Two Golden Gloves fighters stepped into the ring Thursday with their sights set squarely on avenging missed opportunities a year ago.
Joel Ambriz and Edward Vasquez each successfully fed their respective ambitions with victories at the Golden Gloves regional tournament in the Watt Arena at the Will Rogers Memorial Center.
Ambriz, 19, wore out Jesse Palacios, 18, in a dominating victory in the quarterfinals of the 132-pound Open Division.
As Palacios rushed, Ambriz waited and countered, seemingly connecting on just about every opening. And there were many.
“It was all open,” said Ambriz, who will fight Ignacio Perez in the semifinals Friday. The regional tournament continues through Saturday with bouts starting at 7 each night.
“He was rushing me and I just countered him, looking for the shot,” Ambriz said.
The winner of Saturday’s final advances to next week’s state tournament in Fort Worth. State champions will advance to the national tournament in Las Vegas.
Ambriz felt as if he let one get away at state last year. He lost to Francisco Martinez of Dallas in the semifinals. That’s a rematch Ambriz and his coach, Eddie Rangel, eagerly await … if he can win his next two bouts.
Cory Neal and Ricky Sanchez, who received quarterfinals byes, will fight in the other semifinal.
“I’ve been training much better,” said Ambriz, whose coach called him better prepared. “We know what we’re looking for this time.”
Vasquez, a favorite to win his division a year ago before dropping his first fight in regionals, edged Jose Leal in a close decision in the 141-pound semifinals.
Vasquez fell to eventual regional champion Antonio Castillo.
The Arlington Heights senior next takes on 27-year-old Oscar Perez on Friday, both vying to earn a spot in Saturday finals opposite Oscar Gonzalez or Anthony Salas.
“It was a tough loss last year,” Vasquez said. “I wasn’t going to let that happen this year. I listened to my coaches better than last year. I got a little hard headed. This year I executed better. If I listen to them, I’ll get there.”
Different kind of cut
Thursday of every year at the regional tournament is devoted to celebrating the lives of breast cancer survivors and victims.
Boxer Delaney Sandoval, 10, a fourth-grader at Seminary Hills Park Elementary School, brought a special gift for the occasion: her hair.
Before the start of bouts Thursday, Sandoval had about 18 inches of hair cut in the ring and she donated it to Locks of Love, which provides hair pieces to needy children suffering from medical hair loss because of disease.
Sandoval, facing a new rule that mandates all hair must be contained in the head gear, had to get a haircut if she wanted to continue boxing. She decided to do something good with her locks.
Sandoval, who didn’t have a fight in the regional tournament, said she feels “lighter.”
“We asked her if she wanted to quit boxing or donate it,” said Melissa Sandoval, Delaney’s mother. “She said she rather donate it to kids who need it.”