With coaches and family watching on, 14-year-old Ali Monaghan sat on the ropes in the boxing ring in Madison, Wisconsin. In the last round and tired, Monaghan sat in the corner for a second. 

One of the people looking on was his father, Todd. 

“I’ve been there,” Todd said. Todd Monaghan has been a boxer since after college, including holding the current heavyweight title. “When you don’t necessarily want to move, or you won round one, and you want to just stay against the ropes.

“I just needed him to move. That last step can be so tough to take when it’s the last round and you’re tired.”

Ali found the motivation, and stepped around his opponent. That gave him the advantage, and named him the 2019 Junior Olympic National Champion at his age and weight class. 

“I was just proud that he dug deep at the end,” Todd said. 

And dad was the first person Ali wanted to see. 

“I just wanted to be a champion,” Ali said. “I was super excited, I could make people proud.”

Ali is an athlete at Iowa Top Team Boxing, MMA and Fitness located in downtown Clinton. He trains under coach Joe Garcia. Not only did Ali get his first championship, but Garcia did, too. At least at the Junior Olympics level. 

“Joe’s put so much time and effort into this,” Todd Monaghan said about the coach of 20 years. “This is his first time being here, his first champion. He wants his first champion as a coach’s accolade, but he wants it badly for his boxer and his future.”

Ali was the only athlete from Iowa Top Team to qualify at the national level this time around. He rushed to get in the minimum number of fights in order to compete, still sitting at just seven recorded fights. 

Still, he’s a champion. You might not be able to tell that boxing is his sport at first glance, though. Ali definitely looks like an athlete, but his demeanor is calm and unbelievably quiet. 

“This is just him,” Todd said about his son. “Unless he’s in the ring.

Ali escapes from the shy exterior when he steps into the ring. According to Coach Garcia, he has the exact recipe for a good athlete: skill, heart and work ethic. 

“He has a skill set that is higher than a lot of kids. We are working with that,” Garcia said.  “He has some drive to do that. Those are some of the things. You can have talent in an athlete, you can have a heart in an athlete and the work ethic, but you’ve got to bring those three things together. Talent without the others is a waste.”

Garcia, who has been with Iowa Top Team for going on three years, has been a boxing coach for 20. He started when he was a cop and has continued it. 

With the amount of time he’s been boxing, he knows exactly what kind of mentality it takes. 

“You need to be, at least in the ring, aggressive,” Garcia said.  “There’s going to be a fear at first because getting hit is not a natural thing. Most people who become good learn to ignore that.”

Ali has moved past that fear in his young age, and said it kind of just came naturally when he entered the ring. Afterall, it’s a sport he’s been around his entire life thanks to the influence of his father. 

“Honestly, once the first punch is thrown it’s over,” Ali said. “Out of all the sports I like this one the most. I’ve got to win.”

He also plays football, entering his freshman year at Clinton High School this August. What he’s learned as a boxer carries onto the football field: first in mentality, and second in just pure physical dominance. 

“You’re just a competitor, an athlete. It’s in all of us.” Todd said. 

“Being an athlete all by yourself in the ring gives you a confidence,” Garcia said. “When you move other sports, that confidence carries over.”

Plus, at just 14 years old, there’s plenty more to come for him in the ring.