Arlington boxers transitioning to pros

A U.S. national champion as an amateur boxer, Stephanie Eggink, who trains with the Arlington Boxing Club, had her pro debut in Ferndale Jan. 17. She won by unanimous decision. -
A U.S. national champion as an amateur boxer, Stephanie Eggink, who trains with the Arlington Boxing Club, had her pro debut in Ferndale Jan. 17. She won by unanimous decision.
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ARLINGTON — A small room on the third floor of the American Legion is dimly lit, like a light bulb has burned out.

The grey wooden floors show patches of brown where the paint has peeled off or been rubbed away and boxing tournament announcements and inspirational posters paper the smudged, white wall, remaining just out of focus to the boxers who land punches in bags suspended from the ceiling, banded together with duct tape.

In conditions meaner than Mickey’s gym or the one operated by Clint Eastwood’s Frankie Dunn in “Million Dollar Baby,” this Arlington boxing club draws other contrasts to cinematic boxing images. Most recently, the boxers’ success.

While she doesn’t quite say it, Stephanie Eggink sounds like she has mixed feelings about the influence Eastwood’s Oscar-winning movie has had on women joining the sport.

“Statistics show after that movie came out, there was a rise in the number,” she said. “I don’t really know why anyone starts boxing.”

Ultimately, she said, she loves the sport’s aggressive nature. It seems part of her identity, as she describes herself as the athletic one in a family of four sisters.

The 20-something got into the sport before the movie was released, training at a gym in Bellingham for two and a half years before she discovered the Arlington club run by Dan Hathaway. She commutes to Arlington three days a week with her rottweiler Zoe, to train with Hathaway and works out another three to four days a week at a gym closer to home to stay in shape. After winning nationals as an amateur boxer, Eggink went pro this year, winning her first pro fight in Ferndale, Jan. 17, by unanimous decision.

With the win at nationals, Eggink came to a crossroads in the sport.

“I went as high as I could go in amateur boxing,” she said. “I could have gone international, but I’m still in school, so fighting didn’t fit into my schedule.”

A history student, she plans to begin a teaching program at Western Washington University next year, to teach history.

With three straight wins at the Washington Golden Gloves, Miguel Garcia isn’t quite the underdog that Rocky was. Garcia has improved his skills through tenacity and hard work, picking up the sport eight years ago in an effort to shed some extra pounds. Although a win at the Golden Gloves — an amateur competition — earns him a chance to compete in the Nevada regional, Hathaway said Miguel and his brother Eduardo will go pro instead.

Garcia sounds practical about the decision.

“It will be a waste of time I’ve put into it, of talent,” he said. “My coach says I’m ready. I just got into it to lose weight, but I might as well make money at it.”

The gym started up in 1993 under a former Marine Corps fighter. Hathaway got involved in training at the gym when his daughter took up the sport. He became an assistant in 1995 and took his daughter to back-to-back U.S. National Champions meets in 1998 and 1999 when she was 15 and 16 years old. In 2000, he took over the team. Hathaway’s daughter took a year off from boxing to go to school and is now a mother, but comes to matches and helps in the corner.

Along the way, Hathaway has adopted his boxers, saying he considers Garcia like a son.

As Garcia steps into the training ring to spar, he leans back against the ropes, a poster of the 2004 U.S. Olympic team visible over his shoulder. It’s one possibility Garcia will leave behind when he goes pro, as the International Olympic Committee has yet to approve pro boxers in the quadrennial competition. But the boxer seems content to see where pro opportunities will take him.

“I’m going to work as hard as I can,” he said.

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