Eight West Michigan boxers off to Gloves nationals
by David Mayo | The Grand Rapids Press
Monday April 14, 2008, 8:39 AM
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WYOMING -- Amateur boxing does not serve youth alone. Johnny Garcia is 25,
and admittedly redeemed by the grindstone path of family, work and training,
after fathering two children by 11th grade, then spending eight years in and out
of jail and in and out of work. Garcia has a new title, Michigan Golden Gloves
light welterweight champion, Holland's first open-division winner of the
tournament in at least two decades. He also left Grand Valley Armory on
Saturday night with the Morey Bowman Award, as outstanding open boxer, and
as a leader of the Michigan contingent qualified for the National Golden Gloves,
May 5-10 at DeVos Place. "All the effort I used to put into doing the wrong things
I put into doing right," said Garcia, who boxed from age 12 to 16 before his
troubles started. "I don't want to blow it up into, 'This guy's a bad guy, now he's
doing good,' but I just got tired of it." He is 18-2 on his two-year comeback.
"I started off only running around the block," Garcia said. "Now, I'm running
miles hard, uphill, downhill. It was hard, but if you put any time into anything,
then anything's possible for anybody." Garcia has worked three years at a
fiberglass shop in Grand Haven, and his boss was in attendance for his stylish
unanimous decision against Morris Young of Buena Vista. West Michigan took
eight of 11 available spots for Michigan Golden Gloves' national team. East
Michigan took two, with one vacancy. The West Michigan contingent also
includes three Grand Rapids boxers, one from Hudsonville and one from
Hart.Ryan O'Neal, 29, always wanted to try boxing, but "I was just doing the
wrong things when I was younger," he said. The Grand Rapids super
heavyweight finally took up the sport and entered Golden Gloves last year,
where he caught a tough-luck decision against nationally ranked JoVohn Carr of
Flint. This year, O'Neal and the nation's ninth-ranked heavyweight, Hudsonville's
Jordan Shimmell, prepared for Golden Gloves with cross-gym sparring. O'Neal
trains at Martin Luther King Park, and Shimmell at Michigan Golden Gloves
Both are headed to nationals after O'Neal beat Bay City's Matt Maciag.
"Shimmell is real technical, so for me to even be in with him is a privilege,"
O'Neal said. "When we spar, he gets me sometimes and I get him sometimes."
O'Neal began the year at 286 pounds, is down to 260, and hopes to drop another
30. He works in day care, as well as holds temporary second jobs, and his size
and power could make him a daunting nationals opponent. "I just stepped out of
my office," he said, pointing to the ring. "Now I'm stepping into the library and
working even harder." Shimmell, 19, earned his third consecutive state title with
a second-round stoppage of Saginaw's Kyle Delgado. He was national runner-up
two years ago, when he lost the championship two days after Grand Rapids was
awarded this year's tournament. "I'm really psyched about it, just like any
coach, boxer or fan would be," he said. "It's huge." Grand Rapids 17-year-olds
Tyler James and Richard Munoz won the flyweight and featherweight titles,
respectively. Munoz upset former national runner-up Ryan Schmidt on a split
decision. Hart's Joel Flores won the lightweight title on a split decision against
Muskegon's Raeese Aleem, one of five defending open champions denied a
return trip to nationals.