April 10, 2013 - The next Michigan Golden Gloves champion could be bobbing and weaving right here in Oxford.
His name is Antonio Negron and he's training at Strike Fitness Club (275 S. Glaspie St.) for the 82nd anniversary Golden Gloves state championships set for April 26-27 at the Grand Valley National Guard Armory in Wyoming, Michigan.
"He's one of those kids that you can see the fire in his eyes when he's in that ring," said Shane Blower, who co-owns Strike Fitness with Jamey Siterlet.
"I've always liked boxing," said the 17-year-old Oxford Bridges junior. "I have a Puerto Rican family, so they like boxing a lot. I've always watched the fights and wanted to be a boxer."
Negron, who's father and uncle did a little boxing back in the day, won the state's Eastern District title March 30 and now has an amateur record of 5-1. "He's almost undefeated," Blower said. "He lost a close decision in Bay City a few months ago."
Negron must win two more matches during the state finals in order to secure the Golden Gloves championship in the novice division's 152-pound weight class.
"I think his chances are really good," Blower said. "His conditioning has improved quite a bit over the last few weeks. He's dedicated himself to the roadwork."
When asked how he thinks he'll do in the state finals, Negron confidently replied, "I got this."
"I've dedicated my whole life to this," he said. "I gave up a lot of things to do this. A lot of free time and other stuff, I've dedicated to training."
Negron, who's 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs 148 pounds, has been training with Strike Fitness for two years.
"He's tall and thin," Blower said. "A lot of the guys describe him like Tommy Hearns."
Hearns, known as "The Hitman" back in his pro boxing days, was the first fighter in history to win four world titles in four divisions.
Blower indicated that one of Negron's greatest strengths is his "elusiveness."
"He's fast," he said. "He moves around the ring real well. He's hard to catch."
But speed isn't his only weapon.
"He's got a great jab when he uses it," Blower said. "He has a lot of pop on his punches."
Negron's height is also a distinct advantage in the ring.
"He uses his reach," Blower said.
Negron is taller than most of his opponents in the 152-pound weight class.
"The average fighter is like 5-6 or 5-7," he said.
Despite the edge that gives him, Negron actually prefers to fight someone his own height, which he did during the Eastern District Championship bout.
"Shorter people have to bull-rush you," he explained. "They have to come in and just start swinging like crazy to get inside. I have to keep them on the outside."
Looking toward the future, Blower said, "I think he's grown to love the sport enough to where he may pursue a professional career in boxing."
"He has that drive and that determination," Blower said, but "he's still young" and "has a lot more fights ahead of him before we make that decision."
When asked if he would like to make pugilism a career, Negron replied, "I don't know."
"I know how a lot of boxers end up – with head injuries and brain problems," he said. "So, I'm not sure. But I could see where it takes me if I win the state championship."
For now, boxing is proving to be a positive force in Negron's young life.
"It's really motivated him to do better in school," Blower said.
And it's improved his focus and work ethic.
"He's at the gym every day of the week we're open," Blower said. "He trains hard and puts a lot into it."
Overall, Blower believes boxing is helping Negron "develop as a mature, young adult."
Negron is grateful for the team that helps keep him in shape and hones his skills.
"I've got good trainers," he said. "They all teach me completely different stuff. You've got Shane (Blower) who teaches power. He hits like a brick. And then you've got Mike (Martelli). He's like me – he's tall and he's fast."
Negron's other trainers/coaches are Gilbert Gonzalez and Jamey Siterlet. All of Negron's team are volunteers.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.