Thursday, June 21, 2018
Sports

Golden Gloves champ Valentin ready to enter ring as pro boxer

LAND O'LAKES — Right around his son's fifth boxing match, Sammy Valentin Sr. knew he had a special talent on his hands. Sammy Jr. was just about to hit his ninth birthday.

That early sign of talent has not proved misleading. On May 17 in Las Vegas, Samuel "Hurricane Sammy" Valentin Jr. hit the pinnacle of his amateur boxing career, winning the 152-pound weight class at the National Golden Gloves Championships in Nevada.

"Golden Gloves. That's huge," the proud papa said Tuesday from the family gym, Hurricane Sammy's Boxing, just south of State Road 54 on U.S. 41. "When you want to turn pro, the promoters will look at the national fighters, and Golden Gloves is the biggie."

And have no doubts, Valentin Jr. will be turning pro soon. Even though he had no concerns over his readiness for the next step, the performance at the Golden Gloves proved it to everyone else. He had finished third and fourth in his previous two attempts.

In the finals he earned a tight 3-2 decision over hometown favorite Quontez McRath.

"I was the underdog but I'm used to that," said Valentin Jr., a Wharton High graduate who turns 20 on June 23.

He had to fight five bouts in as many days to take the title. Valentin Jr. has won several national events, but this was by far the most prestigious.

There was a time when he wanted to be an Olympian, but those plans have been altered by recent requirements for boxers who choose that path.

One that concerned Valentin Sr. was the removal of headgear in athletic competition. Then there's the intense travel schedule set by the International Boxing Association for its Olympic hopefuls.

"I don't want to be one of those boxers who gets burned out," Valentin Jr. said.

While he's training for a pro career, the would-be Olympians have an upcoming 10-week span that will see them travel to Scotland, China and Korea. All that time, other trainers may be infusing new — and not necessarily welcome — methods. Valentin Jr. figures he's better served honing his craft training at home.

And the kicker is that at the end of it all, as long as he stays under the 15-fight mark as a pro, Valentin Jr. can still enter Olympic qualifying.

"To make money in the meantime, that's a no-brainer," his father said.

The decision to put his son into a fighting sport, one would assume, was just as natural. But Valentin Jr. started off as a bystander. Then one day, at age 6, father noticed son mimicking a boxer's every move — impressively and a bit fiercely.

"He had this look in his eye and he says, 'I want to box.' Well, I told him to go back in the corner," Valentin Sr. said.

Obviously, he worked his way into the ring, starting off his career at the age of 8 (the earliest allowable). Officially, Sammy Jr. has participated in 171 matches, winning 150. He is undefeated in the dozen he has fought since January.

As one might guess, Valentin Jr. has tremendous focus. He trains every day, mixing up boxing elements with strength and conditioning to avoid monotony. Mary Ch-hab, his nutritionist, says he never slips.

"He might drink coffee sometimes but we all drink coffee, so that's not bad. He's very disciplined," said Ch-hab, whose special "Hurricane" chicken fajita wrap (and Coach Sammy's Detox Elixir, a consumed-daily smoothie) are on the menu for anyone to try at Hurricane Sammy Boxing.

Valentin Jr. already has plenty of fans. Fifteen-year-old Louis Lebron, who moved here a few months ago from Massachusetts, trains with him.

"He is a great role model. I've learned more in the last three months here than I did my whole life," Lebron said.

Expect that fan base to increase quickly. That pro announcement could come in a matter of weeks.

"Pro boxers, they're animals. And I've always wanted to be one," Valentin Jr. said. "Looking in the eyes of a true fighter, the focus they have, they look like warriors. And I'm doing it now."

Comments
Rays journal: 3 batters, 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

Rays journal: 3 batters, 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

HOUSTON — The Rays were engaged in a third straight tight, go-either-way battle with the defending champ Astros on Wednesday.Until they were not.A brutal seven-pitch sequence by starter Nathan Eovaldi changed everything, as he gave up three con...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

HOUSTON — The Rays saw a lot on the weeklong trip that ended with Wednesday's game against that Astros, beyond the street hustlers prowling in Times Square and the urban cowboys and girls parading through H-town.There was an impressive debuting...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox Sr. was watching the NFL draft 24 years ago when the phone rang. Buffalo coach Marv Levy was on the other line."Marv said they were taking me," said Knox Sr., a standout receiver at FSU.Soon after, Knox Sr. saw his name scroll across ESPN'...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning’s Victor Hedman wins NHL’s Norris Trophy

Lightning’s Victor Hedman wins NHL’s Norris Trophy

Victor Hedman, a relentless part of the Lightning's push to the Eastern Conference final last season, was honored Wednesday night with the Norris Trophy, given to the NHL's top defenseman."To the Lightning organization, Mr. Jeff Vinik, Steve Yzerman ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Astros game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Astros game

RHP Nathan Eovaldi said before his rough start Wednesday against the Astros that he was pitching better than his numbers showed. Well … In four starts since his six no-hit innings debut, he's 0-3 with a 6.17 ERA, allowing eight homers, four Wed...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Sports on TV/radio for Thursday, June 21

TODAYBaseballRed Sox at Twins1 p.m.MLBMets at Rockies (in progress)4 p.m.MLBCubs at Reds7 p.m.MLBBlue Jays at Angels10 p.m.MLBCollege baseball, World SeriesFlorida vs. Texas Tech8 p.m.ESPNUGolfPGA: Traveler’s Championship3:30 p.m.GolfHorsesRoyal Asco...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Report: Bucs QB Jameis Winston bracing for suspension from NFL

Report: Bucs QB Jameis Winston bracing for suspension from NFL

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston could be suspended for up to three games  next season following the league's investigation into allegations he groped a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016, a Tallahassee radio station reported.Jeff Cameron, a&#...
Updated: 2 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

UPDATE, 6:43: Cash said the key to how the pieced the lineup together was the opportunity to give Cron (who is struggling) and Duffy (who is doing well) back to back days off. … Looking ahead to the weekend, the Rays will use RHP Ryne Stanek as...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Phil Mickelson apologizes four days after hitting moving ball at U.S. Open

Phil Mickelson apologizes four days after hitting moving ball at U.S. Open

NEW YORK — Phil Mickelson has apologized four days after intentionally violating golf rules by hitting a moving ball on the green at the U.S. Open, saying his frustration got the best of him. The apology came Wednesday in a statement released by his ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Tough questions are mere child’s play for Kevin Knox

Tough questions are mere child’s play for Kevin Knox

Growing up, Kevin Knox II watched videos or listened to motivational tapes during car rides to and from school so he could learn how to expand upon answers in interviews.That was all by design.His father, Kevin Knox Sr., knew about the spotlight as a...
Updated: 10 hours ago