A lighter Rafael Gaitan claimed a title at the 81st Texas State Golden Gloves Tournament on Saturday with a right hand he swings like a battle-axe.
Gaitan was one of three Fort Worth regional boxers who claimed state titles at Will Rogers’ Watt Arena and advanced to the national tournament in May in Lafayette, La.
In his first tournament at the 178-pound division, Gaitan, 18, who trains out of his garage in Grand Prairie, earned a convincing decision victory over Hector Ferreyro Jr. of the Rio Grande Valley. Xavier Rodriguez, an 18-year-old Castleberry High School senior, and 18-year-old Jordan Pace won decision victories at 108 and 132 pounds.
Gaitan, a two-time Junior Olympic champion and national Ring Side champion, was walking around at 240 pounds four months ago. He was impressive this week in fighting at 174 pounds, and he hurt Ferreyro in the third round.
To drop down to 178 pounds in three months I had to dedicate myself completely to the sport. Not only watching who I hang out with but my dieting and workout routine.
Rafael Gaitan, Golden Gloves state champion at 178 pounds
“This ranks up there pretty high,” said Gaitan, who noted that he was last 174 pounds at 13 years old. “I worked hard for this. To drop down to 178 pounds in three months I had to dedicate myself completely to the sport. Not only watching who I hang out with but my dieting and workout routine. It was a tough challenge.”
Houston, who was awarded the team title, will be sending two fighters to nationals, as will El Paso. Sun City boxer Jorge Tovar advanced out of 165 pounds by discarding Fort Worth’s Q. Barton in a hard-fought bout. Barton, in his first year of boxing, got by with a tossup victory in the semifinals but battled a bleeding Tovar to the very end.
Fort Worth’s David Fabela, seeking a second state title at 141, was defeated by Houston’s D’Angelo Keyes, who was careful to stay away from the brawl that Fabela so covets. Fabela’s corner thought the tactics were questionable.
“How am I supposed to box when he’s grappling the whole time?” said Fabela, who added that Saturday was his last amateur bout. He’s planning to try the professional ranks.
“I don’t see how he won when’s he’s just grappling the whole time.”
For Rodriguez, the victory was a coming of age after defeat in the state semifinals a year ago, though he has his calendar marked. For Pace, redemption after a disappointing loss at state a year ago fighting for the Dallas franchise.
It feels amazing, but I’m still not done yet. I still have a week of fighting left. I told my dad a while back, we have a date, 5-6-17. I made that date telling him I was going to win everything this year. It has kept me going.
Xavier Rodriguez, state champion at 108 pounds, planning for the national Golden Gloves tournament in Lafayette, La.
“It feels amazing, but I’m still not done yet,” said Rodriguez, who outpointed Christopher Rodriguez of the Rio Grande Valley. “I still have a week of fighting left.
“I told my dad a while back, we have a date, 5-6-17. I made that date telling him I was going to win everything this year. It has kept me going. It is great drive.”
Pace’s victory over Corpus Christi’s John Torres was the closest of the three. Pace likes to stick and move, and though he was hit few times, he didn’t connect on many more.
Added to that he was hit with a standing eight-count in the first round, even though he clearly fell after being tripped by Torres.
“It wasn’t a drop,” Pace said. “He was intentionally stepping on my feet. The ref told him to stop in the second round.”
Gaitan stepped into the ring next and controlled all three rounds.
In the third, he stunned Ferreyro, who proved to be no tomato can, with a right and left. Ferreyro’s knees buckled and he staggered backward as he caught his balance. Gaitan, looking to finish him off, followed with a right uppercut that connected.
Ferreyro, though, refused to go down.
“I give credit to him,” Gaitan said. “I was hitting him with a lot of good shots, he didn’t go down. I noticed his legs wobble a little bit. It’s hard to stay up. I admire that in any fighter.”
108 pounds final: Xavier Rodriguez, Fort Worth, d. Christopher Rodriguez, Rio Grande Valley, dec.
114 pounds final: Ephraim Bui, Houston, d. Jovany Carrillo, Dallas, dec.
123 pounds final: Angel Alejandro, Dallas, d. Isaac Lopez, Austin, dec.
132 pounds final: Jordan Pace, Fort Worth, d. John Torres, Corpus Christi, dec.
141 pounds final: D’Angelo Keyes, Houston, d. David Fabela, Fort Worth, dec.
152 pounds final: Victor Aranda, El Paso, d. Ysrael Barboza, Corpus Christi, dec.
165 pounds final: Jorge Tovar, El Paso, d. Q. Barton, Fort Worth, dec.
178 pounds final: Rafael Gaitan, Fort Worth, d. Hector Ferreyro, dec.
200 pounds final: Rolando Soto, Rio Grande Valley d. Dominic Okopie, Houston.
201-plus pounds final: Juan Garza, Corpus Christi, d. Saibu Habeeb, East Texas, dec. (Contested Friday night.)