|Saginaw's Ernesto Garza feasts on final opponent
for National Golden Gloves championship
by Jeff Chaney | The Grand Rapids Press
Sunday May 11, 2008, 12:55 AM
Saginaw's Ernesto Garza, left, trades blows with California's Roman Morales during their
National Golden Gloves bantamweight bout Saturday. GRAND RAPIDS -- Ernesto Garza
said it was a steady diet of bacon, eggs, pancakes and Vitamin Water that gave him the
strength to dominate. That was the 19-year-old Saginaw bantamweight's only meal after
every weigh-in during this week's National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions.
The nourishment worked, as Garza capped off an impressive week of boxing with a national
title after beating California's Roman Morales by a 5-0 decision Saturday night at DeVos
Place. Garza's week included three stoppages and two 5-0 decisions en route to the
championship. "Everybody kept asking me where I got my strength from and what I was
eating," said Garza, who was Michigan Golden Gloves lone champion. "I said I ate eggs,
bacon, pancakes and Vitamin Water every day." Garza's week began Tuesday with a
first-round stoppage of Syracuse's Joshua Perez in 1 minute, 42 seconds. His second fight
was even quicker, when he stopped Iowa's Zach Knox in 29 seconds of the first round.
Garza finally had the opportunity to go three full rounds in the quarterfinals when he picked
up a 5-0 decision over Chicago's Darris Smith. Saginaw's Ernesto Garza, right, celebrates
his victory over California's Roman Morales. In the semifinals, Garza's hard punches were a
factor again, forcing four standing-eight counts and a third-round stoppage of Cleveland's
Antonio Neives, a boxer who was ranked fourth nationally by U.S.A. Boxing. The
championship fight was a little tougher, as Morales, the fifth-ranked bantamweight in the
country, used a strong jab and his height to force a second-round standing eight on Garza.
"This was a little tougher," Garza said. "His height and reach were a problem. (On that
standing-eight count), he caught me with a punch, and I was off balance." Garza's trainer,
Juan Garcia Sr., admitted the fight started awkwardly for his fighter, but was proud of the
way he fought through it. "He got head-butted in the first round, and that startled him,"
Garcia said. "We didn't take his mouthpiece during the fight, because we thought he may
have lost a tooth and would have started bleeding. But we found out after he was OK."
Garza, who was a quarterfinalist at last year's tournament, was great all week, even though
he had the added stress of watching his weight each day. Garza was limited to the one
meal a day because he cut from 125 pounds to 119 for this tournament. "It was a tense
week, but we knew he would have the power at 119 pounds," Garcia said. "The only thing
that worried us was his weight. We knew he would be strong here." Garza was, and is now
a champion. "It feels great," Garza said. "This is my biggest accomplishment. I was confident
I could win, and I'm happy I did." So was Garza's mother, Eloisa. After the fight, outside the
ring, Eloisa wiped away tears and thanked Jesus. "He's had a really tough year and he
really needed this," said the weeping mother. "He's had to overcome a lot of obstacles and
now he's a champ and he's always been a champ." Garza is the second Saginaw boxer to
win a championship this decade. Lorenzo Reynolds won a lightweight title in 2002 and a
light welterweight title in 2003. Garza now plans to turn professional in July, and hopes to
use this championship as a stepping stone to bigger things. "This is going to help me out
and prepare me to be a professional," Garza said. "I'm ready now."