“I got to tell you. Your son, one of the most disciplined kids I’ve ever seen.” This sentiment regarding Francesco Alagna was relayed to his father Coach Frank Alagna not by a rival competitor or parent, but by Francesco’s pastor at a Bible camp at Camp Geneva in Lake County. The pastor went on to recount how he found the 14-year-old boxer “in the corner eating a fruit cup” for breakfast on a Thursday morning when all the other children were enjoying eating pancakes and other such meals.
It was important that Francesco remained disciplined as the young fighter was set to compete in the Chris Young National Boxing Tournament in Plant City, Florida the very next day. The three-day event, which ran from Friday, August 5th through Sunday, August 7th, was held in honor of American former professional boxer Roy Jones Jr. The younger Alagna’s diligence paid off as Francesco took home the ABGC title belt for the 101-pound weight class at the end of the tournament.
Just who is Francesco Alagna? An honor student and three-sport athlete out of Cypress Creek High School, Francesco has fought in many tournaments including the Junior Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. The younger Alagna has trained with his father for the last two years out of Primal Striking and BJJ, the home of Team Frankie Boxing, on Cortez Boulevard in Spring Hill, Florida. Coach Alagna is an experienced former professional boxer having fought in over 100 matches and having boxed for the United States Army. A bronze medal winner, Coach Alagna has trained many competitors while watching his son grow up from being “the sidekick” to becoming a fighter.
Due to their devout faith, the Alagna family was able to reach a compromise that allowed Francesco to attend both his Bible camp and the tournament despite the tight timetable. His father was concerned, though. Even with the issue of weight gain being alleviated by the pastor’s story, Coach Alagna worried that not being able to train with his son the days directly preceding the event was less than ideal – especially considering Francesco’s competition on day one.
His foe: West Texas Champion Damian Goufh out of El Paso. As the duo researched the fighter from their bracket, they discovered that he was tall and strong, but Francesco had the advantage of speed. However, Goufh seemed determined to make it to the competition and win as his family started a GoFundMe that raised over $600 dollars to help Damian attend the event. The state champion had taken pictures posing with his championship belts and posted them on his GoFundMe page. Despite everything, Francesco emerged victorious in every round due to his weeks of studying Goufh and working on techniques such as his double jab.
“It was nerve wracking as his parents,” Coach Alagna said. “I’m his coach, but I’m also his dad. For me, seeing him in such a tough fight for the very first fight of the tournament was a little nerve wracking. From watching him perform the way that he did, I was in tears. I honestly really was… It was special to see him step up in such a tough fight. I knew the kid was going to be bigger than him. Most kids are. He’s not very tall. So, we’re always used to fighting up.”
The next set of hurdles came as Francesco prepared to face Yomar Ortiz in the finals. The first was that, due to the timing of the bouts, Ortiz had the opportunity to witness the younger Alagna in his fight against the Texas state champion. This presented a unique challenge for the father-son duo as they now had to find a way to change up Francesco’s gameplan to keep Ortiz on his toes. Not only this, but Ortiz was also faster than Francesco’s previous opponent. According to Coach Alagna, Ortiz was at least as fast as the 14-year-old Francesco, if not faster. They had to be quick, but with good defense. The elder Alagna knew the pair would have to “work on our one catch one, two catch two, different combos we’ve done for years that he knows.”
Even more complications arose, however, as the pair approached the glove table for the championship bout. Despite Francesco’s fight being originally scheduled for bout three, he was told last minute that it had been changed to bout 28. This meant that his fight would take place seven hours later at nine in the evening as opposed to the original time of two in the afternoon. This change confronted the boxing coach with a conundrum as he had another fighter, Mikey Ladd, scheduled for bout 28 in a different ring. Both fights happening simultaneously would make it difficult for the longtime coach. With the extra time waiting for Francesco’s now-delayed fight, Coach Alagna made his son rest in meantime. Fortunately for the father-son duo, Francesco was the victor and took home the championship belt, but this surplus of additional time can often be critical for the mentality of a boxer.
“There was just a lot of things going through my head,” Francesco said. “And when you’re a fighter and you got a fight and your fight gets delayed by that much, that’s a lot of time for a fighter to think about all the possibilities at the time… So, it’s a lot of time to think about it and that could be the difference between losing and winning a fight. Like boxing matches, a lot of it is about your confidence and your mind, and you got to come in there with the right mindset.”
Next up on the docket for the young fighter, the New York State Fair Fights. An outdoor event hosted by Ray Renaldi and the Renaldi family, the fights take place in upstate New York at the New York State Fair Grounds on Labor Day weekend. No stranger to this competition, Francesco looks to emerge triumphant yet again come the first weekend of September.