glass City.
Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields of Flint, Mich., returned to the ring this week for the first time since the London Olympics and competed for the National PAL 165-pound open division female championship. The 17-year-old high school senior stopped Baltimore's Franchon Crews by a 30-19 score.
Toledo PAL director Brandi Berends, 28, stepped into the ring as a fighter and took on Bertha Aracil in a 141-pound open division female bout. Berends, who played golf at St. Ursula and in college at Michigan, lasted through nearly three rounds before the referee stopped the fight and declared Aracil the winner. The Yonkers, N.Y., native kept the pressure on and led the judges' scoring 18-2 when the fight was stopped.
Berends (1-1) left the ring with an optimistic perspective.
"How many 28-year-old moms can say they boxed in a national championship," she said. "I can say I did."
Otha Jones III claimed the 11-12-year-old 95-pound national title by stopping Davelle Smith by a 22-6 count on Friday.
The 12-year-old Toledo native claimed his 13th national championship belt. Jones, who trains at Sout City Gym, stopped Smith in the National PAL title bout for the second year.
"It felt good because nobody else did it, but I did," Jones said.
"I've been training a lot because I want to go to the Olympics," Van Pelt said.