Will “Puba” Torres had one shot at the gold, literally.
The 15-year-old boxer (19-11) entered USA Boxing’s 2019 National Junior Olympic tournament two months ago, and got walkover after walkover until he was on his way to the nationals last week in Middleton, Wisconsin.
It was a solid week of the best amateur boxers in the country facing each other.
But at Torres’ first scheduled bout, the semifinals in the 85-pound junior division, his opponent was a no-show.
The only match left was for the national championship.
He stepped into the ring for the first time in the tournament Saturday. In the opposing corner was Devine Erazo (record unknown) of Auburndale, Florida.
Erazo did a little showboating when his name was announced, clearly confident. Torres waited, calm but looking a little nervous, for the bell.
In the first round, Torres moved fast to take the center of the ring and threw some combos, but didn’t dominate, although he did fight out of Erazo’s clinch multiple times.
In an interview Monday, Torres said he was using the first round to feel out his opponent.
But he also said there was a lot of pressure surrounding the fight.
“Usually I have a warmup fight,” he said.
Between the first two rounds, Torres’ coach, corner and father, Will Torres, told his son, “It’s time to pick it up,” coach Torres recalled Monday. “Let’s not leave it in the judges’ hands.”
Round two was definitely tighter, with Torres showing confidence and a better command of the ring. He went after Erazo, throwing combos.
Erazo, who’d landed a solid jab in round one, threw one-twos consistently, but didn’t connect much.
By the third round, Torres was aggressive enough to get Erazo against the ropes, twice, early on and went on for a 4-1 decision.
Also bringing home a Junior Olympic medal was Jasiah Ortiz (10-5), who won a bronze. Ortiz also trains at Lancaster City Boxing Club under coach Torres and coach David Rivera.
Ortiz, 12, said he was really excited to win at the national level.
“Winning in general is exciting,” Ortiz said. Then he grinned, adding, “to bring home a medal — my first nationals!”
It’s not the first time Lancaster City Boxing has won at the national level. In the four years since it opened, Ortiz is the fifth fighter from the gym to be ranked nationally by USA Boxing, coach Torres said.
It’s another reason for a celebration, which had to be delayed Saturday so the coaches and fighters could make the 14-hour drive home from Wisconsin.
There are plans for a dinner out, and ice cream. Ortiz said he’s been promised his favorite meal this weekend, “tacos by Mom!”