Will “Puba” Torres has 30 fights under his belt. At age 15, with 18 wins to his name and championships at the regional and state levels in both the Silver Gloves and the Junior Olympics, the young athlete is a veteran boxer.
But next week’s 2019 National Junior Olympic tournament, in Middleton, Wisconsin, will be a series of firsts for him.
It’s his first time fighting in the Junior division, his first time fighting two-minute rounds — 90 seconds total more in the ring than he’s used to. He’s up in weight, now fighting at 85 pounds.
He hasn’t had a chance to compete in this division because he won by walkover at each of the qualifying rounds — another first for him.
Also heading to the tournament is teammate Jasiah Ortiz (8-4), who will fight at 106-pounds.
Aging up to the Junior division also means Torres aged out of the Intermediate division, and lost the top-five national ranking he earned tournament by tournament. The points don’t carry over.
But, aging up also means he has a shot at making USA Boxing’s High Performance Team, the Junior and Youth national team that gives boxers the opportunity to train at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Potentially, they represent Team USA in international competitions.
That, Torres said, is his new goal, “to get on the Olympic training team.”
A win at the Junior Olympics alone won’t qualify him, according to USA Boxing. Boxers must compete in the National Championships in December to make the elite team.
But Torres is working hard to get there. His sessions at Lancaster City Boxing Club, where he’s trained since he began boxing, are longer and more intense. He’s trying to build stamina for the longer rounds.
“I push myself when I’m tired, and keep going,” he said.
He’s running more, including on the weekends, often outside now that the weather’s good. “I don’t like to run,” he said. “But I do because I have to, because I need to.”
Torres said he hopes that the conditioning will help him “work a good pace every round. I don’t want to get fatigued — I don’t think as well and I’m not as fast.”
Ortiz, 12, has been running alongside Torres, and is much more enthusiastic about it.
Training outside, like the hill sprints they did Sunday at Lancaster County Central Park, is “fun, different,” Torres said. “I sweat more, it’s easier to get a good wor out.”
Making it to the nationals, however, was anything but easy. It took multiple wins over the past two months.
His final bout was at the 2019 Mid-Atlantic Regional Junior Olympic Tournament in May. There, he faced Patrick O’Connor, a two-time National Junior Olympic champion from the Washington, D.C. area, with more than 60 fights, coach Will Torres said.
O’Connor is taller and kept pushing him down, Ortiz said. But, he used the height difference to his advantage, coming up and working O’Connor’s body.
He won, but it wasn’t easy. “I had to change my fight style,’’ Ortiz said.
Ortiz said he’s excited about his first chance to fight at the national level. “To fight multiple times in one week, that’s going to be fun,” he said.
Coaches David Rivera and Will Torres (Puba’s father) and the two boxers will make the 14-hour drive on Saturday night, Will Torres said.
On Sunday, they will join about 990 amateur boxers, each with at least five registered bouts, to register and weigh in for the week of boxing.
The 2019 National Junior Olympics, Prep Nationals and Youth Open boxing tournament will be held at the Marriott West in Middleton, Wisconsin. On-site registration is on Sunday, and the tournament runs through June 29.