Both having taken detours, North Siders David Fabela and Jordan Najar reclaimed what they both believed was rightfully theirs.
They will be making return trips to the Golden Gloves State Tournament after seizing once lost regional championships on Saturday at Watt Arena.
Fabela, a state champion two years ago, won a brawl with Gary Hampton in the 141-pound division of the Fort Worth Regional tournament. Najar, who won the last of his previous three regional titles in 2015, took a unanimous decision over North Side High School senior David Anguiano in the 123.
Fabela and Xavier Rodriguez, who defended his title in the 108-pound division, were two of three fighters from Reyes Boxing Club to advance to the state tournament. David Rubio advanced by winning the 152-pound division.
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Fort Worth’s regional champions will return to the Will Rogers Memorial Center starting Wednesday for the state tournament. On the line will be trips to the national tournament in Lafayette, La., in May.
Though Fabela entered the tournament with little training and no competitive ring experience in two years, it was Hampton who ultimately wore down, the victim of punishing body shots throughout the three, three-minute rounds.
“I knew I could push myself,” said Fabela, who lost in the first round of the 2015 national tournament in Las Vegas and hadn’t boxed since until this week. “This is where I belong. This is my state … I know what it’s like to be in it. I’m ready to take it again.
Najar looked sharp a day after shaking the rust off a two-month sabbatical following what he described as a devastating loss to Dallas’ Angel Alejandro in November. The 22-year-old looked every bit the champion in picking apart Anguiano — an 18-year-old first timer in the open — in winning all three rounds decisively.
Najar reclaimed the championship taken from him by Joel Ambriz a year ago. Ambriz went on to advance to nationals.
“Mentally, I feel strong,” said Najar. “I have that feeling back. It’s not going to be easy.
“I lost to Joel Ambriz last year … that told me I’m not the best in Fort Worth. It feels like now I finally got my spot back in Fort Worth.”
Najar also went to the body on Anguiano, who wanted to take the fight inside. The shots were effective, slowing Anguiano and allowing Najar to pick his rival apart from the outside.
Najar appeared to hurt Anguiano in the first minute of the third, bending his head back with a right hand that also spun him back on his heels. Another left upper cut snapped his head back a second time.
Fabela, 20, got the style of fight he prefers: a brawl.
And he got the best of it, following up a number of combos to the body with left hooks that landed.
In the third round, both fighters were noticeably tired, but Hampton was worn out. Many of his punches were thrown in vain, while Fabela’s were more effective and accurate.
“I love to bang. That’s what I’m about,” Fabela said.
For his trainers and coaches, Xavier Rodriguez’s return to state was closer than comfort allowed.
Rodriguez knocked Guzman down with a stiff left that landed squarely in the first round, but Guzman did more than survive the ensuing eight-count just before the closing bell of Round 1. He won Round 2, setting up a decisive third that had the fans engaged and could have just as well been decided by a coin flip.