Boxing used to be big in Roswell — maybe Adan Esparza can bring it back. On Friday the 14-year-old Dexter native said he has found a sport he loves. Esparza, if he does nothing else, has already known the feeling of what it’s like to be a champion.
“Boxing caught my eye when I was 10 years old,” Esparza said, “and I loved it. I dedicate all of my time to this sport.”
Later this week, Esparza will travel to Madison, Wisconsin to try and become the junior Olympic national champion at the 165-pound weight class.
In one recent fight in Albuquerque, he didn’t just get a walk-over, but had to dig down and stand in the middle of the ring and fight back to win against his opponent Tyler Williamson from Warriors gym for the regional title.
For the first time in 10 fights, Esparza was tested. Esparza is 10-0 with seven knockouts. During the fight, Williamson stood in front of him and traded punches with Esparza during their three-round fight. In between rounds Esparza’s trainer, George Lacey, told him to remember all of the things they had worked on at the gym: hand speed, head movement and moving side to side to make himself harder his opponent to hit.
“I told him he had to box and throw more jabs,” Lacey said. “And keep the kid at the end of his punches.”
Lacey knows about being a championship fighter. Hailing from Kalamazoo, Michigan, Lacey won the junior Olympics in 1984-85 and 1988-1989 at 147 pounds. He would end up fighting Chris Byrd in 1984 before he moved up to become heavyweight champ. Lacey named his gym Kayo Boxing, a branch of the Michigan gym he fought out of.
“I knew Adan (Esparza) was special,” Lacey said. “He earned this victory. I saw him get hit with the Williamson’s best shots, and come back and continue to fight. That’s rare, but he found a way to fight back and win.”
Lacey feels like Roswell used to be the king of boxing and he would like to bring that back. He would like to give kids a chance to develop their skills and get them involved and help them get off the streets. Lacey stresses discipline and work ethic, and respect for authority. He wants to see the kids at his gym focus on getting good grades, and teach the skills that will help them be successful in life.
Esparza won the fight against his opponent from Warriors gym by split decision. One of his dreams is to fight at the MGM for a title. Lacey thinks if he continues to progress, anything is possible.
For this fight in Madison, Wisconsin, Esparza has undergone rigorous training, running three to four miles along with 10 40-yard dashes to go along with his sparring sessions and heavy bag work.
“I feel like I have speed and power,” Esparza said. “I love sports so much and I’d like to make a good living at it.”
In his last fight, Esparza fought Dillion Wynn, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Esparza had to tap into his reserves when he was gassed at the end of his first round. Esparza wasn’t used to the altitude and had to set a pace he could handle as he fought.
“He used his jab and boxed the kid,” Lacey said. “Elevation got to him, he started getting tired at the end of the first round, but he dug deep. He’s a very, very special kid. I believe that he will be a champion at the next level.”
Lacey feels that for Esparza to win the Junior Olympics, he will have to fight a smart fight. He will have to box and use his knowledge. Esparza’s main goal is to become a world’s boxing champion so that he can retire his mother and father and they won’t have to work anymore.
“Esparza is a different kid,” Lacey said. “Once he became a champion he carried himself a lot differently and expects to win. He can take and punch. Most importantly, Esparza sees the difference in himself. He’s a champion.”
Friday, Esparza goes Madison, Wisconsin. He will check in Sunday and weigh in on Monday — and fight on Tuesday at 2 p.m., for the National Junior Olympics.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.