HOLLAND, Mich. -- When you think of the sport of boxing, you may think of Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Sugar Ray Leonard...but how many female boxers make your list?
Maybe someday we'll all be cheering on a fighter who got her start right here in West Michigan at the Sakwamdo Boxing Club in Holland.
Junior champion boxer Makaya Lathers says, “When I first got here I didn’t even know how to make a fist. My coach had to sit there and teach me how to make a fist.”
16-year-old Lathers wasn't looking to fight when she started at Sakwamdo, she just wanted a good work out, "It never was about fighting, it was just about working out.”
Not only has she lost 60 pounds boxing, but her coach Sakwam Heath says she's also become quite the fighter, “She is the golden glove junior champion so she’s doing excellent.”
She's training hard and if you look around the club, she's the only girl. Heath says that doesn't make a difference for Lathers, “She does everything I ask her to do. She does all the workouts. She spares with all guys which makes it harder.”
Sparing against the guys at the club, part of the reason her mom Megan Verley approves of the brutal sport, "Quite honestly as a mom to have your daughter be able to physically defend herself is a great feeling.”
Verley says Makaya has tried other sports like soccer and basketball, but it was boxing that motivated her the most. Lathers says, “Something just clicked, like you find that one sport that you love and it clicked and boxing really did that for me.”
Lathers hopes other girls see this story and want to give boxing a try, because right now it is very hard to find girls her age and weight class to fight.
Lather's gym the Sakwamdo Boxing Club is also at risk for closing, so they have set up a GoFundMe page to help keep the doors open.