Four years ago, Megan Ybarra as an eighth grader at Hubbard Middle School was battling through some tough times and decisions on which crowd to run with and searching for her own identity.
In stepped a Hubbard coach named Abraham Ligon.
Ligon knew she was headed down a rough road and needed something to keep her busy while venting some of her life frustrations and battles in her young days.
Ligon could tell Ybarra was a feisty young lady, not afraid to back down from anything. Thus, Ligon introduced Ybarra to the Troup Boxing Club and her trainers Shaun and Candice Vascocu at the Byron Payton Gym in Troup.
More recently, Ybarra has channeled her track and cross country into her team sports and is making a gradual climb to bigger things as a boxer. Ybarra is one of the top distance runners for the district champion Robert E. Lee Lady Raiders cross country.
The 17-year-old is now groomed enough in her third year of competitive fighting to begin making others in her 106-pound open weight division take notice.
Last week in Florida, Ybarra competed at the Women's National Golden Gloves Tournament and placed second, losing only to the No. 5-ranked boxer in America from New Bronx, New York. An earlier win over another Texas fighter put Ybarra in the final. Her next fight is in Houston on Saturday.
Bigger and better than that, Ybarra has also qualified for the National Police Athletic League Championships in New York, Sept. 28 to Oct.4.
Since beginning her venture, Ybarra was confident of her skills but until she stepped into the ring did she realize the fun and release she enjoyed. Most recently she realized she has the tools for bigger and better things, like a possible spot on the U.S. Olympic Boxing team.
The big National PAL tournament will feature the best of the best going at the title and along with the title comes an Olympic team roster spot.
However, should Ybarra happen to take the field with a win, the multi-sport star would have to pass on the Olympic dream for now being only 17. However, the experience gained at the tournament is a no-lose situation for Ybarra, according to one coach Shaun Vascocu.
"When she came back from the Florida fights, she bought back a new attitude also," said Shaun, the former Golden Glove state title holder. "I think she realized she is better than she gave herself credit for and it has given her the drive now that she can be one of the best in her weight class.
"She gets better every time see gets in the ring and it will be a tough card of fighters for her but it will only make her better fighting the best in the U.S."
Currently holding an 8-3 record this season, Ybarra has fought in ten events and named the Most Outstanding Boxer in four of those.
"She has always been a focused boxer — at practice, in competitions — and she has had big dreams and hopes of Olympic competition," Candice Vascocu said. "But she has some special qualities that set her apart and when we get her to really cut loose and she gets a little more experience, she could really be a great fighter."
Along with the early advice from Ligon at Hubbard, the mentoring of the Lee coaches and the support of her boxing team, the sky could be the limit for the feisty, hard-nosed competitor.
"There have been so many coaches and others that have helped me to get where I am and will continue to support me, but none of this would have been possible without my mom," Ybarra said. "Mom made a lot of sacrifices and with three children she had to work a lot but she always makes sure I make it to the gym."
Ybarra is putting in the work at least five days per week training for the upcoming test at the National PAL tournament and the trip is no cheap venture, located in Oxnard, California.
"We are a non-profit organization that strictly depends on donations and sponsors for our fighters to afford the entry fees, equipment and the travel expenses," Shaun Vascocu said. "We have been blessed to have had some great talent here in the past and Megan has the potential to be a very special boxer. And if there are boxing fans or just someone that can help make a dream come true, we do need some sponsors to make the trip a possibility.
"East Texas has been great to the Troup Boxing Club in days gone by and with up-and-comers like Megan and others, we want to keep Troup Boxing on the national map. Megan has got that mind set to get it done. She is putting in her work and then some and we really hope a few sponsors can step up and help us defer the costs and open the door for many more years of boxers to come."
For sponsorship information, contact Shaun Vascocu at 903-714-3750 or Candice Vascocu at 903 292-9722.