Fil-Am world boxing and martial arts champ honored in NYC; Julaton ready to fight for another cause

NEW YORK – Fil-Am Ana Julaton, the first woman to break the glass ceiling in a male-dominated arena of boxing, was honored at the 5th Annual Shadow League Awards at the Edison Ballroom in Manhattan Oct. 30. She was the first Filipina boxer to win the women’s World Boxing Organization (WBO) and International Boxing Association (IBA) Super Bantamweight World titles. Julaton was recognized by the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame ‘for being the only (and first) elite athlete competing at highest levels of both boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA).’  The WBO had only recognized male fighters until Julaton won it in 2009.

The Shadow League (TSL), a digital sports media outlet, hosted the event which was presented by AT&T Humanity Connection. Julaton, a 3-time World Boxing champion and International MMA star, shared the stage with three other TSL honorees. Dawn Staley, basketball Hall of Fame player and head coach of the 2017 Women’s NCAA National Champions’ South Carolina Gamecocks; FOX Sports Broadcaster Gus Johnson; and Bernard Hopkins, a legendary boxing champion who held the International Boxing Federation (IBF) undisputed middleweight title and the lineal light heavyweight title.

TSL called the honorees trailblazers – a reference to how they pursued their dreams and succeeded despite the odds they faced. All the honorees shared their personal anecdotes as they were called to the stage to accept their award.

TSL honorees (L-R) Bernard Hopkins, Ana Julaton, and Gus Johnson. (Not in photo Dawn Staley.) | Photo credit Lambert Parong

“This awards dinner not only celebrates our honorees; it expresses our gratitude to our ‘Unsung Heroes’ for their remarkable achievements and highlights the work they are doing across the world,” said Yussuf Khan, Senior VP and General Manager of TSL.

Julaton inspires her audience

Julaton recalled that in 2009 on the occasion of celebrating Filipino American History Month, the former mayor of San Francisco – Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom – (now Governor-elect of California) – gave a proclamation in her honor declaring October 29, 2009, as “Ana Julaton Day.”

“Life is all about experiences and memories,” she said, as she dedicated her award to her parents, grandparents and to many other people who believed and guided her, and in her “thinking outside of the box” during her boxing career. “This was an incredible journey,” said Julaton.

She also thanked all the people who coached and trained her — particularly Freddie Roach who selected her as one of his fighters when she turned professional; Angelo Reyes, who was also his trainer, mentor and who was like a “kuya” (older brother) to her.

“I dedicate this sports award,” she said, “to a real champion that I have had the honor to know – Joseph Reyes.” She paused for a moment as if she was overtaken by her emotions as she spoke about him. That moment of silence connected with her audience as they applauded to acknowledge her deep concern for Joseph.

“Joseph was born with congenital heart disease (CHD),” she said, much like Jimmy Kimmel’s and Shaq O’Neill’s sons who were both born with it, too. “At first glance, he looks like a normal healthy young man but thanks to doctors at the children’s hospital, this young boy has championed into life after nine open heart surgeries by the time he turned 4 years old,” Julaton added.

Fil-Am boxing and martial arts champion Ana Julaton accepts her award and delivers a moving speech about a young boy who was born with a congenital heart disease.       | Photo credit Troi Santos

“We are blessed to have him today … he is now 14 years old; a freshman who enjoys music, writes lyrics, a member of the school’s radio show and loves basketball.”

A dream come true

Julaton’s focus in achieving what she sets her mind and heart into doing is perhaps what makes her a trailblazer.
This was evident with how she developed her passion for the martial arts at the age of 10. She went on to receive numerous awards and became a master of her vocation.

As a boxer, she was known as the “Hurricane,” a moniker attributed to her as one of the quickest boxers ever to win a world title, having fought just five previous professional bouts before winning the IBA Superweight title. She won three world titles from the IBA and WBO under her belt and transitioned into winning her professional MMA debut in Manila.

During her journey, she had picked up causes to fight for and became a voice for women boxing competitors since they continued to be excluded in the Olympic Games in 2008. This ban on women boxers had existed for over 100 years. Four years later, the London Games in 2012 saw women’s boxing make its debut.

Such a change in policy in the Olympics made her and other women boxers to realize a dream. The women’s boxing competition at Rio 2016 served up an exhilarating array of action across three weight categories. Great Britain’s Nicola Adams and Claressa Shields of the USA retained the flyweight and middleweight titles they won in London in 2012, while France’s Estelle Mossely gave her country a maiden boxing gold in the lightweight category.

What the future holds

Ana Julaton, “The Hurricane”, poses for a photo as she receives her Trailblazer Award from The Shadow League (TSL). | Photo credit Lambert Parong

Julaton retired from both boxing and mixed martial arts on March 21, 2018, following a loss to her fellow boxing champion Heather Hardy on February 15, 2018, in Uncasville, CT in a mixed martial arts bout.

At peace with her decision, she returned to her roots in the Bay Area in San Francisco, California where she was born – delivered by a Filipina doctor – the late Dr. Norma Catalan, at the St. Luke’s Hospital. Her family used to live in South of Market Area (SoMA) across Bessie Carmichael Elementary.

Now, she has picked up another cause to fight for. Inspired by someone who also returned to his hometown to help establish a mentor youth program, she said she is ready to shift to helping the youth in Daly City.

Since coming back, she has been meeting with community leaders including the city council and the Philippine Consulate to work on a community youth outreach program. She has met with the first Fil-Am woman mayor of Daly City, Juslyn C. Manalo, and discussed with her areas of partnership they can work on to help the youth.

True to what she said at a press-con with members of the Fil-Am Press Club of New York (FAPCNY), Julaton is chasing another dream and her own advice: “Be mindful, be thankful, have a passion. Know yourself to help others.”

She may not be in public office now as she finalizes her plans to help the youth through a yet to be announced initiative which she and her team will be championing soon.

Watch out, “The Hurricane” is coming (again)!

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