Poised for battle: Eagle fighters head to Denver for state Golden Gloves boxing tournament
Xavier Rios will enter the ring for his first-ever boxing bout next week.
The 21-year-old from Gypsum has only been boxing since August, but he’s not intimidated by the prospect of traveling to Denver for the state Golden Gloves tournament.
He will be fighting in the 141-pound novice weight class and he has absolutely no idea how many competitors will show up for the tournament.
“I think its better that way. I don’t have to worry about who the other guy is. I just have to worry about myself,” he said. “I feel ready.”
For the past couple of weeks the fighters from Mean Streets Boxing — a new program housed at the old town hall building in Eagle — have been training four nights per week in preparation for the state tournament. Program director Michael Pisciotta likes what he is seeing.
“They have all had a lot of sparring and we are picking up the pace. They will be ready,” said Pisciotta.
With that said, he headed back to coaching from the corner. “You guys are reaching for punches. Let them come to you,” Pisciotta barks at the fighters sparring Wednesday night. He focuses all of his attention at the duo, offering tips and praising punches.
Bringing in boxing
Pisciotta opened Mean Street Boxing last August after he took a job as the court administrator for the Fifth Judicial District. When he made the move to Eagle County, he brought along $28,000 worth of boxing gym equipment, and the Eagle Town Board agreed to let him set up his operation at the old town hall. For the last seven months, Pisciotta has been preaching the boxing gospel to an avid group of athletes.
“Boxing teaches resilience. It teaches you how to fight back if you get knocked down. You have to get back up like that in life,” Pisciotta said.
His passion for the sport has found equal fervor among a corps of young men who frequent the gym. During any given practice, there are 20-somethings sparring in the ring while elementary-age boys hit punching bags. All are welcome.
Four fighters from Mean Street Boxing will make the trip to Denver today. They will go to the formal weigh-ins and from there organizers will generate the tournament brackets. Pisciotta said about 50 teams usually bring fighters to the event.
Because they are so new to the sport, the Mean Streets fighters will compete in the novice class. For all of them, the tournament will mark their first competitive fights and the Golden Gloves competition is a single elimination tournament. That means their first fights could be their final ones in this event.
While the fighters admit they are a bit nervous for their ring debuts, they are all itching for the opportunity.
Christer Serna, 17, a student at Eagle Valley High School, said boxing demands both physical fitness and mental alertness. It’s a tough sport, but that’s why he loves it. “I would have done it sooner, but there was not a gym around here,” he said.
After studying the sport for the past half year, Serna is ready to face his first opponent. “I feel confident in my coach for training me well. I feel great,” Serna said.
The coach, in turn, voiced confidence in his team.
“I think all of these fighters are going to do well,” Pisciotta said.
Waiting for A chance
Pisciotta’s fighters are new to learning how to box but they all share a long-term love for the sport.
“When I was growing up, I would watch fights with my uncles. We would always buy them on pay-per-view,” Rios said. “But there wasn’t any opportunity for me to train until Mike opened this place up.”
Rios loves to spar. “That’s when you get to work on everything you have practiced,” he said. During the course of training, he has discovered the power of his jab. “A jab is the most effective punch in boxing,” he noted.
Robert Castillo, 20, says his defensive skills are his strength. Rios concurs. “I can hardly ever hit him any more,” Rios said.
Castillo said he is excited and confident to hit the Golden Gloves tournament. He believes Pisciotta has done a great job training him and he appreciates both the boxing and life lessons he’s learned at Mean Street Boxing.
“Boxing teaches you values like how to be strong, but to be humble outside of the gym,” Castillo said. “Boxing shows you how to be a man and how to respect others.”