Joel Ambriz’s distinctive ability in a boxing ring might best be explained by a DNA strand labeled “fighter.”
He instinctively followed his older brothers into the gym at the age of 4. Today, as a 20-year-old, his motivation is to surpass the achievements of his siblings.
The defending Golden Gloves state champion in the 123-pound division advanced to the semifinals by outclassing Erick Mendoza of El Paso in a unanimous decision Thursday at Watt Arena in front of enthused observers that included a Golden Gloves champion of yesteryear, actor Burton Gilliam of Blazing Saddles fame.
An efficient Ambriz landed more punches and missed few, finding success with his left hand the way Ted Williams found the outfield grass, and was rarely hit while ducking some wild attempts from Mendoza.
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Right now, I want to win state again. ... But having family here is motivation, too.
Joel Ambriz, the defending state champion at 123 pounds
Also in attendance were his mother, father, and girlfriend, his niece and the oldest of three brothers, Jairo Sanchez, a retired professional boxer who handed Antonio Escalante his first loss in Sundance Square in 2004.
Ambriz’s other brother, Martin, was a national Golden Gloves champion in 2001.
“Right now, I want to win state again,” said Ambriz, an Arlington resident who improved to 72-12 as an amateur. “It’s what motivates me. Winning state. But having family here is motivation, too.”
Something about man’s inherent fear of disappointing.
Last year, Ambriz advanced to the quarterfinals of the national tournament, which is the ambition for each of the remaining boxers at state. The champion of each division will advance to nationals in May in Salt Lake City.
Ambriz is one of four Fort Worth boxers remaining in the field. He will be joined in the semifinals by Xavier Rodriguez in the 108 division, and Gregory Dismukes, who defeated Erick Hernandez of Dallas on Thursday, in the 201-plus pound division.
I’m the one that started showing him [how to box] when he was 4 years old. He’s going to be a champion, but we still have work to do.
Jairo Sanchez, Joel Ambriz’s oldest brother and a retired professional boxer
David Cordova, a Waco resident who fights out of the Fort Worth region, faces Randy Harris of East Texas.
Fort Worth boxers went 2-1 Thursday. Cruise Carter was defeated by Houston’s Donald Reed when the referee disqualified the Fort Worth fighter in the third round for spitting out his mouthpiece.
Ambriz’s next task is a meeting with Joshua Montoya, a Lubbock fighter who scored a first-round TKO over East Texas’ Xavier Rodriguez,in the semifinals Friday.
“I’m the one that started showing him [how to box] when he was 4 years old,” said Jairo Sanchez, who is seven years older. “I started taking him to the gym.
“He’s going to be a champion, but we still have work to do.”
The lineage can’t hurt because only the fittest survive at a boxing tournament, which is a marathon and requires strategies to stay fresh.
With the result of the bout safe against Mendoza, Ambriz’s trainer Eddie Rangel, who has coached all three brothers, told his pupil to conserve some energy in the third round.
After two bouts of three two-minute rounds, matches go to three minutes per round for the semifinals and finals.
Austin, Alamo City flourish
Austin boxers went 4-0 on Thursday to improve to 7-2 over the first two nights of competition. Houston also seven victories, against four losses.
San Antonio is 6-4 after winning three of six bouts on Thursday.
Fort Worth is next at 5-4.