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5'4" junior bantamweight Monica Lovato is from Española, New Mexico, USA and lives in Albuquerque.  She was born on December 12, 1977 and is the only child of Leonard and Mary Lovato.  As a child she was a tomboy, "I rode horses, got punked by my older cousin Chris and had a blast. I graduated from the Espanola Valley in 96! Those years were sooo fun!", she saysShe also watched lots of movies and wanted to be an actress - but one of her favorite movies was "Rocky" starring Sylvester Stallone, a sign of things to come for her!

Lovato began boxing after the death of her friend Leroy Quintana in a car crash. She was living in Albuquerque and her way to work took her past Irene Garcia's women's boxing club. She eventually went in with the idea of just working out, but within a couple of weeks she had told her father tat she wanted to take up boxing. "It was an escape. It was a way to get over Leroy's death," she said. "It was a distraction from what had happened."

She compiled a 10-2 record as an amateur boxer before turning pro in order to use her boxing talents to help her disadvantaged home community of Española.

Monica made her professional boxing debut on February 28, 2004 at the Santa Ana Star Casino in Bernalillo, New Mexico, winning a four-round unanimous (40-36,40-36,40-36) decision over fellow debuter LeAnne Villareal of Albuquerque (photo by Chris Cozzone at left)

On June 24, 2004 at the Bren Events Center at the University of California in Irvine, California, Monica (114 lbs) lost a four-round unanimous (40-36,39-37,39-37) decision to Julie Rubalcava (5'6", 112¾ lbs) of Westminster, California who improved to 2-0 with the win. Maria Castillon told WBAN: "The taller Lovato started off slowly with her southpaw style as Rubalcalva used her speed to gain the advantage in the first round landing quick combinations. Lovato seemed too slow for her Orange County opponent and was hit by right after right by the shorter fighter. The second round saw Lovato turn the fight around with extra pressure and solid left hand uppercuts to the shorter Rubalcalva who ducked under most punches in the first round but was getting tagged in the second. Rubalcalva hurt her right hand in the second round and with an aching right hand, resorted to her left in the third round and four-punch combinations to take the momentum back. Though Lovato
landed powerful lefts, they weren’t enough to offset the combinations Rubalcalva threw and landed. The Westminster fighter began the fourth and final round with a thudding left hook and a double left hook. Lovato retaliated with a right-left combination and a double shot of straight lefts. Both fighters fired their left hands repeatedly while standing toe-to-toe with Rubalcalva landing slightly more successfully accurate punches."

“I really liked fighting her,” said Rubalcalva who had 10 amateur fights before turning professional. “I don’t want to make excuses about my hand. She was a very tough fighter.”

On November 13, 2004 at the Santa Ana Star Casino in Bernalillo, Monica won a four-round unanimous (40-36,39-37,39-37) decision over Valeria Flores of San Antonio, Texas.  According to reporter Chris Cozzone, "Round One was a waiting game for Lovato, who let things slip by while Flores bulled forward throwing rights and lefts. Lovato finished strong, landing a solid left but Flores’ output gave her the round. Lovato snapped to in the second,  letting Flores push her to the ropes but countering with accurate left hands while fending off her opponent’s careless flurries. Fighting on the move, Lovato picked her shots, landing crisp left hands but never moving forward to continue her attack, even when hurting Flores. In the 4th, Lovato landed her best shot, a stunning straight hand that put Flores on the floor. Unfortunately, the ref did not rule it a knockdown for some reason. When the fight resumed, Lovato did not go for the finish but let Flores recover."  Flores fell to 5-2 with the loss. 

Monica's debut in her home town was all too short!
© Copyrighted photo by Chris Cozzone

On March 26, 2005 at the High School Gymnasium in her home town of Española, Monica TKO'd debut fighter Doreen Hilton of Denver, Colorado at 1:52 in the first round. As described by Chris Cozzone, "What Hilton lacked in skills, she had in heart and from the opening bell, she took the fight to Lovato, landing several shots. Lovato covered up a bit, found her footing and then unleashed her own shots, putting Hilton down. To minimize the damage, Hilton’s corner threw in the towel and the fight was stopped at 1:52, much to Lovato’s disgust."

On June 12, 2005 at the Ohkay Casino on San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico, Monica knocked out Nancy Bonilla of Puerto Rico just 0:48 into the first round, dropping Bonilla's record to 2-4.

On February 3, 2006 at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, Monica (117½ lbs) TKO'd Tiffany Wilson (120 lbs) of Moore, Oklahoma,  at 0:53 in the first round, dropping her record to 0-1-1.

It was time for her to raise the level of her competition and on April 1, 2006 at the Sky Ute Casino in Ignacio, Colorado, Monica fought to a six-round split (60-54,58-56,56-58) decision over Sharon Gaines (117 lbs) of Las Vegas. Lovato established her jab early in the fight while Gaines relied on her defense to stay in the fight but  took the offensive and backed Lovato to the ropes with her body attack at the end of the round. In round two, Lovato landed an overhand right over the top and several body shots to drop Gaines to the floor. Gaines began to bleed from her nose as she received a protective standing eight-count. In the third round, Lovato displayed her boxing ability as she landed her jab consistently. Gaines responded with a hard strong  left hook midway through the round only to find herself on the receiving end of a Lovato uppercut successive power shots that sent her to the canvas again. In the fourth, Lovato landed a strong right followed by a left hook and successive power shots from both hands, at which point referee Kenny Bayless stopped the fight. Gaines, who was still on her feet, protested the stoppage but Lovato was declared the victrix by TKO. Gaines fell to 9-6-0 (3 KO's) with the loss.

On May 12, 2006 at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, Monica (117 lbs) TKO'd Sharon Gaines (116½ lbs) at 1:13 in the fourth round in a scheduled six rounder. Lovato won with ease in this rematch and was picking her shots throughout the bout. Gaines was knocked down twice. Lovato improved to 7-1-0 (4 KO's).

On July 21, 2006 at the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Cabazon, California, Monica (115¼ lbs) won a six-round majority (59-55,58-56,57-57) decision over Heather Percival (116¼ lbs) of Fontana, California who fell to 8-3. "Heather Percival was tough and she is a great boxer", said Lovato.. "She’s constantly moving, so I had to adjust to that which was tough."

Later that year, Lovato was temporarily sidelined by a non-boxing injury (a dog bite) but she returned to ring competition better than ever in 2007.

On January 27, 2007 Monica (114 lbs) won the NABF Junior Bantamweight title with an eight-round unanimous (78-74,79-73,79-73) decision over Julie Rubalcava  (112½ lbs), avenging her earlier loss to the Californian, who suffered her first defeat as a pro boxer.

Monica trades with Carly Batey defending her NABF title
© Copyrighted photo by Chris Cozzone

On April 28, 2007 at the Sky City Casino in Acoma, New Mexico, Monica (114½ lbs) had her hands full earning an eight-round split (79-73,79-73,75-77) decision over previously undefeated British-born Carly Batey (5'4", 112½ lbs) of San Diego, California in a defense of her NABF title. The hard-charging Batey fell to 2-1-2 with the loss. (See Youtube videos of this fight).

On July 28, 2007 again at the Sky City Casino in Acoma, New Mexico, Monica (116 lbs) was strongly tested by former world champion Mariana Juarez (111 lbs) of Mexico, in a ten-rounder for the IBA Bantamweight title. Lovato came away with a split (96-94,93-97,98-92) decision and a new belt after a hard-fought battle. According to Chris Cozzone of NewMexicoBoxing.com, "Juarez established an early lead in the first rounds. Lovato, usually a slow starter, proved otherwise this time around, although a successful counter-punching aggression did not fall into place until round three. In the meantime, Juarez’s straight-forward aggression and heat-seeking missile of a straight right hand found its mark enough times to warrant the first two stanzas. Lovato had her figured out in the third, however, and the fight turned into a series of heated exchanges of the mauling, brawling variety. Lovato rough-handled Juarez, neutralizing her right hand and matching the Mexican’s straight-forward movement, in the third. In round four, the Espanola southpaw started to find a home for her big left hands. The fifth was close, Juarez’s relentless aggression an even match for Lovato’s rapid counter-punching combinations that, more often than not, took place against the ropes. ... By round six, Lovato ... had control of the round and was increasingly moving forward with aggression rather than wait to counter Juarez, who was unable to land that right with the success she had in the early rounds. Still aggressive, but somewhat neutralized, Juarez lost both battles—the inside exchanges and mauling, plus the outside jabbing with Lovato’s big left hands—to the Espanolan.  Juarez’s frustration was evident in the eighth when she resorted to a foul here and there, but the blazing exchanges started to turn the fight back around.  Lovato took a breather in the ninth while Juarez loaded up on left hooks, taking the round, but in the final chapter, despite a ruthless attempt to close the show, Lovato finished strong, matching Juarez’s pressure with clean left hands and superior footwork."  Juarez fell to 14-5-3 (8 KOs) while Lovato improved her record to 11-1-0 (4 KOs). (See Youtube videos of this fight).

On February 29, 2008 at Fantasia Night Club in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Monica barely won an eight-round unanimous (76-74,76-74,75-74) decision over Crystal Hoy of Las Vegas.  Lovato controlled the first half of the fight with her boxing skills but then began to tire and was drawn into a brawl with the previously unbeaten Hoy. She was knocked down twice in the seventh round and barely survived the eighth and appeared lucky to escape with a decision.  According to Chris Cozzone of NewMexicoBoxing.com, in the seventh: "From out of the blue, Hoy planted a right hand on Lovato’s jaw, crumpling the champion to the canvas for the first time in her career. Looking dazed and her legs going every which way, Lovato beat the count but Hoy was all over her. Boom! Lovato hit the canvas again, soon after, this time from a monstrous left hook. Barely able to stand, and with Referee Burke a breath away from calling this fight over, Lovato sucked it up and, somehow, survived the round, but was dead on her feet when the merciful bell rang. Round eight was all about survival. Hoy was all over Lovato, plastering her with bombs, any one of which could have ended the fight. Somehow, Lovato stayed on her feet for what could have easily been scored 10-8, despite the lack of a knockdown."  The two were fighting for the NABF Junior Bantamweigh title.  Lovato moved to 12-1-0 (4 KOs) while Hoy fell to 3-1-2 (2 KO's). 

Monica tries to be a positive role model for kids in New Mexico and to bring hope and inspiration to Latino youth by motivating them to be ambitious, committed and disciplined. According to SantaFeNewMexican.com, one quarter of Española residents live below the poverty line and in 2006, the drug overdose death rate in the Española Valley was approximately five times the national average. In 2006, Lovato and Española's recreation director Nannette Smith started a youth boxing program at the Lucero Center aimed at giving kids a productive way to expend their energy. The program raises money for uniforms, equipment, and travel money. Monica donates her time, takes kids to competitions, trains them, goes out to eat with them, and does as much for them as she can. Several hundred children have participated in the program and as of September 2007 seven were officially competing as amateurs. "When I walk into the school and all the kids run up to me and want to get my autograph ... I can do something for my community and for my town and let kids know that they can achieve any goal they want."  Monica's work with kids has earned her recognition as a "CNN Hero"

Between work, school (she is studying for a degree in exercise science), her own boxing training and her work with the youth boxing program, Monica is often on the go from as early as 3 a.m. to 10 p.m.  (Her other activities include mountain biking, fishing and hiking.) She trains in Santa Fe, New Mexico with Al Lovato (no relative, but also from the Española area), who says Monica is "a strong hitter, a very powerful puncher, and she learnt a lot about boxing since she turned pro." He adds that "I understand where she is coming from. She is a very determined person. She is so determined to make it."

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Page last updated: Friday, 06 November 2015


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