Highstyle Profile

Maryguenn Vellinga, owner of RISE Boxing in Jeremy Ranch, holds a host of impressive accomplishments. She is Utah’s only female professional boxer and is a two-time national champion and three-time Golden Glove silver medalist. She is also the founder of the only female-owned competitive boxing gym in the state.

The gym is her way of empowering people to live their best lives. “The true motivator is what happens at RISE,” Maryguenn says. “It’s less about the boxing than it is about community and growth.”

Maryguenn grew up on a watermelon farm in Santaquin, Utah, where rigorous work was the expectation. “I had a pretty hard childhood,” she says. “I was in foster care for a couple of years. I had teachers, coaches and people who kept me going. They treated me in a way that gave me something to hang on to.” During this challenging phase of life, she used physical pursuits and goals to cope. “Fortunately, I learned during that time how valuable having a physical outlet was for my mental health.”

She discovered rock climbing as a student at Utah Tech University (formerly Dixie State) and immersed herself in the sport until an injury pivoted her focus. “I was bouldering Castle Rocks and shattered my ankle. I had three surgeries and never got full range of mobility back. I couldn’t get back to the same level of climbing.”

A year after the climbing accident, Maryguenn gave birth to her daughter, Ara. The combination of motherhood and injury ultimately led her to boxing. She was instantly captivated. “Boxing and climbing are physically challenging. Ultimately, it was the mental headspace and the degree of dedication and commitment that appealed to me,” she says.

In 2012, a year after Maryguenn began boxing, women’s boxing became an official Olympic sport. “The goal at that point was to make the number one stop for Olympic trials,” she explains. “I knew there was that opportunity and pushed hard for it.”

Her focus on the Olympic dream was so strong she nearly didn’t recognize other victories. “When I won the first national championships in 2017, I didn’t celebrate it because I had such tunnel vision about making the Olympic team.”

She missed the 2019 Olympic trials by one spot.

“I turned pro and had my first pro fight in January 2020.” In the three years since her first professional match, she’s received two invitations to box at Madison Square Garden. She also started shifting her focus to coaching and using RISE as a tool for inspiration.

“My dream is to be somebody that makes an impact. To be like the people who were most meaningful in my life,” she says, remembering those who encouraged and believed in her as a kid. “I’ve seen how much boxing helps everybody; it is empowering in a different way.”

Margyguenn is determined to share the benefits of boxing with everyone. Last year, RISE received a grant from Park City Community Foundation’s Solomon Fund to provide coaching for local Latinx children.

“Our goal this year is to help 35 kids for the duration of 12 months.” Her vision also includes creating a nonprofit under the RISE umbrella to generate even more accessibility. “The goal is to create a mentorship program within the gym. I’d like to have financial literacy courses,” she says. Through it all, her goal remains steadfast: “How can we create better humans?”

Boxing is a tool Maryguenn uses to find the best version of herself and her community — and her sights are set high. Her goal is to earn a professional world title and transform RISE into a space that empowers people and builds community.

“It’s the same thing for all of us. We need to do something we enjoy. We need to move our bodies. We need to do it with other people,” Maryguenn says.