“It’s just that I didn’t know what to do and I immediately froze,” Lamonakis says of that day in 2002.
After three months in training, she was ready for her first fight. Then came a few more. Until, eventually, the Greek-born heavyweight moved from Massachusetts to New York City in 2005 and began a reign of terror that saw her win the state’s Golden Gloves amateur boxing tournament four years in a row.
Promoters like Lou Dibella started calling and pretty soon Lamonakis would see herself fighting on HBO three times, even stepping into the ring in Madison Square Garden.
All this while maintaining a full-time teaching job in one of New York’s most notorious neighborhoods in Harlem. She can thank her two graduate degrees for that.
This is why people call her “The Scholar.”
“I get in early at work so I can leave when the final bell rings and drive over to training in Brooklyn,” she says, referring to her second home at the world famous Gleason’s Gym.
Lamonakis is currently the number one ranked female heavyweight boxer in the world by Boxrec.com, and is in the top three of several other rankings. In nine proffesional fights, she has 7 wins with 2 draws with 1 knockout victory.
Since turning pro in 2010 at the age of 36, Lamonakis has had to deal with as many runny noses in school as blood noses in the ring. Although maintaining a full-time teaching gig, Lamonakis has not let that stop her from earning a title shot in 2013.
In April, Lamonakis will be fighting for the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) Women’s Heavyweight title. All things considered, Lamonakis is also expected to have a shot at the WBC Women’s title in late May.
Both fights could come against women Lamonakis has already faced in Carlete Ewell and Tiffany Woodard. Lamonakis went the distance with the much more experienced Ewell (15-7-1) and gave the woman her first draw.
“The Scholar” defeated Woodard in her American home state of Massachusetts and drew with her about a year later in New York City’s Roseland Ballroom.
“I never say no to a fight. I don’t back up,” Lamonakis says, “I have a few years left in boxing, and I want to really make it big before my career is up. This is why I came (to Tiger Muay Thai and MMA Training Camp Phuket, Thailand).”
Instead of training once a day, Lamonakis is able to get in sparring time, pad work, strength and conditition as well as footwork training several times over in a week at TMT.
This is no vacation. Still, she can’t help but feel she left something behind.
“I miss my kids and my family. The students come in and sometimes haven’t had food to eat yet so I try and help them out by giving them some money for breakfast of something. The job of a teacher never ends,” Lamonakis says.
Being a role model for her students is what driver her as well.
“I know I have to be a teacher and a role model. I know I have people looking up to me as an example. Boxing, it’s a chess game. Win or lose, you win by just climbing in the ring. You shake hands before and after,” she says.
A lifelong teacher, Lamonakis is also a liaison for Gleason’s Gym by helping kids get free training if they maintain a certain grade point average and stay in school.
She’s also helped the gym’s charity, “Give a Kid A Dream” by helping supervise their fantasy camps in upstate New York, where they teach kids social skills, perform character building exercises, and things they wouldn’t otherwise learn in the classroom but would help in life.
“We’ve had boxers like Riddick Bowe, Juan Laporte, Alicia Ashley visit the kids and have a chat,” Lamonakis says with a smile, “They love it. And it’s not always about boxing, these people share wisdom of growing up in the inner city.”
With her title shot just a few short months away, Lamonakis is focused on her career inside the ring that could serve as an inspiration for other outside of the ring. In just over ten years, she’s gone from a schoolteacher studying for more certifications, to a schoolteacher studying the art of the sweet science.
And she wouldn’t have it any other way.