Knockout: Sarah Rae Batenburg setting trends for GVSU boxing club

GVL / Coutesy - John Rothwell
Referee John OBrien raises Sarah Raebatenburgs hand after she wins the match on Friday, April 8, 2016.

John Rothwell

GVL / Coutesy – John Rothwell Referee John O’Brien raises Sarah Raebatenburg’s hand after she wins the match on Friday, April 8, 2016.

Robbie Triano

Thirty-seven seconds.

That’s all the time freshman Sarah Rae Batenburg needed to grab a knockout victory in her first ever career match at the West Michigan Golden Gloves Championship Saturday, April 8, at the Deltaplex Arena.

The win in the novice 165-weight class advances her to the state finals Tuesday, April 21, and Wednesday, April 22.

Not only was Batenburg’s victory handled in a timely fashion, but she also set school milestones. Batenburg became the first female boxer to compete as a member of the GVSU boxing club, the first boxer of either gender to win a fight and the first to win a championship medal.

Before the fight, Batenburg said that she was so nervous for the fight that her coach, Dennis Shimmell Jr., made her take a nap to calm her down. Although her nerves were getting the best of her, Batenburg was quickly thrown out to a packed Deltaplex Arena.

“There was so many people. You know they’re there, but you can’t see them because the bright lights draw them out,” Batenburg said. “But after she threw the first punch and missed, I got her and continued to throw some hooks at her.

“She couldn’t keep up.”

The fight was cut short by the referee after Batenburg’s opponent appeared unable to stand straight. The fight was over so quickly that even Batenburg had no idea if she had won the match or not.

“It was my first time competing so I really didn’t know how the whole knockout process went,” Batenburg said. “The ref waved his hands in the air and I looked at my coach who mouthed ‘you won.’ I ran over to him crying and gave him a huge hug because I was so happy.”

Coach Shimmell Jr. knew Batenburg had the capability to win, but couldn’t be fully confident until the fight was over.

“Was I 100 percent sure she’s going to win? No, but I was 100 percent sure she would do okay,” Shimmell Jr. said.

Batenburg entered GVSU with no prior experience in boxing, but always envisioned herself getting into the sport after being a three sport athlete in high school. In October, Batenburg contacted the team and coach Shimmell Jr. through Facebook and quickly found her passion for the sport.

But even with her experience in various sports, Batenburg quickly discovered how difficult boxing was physically and mentally.

“I did not realize how much of toll on your body it has on you,” Batenburg said. “A lot of people think that you can just get super angry and just throw punches but that’s not the case at all. There’s some skills and techniques you need to learn to survive in the sport.”

Batenburg’s life was thrown a curveball when her house caught on fire a week before Christmas. The fire destroyed a majority of her and her family’s belongings. But what she says got her through the trauma was the support from the members of the GVSU boxing club.

“When something traumatic like that happens, it really pushes you into the direction of something. For me, that something was boxing,” Batenburg said. “Everybody helped me through that moment. It was a real bonding moment.”

One teammate that Batenburg has become close with through that experience is freshman Brooke Fox. Fox also qualified for the state finals action even though she didn’t have to compete in a fight.

“Brooke is my rock. No joke, we’ve been through so much together even though we have only known each other since the beginning of this year,” Batenburg said. “Everyday we are training together and it’s grown a bond between us.

“We even have a pretty serious SnapChat streak going on.”

Fox has some deep roots with the sport, as her father was a boxer. Fox started training in 2009, but hung up the gloves until this year after the death of her father brought her back into the sport.

“(Boxing) is a full commitment,” Fox said. “Going through all of this with Sarah has made all the tough days of training a lot easier. We’re not girly-girls, we’re just real friends.”

Both Batenburg and Fox will compete in the finals Friday, April 21 and Saturday, April 22 at the Deltaplex Arena.