In terms of boxing life, Raymond Walker is a relative pup, even if his 6-foot-3, 253-pound frame defies such a term.
But even as he continues to cut his teeth in the ring, Walker joined an elite group of Texas amateur fighters as a state Golden Gloves champion, albeit an unlikely one.
Walker mixed his raw talent with raw punching power to win three bouts this week, all TKOs, en route to the 201-plus division title at the Will Rogers Memorial Center’s Watt Arena.
The last among his victims was Dallas’ Erick Hernandez, who on Saturday fell to the canvas three times before the fight was called in the second round.
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Walker took a victory lap around the ring, with his arms raised to the approving and boisterous hometown crowd as the referee signaled the end. He was the only Fort Worth region fighter to advance to the finals, and today he still stands.
“I was the only hope,” said Walker, an Arlington resident who improved to 11-0. “I’m blessed. I’m ready to go to nationals.”
Walker’s journey to the title included a TKO on Friday of defending state champion Kent Brinson of San Antonio. Both fighters mostly sat back scouting one another in a quiet first round.
In the second round, Walker attacked, as he had throughout his initial two bouts this week. As Hernandez ducked, Walker caught him with a stiff left uppercut that buckled his opponent’s knees, which collapsed.
“He ran right into it,” Walker said. “I felt like that was it.”
Hernandez didn’t appear the same. He fell twice more under the burden of Walker’s power.
San Antonio won the state team title on the heels of championship victories by Joshua Franco in the 108-pound division, Hector Tanajara in the 123 and Edward Ortiz at 178.
Tanajara’s victory was his second in two years after he won at 114 a year ago. The 16-year-old junior from San Antonio Holmes High School, who moved up in class this year, was involved in one of the more intriguing bouts of the evening with Francisco Martinez.
Tanajara used a reach advantage and good feet to stay away from Martinez, who likes to get inside and pound away on the body.
“I knew if I let him get in, he’d beat me because that’s his fight,” said Tanajara, whose victory represented his second over Martinez in the last six weeks. The two also met at the USA Junior Nationals in January.
Tanajara executed his strategy to near perfection. Martinez was able to score with a few left hooks to the head in the third round, but otherwise Tanajara eluded his foe’s most potent combination attempts.
Dallas, which advanced a tournament-high six boxers to the finals, came away with two champions, including Alex Rincon at 165 and Fabian Alvarado at 152. Lubbock, whose region includes Amarillo, also had two state champions.
Among them was Abel Navarrete of Amarillo at 132 pounds. He returned a year after losing in the finals with a broken heel.
In winning this year, Navarrete defeated last year’s champion, Cresencio Ramos of San Antonio, in the semifinals and Justin Krantz of East Texas in the final.
“I did it,” Navarrete said. “I’m taking a state title back to Amarillo.”