FARMINGTON – Several San Juan County amateur boxers are enjoying success at a high level.
Four young boxers — Kirtland’s Elijah Martinez and Amery Williams, and Farmington brothers Aljendro and Jaime Sanchez — found success at the 2015 Silver Gloves tournament Nov. 20-22 in Las Vegas, N.M.
Martinez, Williams and Aljendro Sanchez all won state titles at the Silver Gloves, with Martinez winning the tournament’s Outstanding Fighter Award.
With the state titles, the three advance to the Region 8 tournament in Ontario, Calif., in January.
The week prior to the Silver Gloves tournament, the four boxers finished no worse than second at the 40th annual Gene Lewis Invitational Tournament in Mesa, Ariz., which is one of the longest-running amateur invitational boxing tournaments in the country.
Martinez, 13; Williams, 10; and Jaime Sanchez, 10; all finished second in their respective divisions in Arizona, while 11-year-old Aljendro Sanchez won the title.
Eli Martinez, the owner of the 505 Fight Factory where the boxers train, said the kids face physical, mental and emotional challenges to fight at the level they do, but after the final bell rings, that stops.
“At the end of the day, when it’s all said and done and the battle is done, they get to go be kids again,” Martinez said. “They go and mingle and play, whether they’ve won or lost. If they lose, it’s not the end of the world, and if they win, they’re excited about it, but either way they’re off being kids.”
Jaime Sanchez was the only one of the four not to win a state title, but the fifth-grader at Bluffview Elementary School got the experience of having his hand raised after winning an exhibition match after being eliminated at the Silver Gloves tourney.
“I felt good about myself, because I lost two times in a row, and it didn’t feel that good, but then I won, and it felt good to come back,” Sanchez said.
With more and more attention being paid to head and brain injuries athletes suffer in their respective sports, especially among young athletes, boxing has come under fire from some corners.
In a 2011 policy statement released by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the AAP and the Canadian Paediatric Society recommended that pediatricians “vigorously oppose boxing for any child or adolescent.”
But according to Martinez, boxing, especially amateur boxing, applies numerous measures to ensure the safety of the boxers.
At every tournament, every boxer must pass a physical before and after he or she boxes.
“Every athlete, before they can fight, they have to get certified by a doctor, and it has to be an M.D,” Martinez said. “And depending on the state, they have to have paramedics on hand. It’s good we take those precautions. God willing we don’t have to use them, but there’s always that risk.”
Martinez acknowledged that there is a risk of injury for anyone who steps in the ring, as there is with any other sport. But he also believes the positive reinforcement kids get from boxing is more powerful than the blows they take in the ring.
“We hope that people see there are positives in boxing,” Martinez said. “For some kids, this gym is the only structure they have. They go home, and there’s not much structure. But they can come here and have some of that structure and social life, and for some of them, this is their social life. It’s just how it is.”
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.