James hopes boxing future starts at Golden Gloves
by Steve Kaminski | The Grand Rapids Press
Monday May 05, 2008, 9:45 AM
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Tyler James qualified for the National Golden Gloves by winning the Michigan Golden
Gloves' flyweight championship.
GRAND RAPIDS -- Tyler James has been one of the top high school wrestlers in the state
for the past two years. Still, the Grand Rapids Central senior was concerned his life was
headed down the wrong path. James' friend, Kenneth Dear, was shot to death at Fun Spot
skating rink in Kentwood in November 2006. Tragedy followed last July when James lost
another close friend, Darryl Thompkins, who was shot and killed outside Brickhouse Bar in
Grand Rapids. So this past winter, during wrestling season in which James racked up a
34-7 record and finished fourth in the state in Division 2 at 112 pounds, he resumed his
boxing career that had been put on hold. "I wanted to change my life," said James, 17. "I
was getting into trouble. Inner-city kids face a lot of problems, and I have seen them all. I
saw too many people lose their future to the streets, and I knew I had to do something if I
wanted a future." James said he is feeling much better about the direction of his life these
days. He has qualified for this week's Golden Gloves National Tournament of Champions at
DeVos Place. He earned a trip to the finals after he winning the state flyweight
championship in April. His weight class is scheduled for today's opening round, which
begins at 6 p.m.
This is James' first Golden Gloves tournament, but he is no stranger to boxing. His father,
John "The Panther" James, is a professional kickboxer competing out of Las Vegas and is a
former WKO heavyweight champion. James plans to join his father in Nevada after he
graduates this month to pursue a pro boxing career and attend community college.
James, a lefty with an 8-3 amateur record, was an uncontested champion in the West
Michigan Golden Gloves tournament before he beat Allendale's Joel Ramos 4-1 in the state
championship match. James is one of 10 boxers representing Michigan in this week's
tournament. "Tyler is a really talented kid," said his coach, Mike Fauble. "He has a lot of
natural athletic ability and has been around it a long time. He has a good chance of going
far in the tournament. Like any tournament you get into, you have to catch some breaks and
get in the right bracket. The hope is that he doesn't run into someone who has 200 amateur
fights right away. "Tyler had a big background in junior boxing. He boxed competitively and
got away from the gym for a couple of years. Then he showed up this year during wrestling
season. He has real good hand speed, and No. 2, he is a southpaw, which is a little more
difficult to fight than what you are used to. He hits hard for his size. He is pretty muscular."
James is nowhere near the biggest kid at Central, but his mother, Michelle Piaz, said he can
stand up for himself. As a junior, James finished third in the state individual wrestling
tournament at 103 pounds. He won his 100th career match in the state tournament as a
senior. "He's very tough and a very good wrestler, and that has helped him get into shape
for this tournament," Piaz said. "He has always been very tough ever since he was little. He
is tough mentally and physically." While James quickly pointed out that boxing is a
physically demanding sport, he added that wrestling can be even more challenging.
"The training for both is very different. But whether you are in a wrestling match or a fight,
they are both very, very intense," James said. "Wrestling is non-stop, the whole time,
though. Sometimes in boxing, you can use your jab to keep your opponent off and take a
quick rest. In wrestling, you have to keep going the whole time. You can't stop."