The skills shown at Saturday’s Pennsylvania Golden Gloves State Championships at Must Fight Boxing Club in Upper Darby proved that each boxer competing was ready and eager for a spot on the team that will represent the state at the national tournament.
Lancaster’s Alaak Deu (6-1) was no exception.
Stepping into the ring for only his second open class fight, the young man, sweaty from his warm up, looked confident. At center ring, he touched gloves and stared hard into the eyes of Danny Bodish (60-plus fights, exact record unknown).
The combatants presented like the yin and yang of boxers. Bodish – short, compact, all muscle – had the look of an Irish brawler. Deu – tall, lean-near-gangly and liquid – hinted at the warrior spirit he said he harnesses every time he’s in the ring.
It was a surprisingly even first round, with Deu commanding the center of the ring and Bodish finding his pace, then throwing hard body shots.
Round 2, the boxers were more aggressive, with Bodish throwing triple jabs and working in decent uppercuts from the inside – his only option, given Deu’s height and reach advantage. Deu was full-on warrior, working Bodish’s body and landing solid jabs.
Bodish, against the ropes and fighting back hard in the last 30 seconds, had a split second of triumph when he escaped, only to trip over Deu’s leg.
Deu twice lost his mouthpiece in the first part of Round 3. The technical difficulty seemed to irritate Deu and may have bolstered Bodish’s confidence.
Deu’s coach, Will Torres, of Lancaster City Boxing Academy, said that boxers often lose a mouthpiece when they are too tired to keep their mouth closed. In Deu’s case, Torres was quick to add, the mouthpiece he used didn’t have any suction and is therefore prone to fall out. Deu had a better mouthpiece ordered, but it didn’t arrive on time for Saturday’s fight.
The flying mouthpiece gave Bodish “a burst of energy,” Torres observed, while Deu lost momentum.
During the final seconds of the fight, Deu and Bodish locked in tight, not letting up on each other until the bell.
The win, and the state championship in the 125-pound, open division, went to Bodish. He also secured his place on the Pennsylvania team that will compete at the national tournament in Oklahoma in August. Visibly frustrated, Deu said he still “felt great” after the match. His fight style, and attitude, is “gritty, tough – people are like that in Lancaster.”
Deu, whose family came to the U.S. from Sudan when he was 5, spoke earlier about training in the community here. Pride is something “we (the team at Lancaster City) carry everywhere we go.”
“He did great,” Torres said of Deu’s performance. “I’m proud of him.”
Bodish’s coach, Tom Yankello, of Stay Off the Streets gym near Pittsburgh, was also impressed. The bout was “a great fight,” he said.
Deu’s “a tough kid … all respect,” Yankello said.
Deu had some good words for Bodish as well. “He’s a real fighter,” Deu said.
The loss hasn’t defeated Deu; far from it. “Nothin’ but a learning curve,” Deu said. “I’ll just go back (to the gym) on Monday, sharpen the tools and add more to the tool belt.”