Tarentum’s Tika Hemingway wins Golden Gloves national championship in ring return
Thirteen years after winning her first national title, and less than three years after having a baby, Tika Hemingway won another Golden Gloves national championship.
Hemingway made a triumphant ring return after a three-year layoff to score a 5-0 decision over Felicia Thomas of Texas in the 178-pound women’s final Saturday night in the Golden Gloves National Tournament of Champions at Chattanooga Convention Center.
“I took a few years off, but I came back strong,” said Hemingway, 30, a North Side native who resides in Tarentum. “I was nervous, but I’ve worked hard and knew that I have natural talent that no one can touch. That’s what sets me apart. As soon as I came back, it was like I’d never left.”
After a 3-year layoff from boxing, Tika Hemingway of Tarentum made a triumphant ring return to win the Golden Gloves national championship with a 5-0 decision over Felicia Thomas (Texas) in 178-pound women's final Saturday in Chattanooga. Hemingway also won 2006 national title. pic.twitter.com/8rASBZdRz3
— Kevin Gorman (@KGorman_Trib) May 12, 2019
It was the second consecutive year a Western Pennsylvania boxer won a Golden Gloves national title. Kiante Irving of Beaver Falls won the 165-pound men’s championship last May in Omaha.
It was Hemingway’s first fight since losing to Claressa Shields, now the undisputed middleweight champion, in the final of the 2016 Olympic Trials. Soon after, Hemingway became pregnant with her daughter, Solara, who is 2½.
The victory came in Hemingway’s 99th career bout. Ted Mrkonja, who trains Hemingway out of Gold Medal Boxing Gym in Overbrook, said his fighter was at a 12-pound disadvantage after weighing in at 166.
“She looked phenomenal,” said Mrkonja, who added Becca Maine of Allentown lost Friday in the 132-pound women’s semifinals and Jerome Baxter of Braddock lost Thursday in the 141-pound men’s quarterfinals.
“Her speed was awesome and so was her balance and punching with combinations. Her defense was on point. I think she looked better than ever. It was impressive. It really was.”
Hemingway’s stellar amateur career includes a 2006 Golden Gloves national championship and a stint on USA Boxing’s national team, so she received a bye to the final. Thomas scored a second-round knockout in the semifinals.
“I was nervous fighting this girl because she’s a beast,” Hemingway said. “When I saw her knock that girl out, I went back to my hotel room and laid down because I knew I was going to be in for it. I definitely shined out here, for real.”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .