Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Boxer Sammy Valentin Jr. uses fighting spirit to help hospitalized children

LAND O'LAKES

Sammy Valentin Jr. trains at least three hours a day, sparring, running, doing situps and pushups and pull­ups by the hundreds. The 16-year-old boxing phenom calls himself Hurricane Sammy, and he has spent more than half his life fighting his way to the top.

He was already gaining notice in the boxing world at age 9 when the St. Petersburg Times first profiled him in 2004. Now the junior at Wharton High School in Tampa is scooping up accolades — Silver Gloves, State Junior Olympics, Platinum Gloves — on a path he hopes will take him to the 2012 Olympics.

He is also reaching out to other kids engaged in a different kind of fight.

Sammy has started the Hurricane Sammy Foundation, a group that is collecting toys around the Tampa Bay area to donate to hospitalized children. He will deliver the first batch of stuffed animals at a "donate day" event next week to 30 to 40 children at University Community Hospital.

He came up with the idea last year, when one of his boxing sponsors, a doctor, couldn't attend a match because one of his cancer patients was dying. Sammy dedicated the match to that woman. He won and brought the belt to her at the hospital.

"I never knew anyone who had cancer or anything until I met this girl through my sponsor," Sammy said. "Here I was fighting for fun, and this girl was fighting for her life. It inspires me to want to give kids in that situation something, because they're fighting a much tougher battle than I face in the ring."

Sammy faced his own early battle: He was born prematurely at Tampa's University Community Hospital, beginning his life in critical condition, weighing in at 3 pounds. With time and nurturing, he grew strong. When he entered grade school and began having behavioral issues, his father Sammy Valentin Sr. — who had been a kickboxer in Puerto Rico — steered him toward boxing.

Sammy's amateur boxing career began at age 8. He is now a six-time national champion and has built a record of 102-13 on his way to capturing 14 belts. He will compete for another national title next month.

His trainers see him as more than just an amateur fighter, however. "As a boxer, Sammy's limits are up to him, he'll go as far as he wants," trainer Francisco Arreola said. "He's probably the only kid in this state that has won everything in the United States. I think he's going to be a great professional, and doing events like the donate day is part of being a professional athlete, and he's handling it well."

Arreola is a former champion himself, and along with his brother Luis, trains Sammy regularly at Ramos Boxing. The brothers agree that Sammy has the potential to become a great role model for other aspiring boxers.

"He's incredibly dedicated," Luis Arreola said. "The kid doesn't stop, he just keeps going no matter what he is doing. He's a wonderful kid who gets a lot of compliments on his personality wherever he goes. It's been a joy teaching him. I think his picture is going to be on some kid's wall in the future."

Gym patrons are all familiar with Sammy. Martin Lagunas is usually at the gym with his son and has seen Sammy grow up boxing. Lagunas said he sees Sammy becoming a bright young star.

"He's going places," Lagunas said. "I remember when he was real little. He's always had a lot of spirit, and he's one of those real tough fighters that is just born to do this. His technique is great. Everybody around here knows Sammy."

David Rice can be reached at davidrice83@gmail.com.

Samuel Valentin Jr.

Age: 16

Favorite boxer: Felix Trinidad

Note: The Hurricane Sammy Foundation is asking anyone who is interested in donating a toy to contact Sammy Valentin Jr. through his website, www.hurricanesammy.net.

Boxer Sammy Valentin Jr. uses fighting spirit to help hospitalized children 09/09/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 11:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No. 21 USF Bulls roll over Temple to stay undefeated

    College

    TAMPA — They emerged from Raymond James Stadium's southwest tunnel on the 11-month anniversary of their public humiliation at Temple.

    Bulls tailback Darius Tice, who rushes for 117 yards, is elated by his 47-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.
  2. Fennelly: USF thrashes Temple to stay unbeaten; too bad not many saw it in person

    College

    TAMPA

    No. 21 USF ran its record to 4-0 Thursday night with some payback against Temple, a 43-7 trouncing, no contest, as if anyone cares, at least judging by the paltry crowd at Raymond James Stadium. Where was everybody?

    Bulls cornerback Deatrick Nichols (3) celebrates with teammates after making a defensive play during the first half.
  3. Former Ray Tim Beckham's over being traded, or is he?

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — As the Rays reunited Thursday with Tim Beckham for the first time since he was dealt July 31 to Baltimore, it became very clear that not everything in assessing the trade is as it appears.

    Tim Beckham, here in action Monday against the Red Sox, has hit .310, with 10 homers and 26 RBIs since going to the Orioles.
  4. Bucs probe how to fix deep-ball chances missed vs. Bears

    Bucs

    TAMPA — It was only minutes after the Bucs had demolished the Bears 29-7 Sunday when quarterback Jameis Winston tried one final time to connect with receiver DeSean Jackson.

    QB Jameis Winston says he’s focused on the deep-ball chances to DeSean Jackson he missed in the opener: “We left a lot out there.”
  5. Rays journal: Ugly first inning dooms Andriese, Rays against Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Thursday's game that RHP Matt Andriese was among the pitchers who would most benefit from a strong finish to the season.

    Matt Andriese has a tough first: hits to four of first five batters, leading to three runs, the only ones he gives up in six innings