Lynn Holmes might be the last person you would expect to be a national boxing champion.
A Hidden Valley Estates resident who works as a Veterans Benefits Administration service representative, Holmes says she had never been in a fight in her life until she strapped on the gloves and fought her first official boxing match four months ago.
On July 9, Holmes won a 3-0 decision over Holly Levine of Atlanta at the National Women’s Golden Gloves Championships in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., winning the 178-pound novice division championship.
Not bad for someone who started boxing just two-and-a-half years ago.
“I remember it being a very aggressive fight,” said Holmes, 36. “She used her height and weight to smother her punches. Coach (Krishna) Wainwright told me you never put your hands down, never stop fighting. Coach Tony (Douglas) says leave everything in the ring.”
Holmes has always considered herself athletic. She competed in track and field in middle school and at Independence High in the mid-1990s.
As an adult, Holmes liked to stay in shape by running and lifting weights. But a couple years ago, she started to tire of her routine and was looking for a different challenge.
Holmes’ sister introduced her to Tony Douglas, a coach who operates the University of Boxing out of his University City home. He also trains some of his 10 fighters at the Revolution Sports Academy.
At the time, Holmes said, she was interested in boxing simply as a workout. Douglas and other coaches at Revolution liked the potential they saw in her and encouraged her to compete.
The congenial Holmes was apprehensive at first.
“She didn’t want anyone hitting her in her face,” said Douglas, who’s been coaching for more than 30 years. “She did well with sparring. I knew as a coach that I had something. I started teaching her techniques for advanced boxers.
“She’s a hands-on person. She likes for you to demonstrate things.”
Last year, Holmes obtained her boxing passport, which allows her to schedule USA Boxing sanctioned bouts.
Women’s boxing is still in its infancy, and finding bouts was difficult. A couple bouts her coaches scheduled in late 2013 fell through when opponents backed out at the last minute.
Entering 2014, Holmes committed to the North Carolina Golden Gloves championships in March and, if she was successful at the state level, the national tournament. She stepped up her training to six to seven days a week and started sparring more, mostly against men, who didn’t hold back just because she was a woman.
At the state Golden Gloves competition in March, at Sugaw Creek Recreation Center, there was only one other boxer in Holmes’ weight class. Holmes defeated Kayla Martin from Winston-Salem to qualify for the national tournament.
Holmes again would need to win only one bout at nationals to be crowned champion. The only thing she knew about Levine was that she was an aggressive fighter.
Holmes and her camp came up with a game plan: hit Levine with body shots followed by a series of combinations. Within the bout’s opening moments, Holmes adjusted her approach.
Using jabs with a one-two combination with a right, and some more body shots, Holmes landed enough punches that Levine was given two standing eight counts in the first round and another in the second.
Holmes won a unanimous decision.
“What she has done is unheard of,” said Douglas. “She’s created history in this city for a female. I’ve never heard of any female that has accomplished that.”
Holmes is going to take off a few months from competing and decide what her next steps will be. She currently is classified as a novice masters because of her age, and she may consider competing in the open division.
She already has accomplished more than what she set out to do two years ago.
“One thing boxing does is that it’s calming,” said Homes. “It makes me want to take risks. In boxing, each step is a risk. It’s given me more self-confidence and showed me how to overcome personal insecurities.
“It increases my (Christian) faith a lot. You have to be confident in your training and in yourself.”