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Future Boxing Stars Face Off at Florida Junior Olympics

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Over the weekend of April 20-21, the local Team Wolfpack Boxing hosted the Florida Junior Olympics at the Jerome Brown Center. Over 200 fighters from across Florida and around the country showed up to test their mettle against some of the best fighters in the nation. The two-day competition was a great way for young, aspiring athletes to show the state just what they could do. Wolfpack Coach Jackie Wilson brought eight fighters to the event, while Coach Frank Alagna of Team Frankie Boxing brought three.

“It is really a great experience to be here at the Junior Olympics in Florida […] Just to be here and get the experience of competing on a high level of fighters from all around the country, it is very big,” Coach Wilson said.

The Junior Olympics were opened to qualify boxers between the ages of 8 and 18 for the Junior National Olympics. The competitors must have at least five fights under their belts and perform well enough in those bouts to qualify. Those who do will travel with Coach Lee Gladden Junior to the nationals in Wichita, Kansas, in late June. According to Veronica Figueroa, chief of officials with Florida Association LBC 14, this was the first time her crew had a 200-plus fighter turnout for a junior tournament.

“It is a big thing for us, especially for our younger kids. They get to compete, and they do not have to be an adult [like with the Golden Gloves].”

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Coach Wilson and Coach Arnaldo Mendoza began training with their fighters for the event at least two months ago with four vigorous hours of preparation a day. This included cardiovascular exercises and competing against different clubs around the state. Coach Wilson felt sparring with other gyms would allow his squad to get a feel for the fighters that would be at the tournament. The fighters and their results from day two are listed below:

– Justin Concepcion (Youth Male – 176 pounds) lost by decision to Sean Rodriguez in bout six.

– Sebastian Cancel (Junior Male – 176-plus pounds) was defeated by Caleb Reid of 2 Big Boxing in bout ten. Reid broke down his strategy after the match. “I was going to come out in southpaw, but then I was like, ‘I want to try to end it quickly,’” said Reid. “I could see that his jab was slow, so I started to counter it with left hook. After that, I could hit him with easy punches because he was not expecting it.”

– Cameron Grosso (Junior Male – 132 pounds) lost by KO to Isaac Zuzack of Signature Boxing in bout 38.

– Robert Sager (day one) was defeated by Jaden Upper, but this was his first fight against an undefeated competitor who brought with him a 7-0 record. “A really good experience,” said Sager. “I am ready for the next fight […] When I first started sparring, what I noticed when I went in there was, you forget everything that you learned like your first time. Then, once you spar a lot, you get into it and then you can use the moves that you learned while you are sparring. I feel like that is the same for fighting.”

– Luis Rodriguez, Maurice Butler, Maxton Hebson, and Jayden Soto all won by default as their competition failed to qualify due to weight.

Coach Alagna brought fewer fighters to the weekend competition, but his trio saw success, nonetheless. He was hoping for three belts but ultimately left with two, which the coach described as “bittersweet.”

The results from his team are listed below:

– Joshua Aqueron (Intermediate Male – 132 pounds) lost in bout 29 by TKO to Cruz Palacios from Plant City Boxing Club. “I think he was a little nervous,” Coach Alagna said of Josh’s performance. “I also noticed a couple times where the kid was in a position where Josh could hit him, and Josh went back to almost sparring. That is all he knows, so he was unsure if he should throw the punch or not […] his sweetness was more than his warrior in that sense.” Coach Alagna feels they can work with Josh to overcome this moving forward.

– Thomas Vetter (Junior Male – 154 pounds) won by unanimous decision over Fiordi Lika of Bxr in bout 35. Vetter is “probably one of the best fighters that I have had,” said Coach Alagna. He referenced his footwork, head movement, jab, and combos as positives, but the coach wants to see him work on his movement and put it all together. “When he comes in and knows who he is, he is incredible.”

– Francesco Alagna participates in many sports like track and wrestling. Francesco even ran at an SAC 4 x 8 invitational at Florida State University directly before the weekend boxing tournament. He is so busy that it is hard for his father to get boxing matches for him, so this event was an opportunity to show out against higher level competition. Francesco would not get the extra work that he was hoping for, though, as his competition did not qualify due to weight. This allowed him to take the belt on Sunday.

Hernando County has many promising young fighters and those like Vetter and Alagna will have the chance to prove that to the nation in Wichita in June.

Coach Wilson (left) poses with legendary boxer Pinklon Thomas (right) at the Florida Junior Olympics.
Coach Wilson (left) poses with legendary boxer Pinklon Thomas (right) at the Florida Junior Olympics.
Coach Mendoza (left) and Coach Bruce (middle) of Team Wolfpack Boxing prepare Sebastian Cancel (right) for his bout on Sunday.
Coach Mendoza (left) and Coach Bruce (middle) of Team Wolfpack Boxing prepare Sebastian Cancel (right) for his bout on Sunday.
Coach Jackie Wilson (middle) with his coaches and fighters at the Florida Junior Olympics.
Coach Jackie Wilson (middle) with his coaches and fighters at the Florida Junior Olympics.
Coach Alagna, fighters, and family pose for pictures during the Junior Olympics.
Coach Alagna, fighters, and family pose for pictures during the Junior Olympics.
Thomas Vetter celebrates after winning by unanimous decision over Fiordi Lika on Sunday.
Thomas Vetter celebrates after winning by unanimous decision over Fiordi Lika on Sunday.
Joshua Aqueron (right) faces off against Cruz Palacios (left) in the ring.
Joshua Aqueron (right) faces off against Cruz Palacios (left) in the ring.

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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