Young fighters hone their skills at PAL for next week's tournament
by: Jaime Valdez, Efrain Estrada and Junior Zurita will compete in the 2008 National Silver Gloves Tournament Jan. 30 to Feb. 2.

Efrain Estrada and Junior Zurita have one thing on their mind.


Both young leaders of the Beaverton Police Activities League Boxing Team are championship contenders who will travel to Independence, Mo., for the 2008 National Silver Gloves Tournament, Jan. 30 to Feb. 2.

Estrada and Zurita are among roughly 300 amateur boxers from across the country who fought their way to competing at the national level after claiming both state and regional championship titles for their weight divisions.

'Efrain and Junior are leaving Wednesday to fight the best kids in the country,' said Coach Jamie Huey. 'I have no doubt that if they get there in good shape and fight, they will come back national champions.'

'It's going to require everything they have and every skill we've taught them along the way,' added Coach Charlie Rios. 'Their endurance has to be high and they have to be at a superior level of conditioning.'

This will be Estrada's second appearance at the national competition and Zurita's first national match.

Estrada, 13, will fight in the 106-pound weight class and Zurita, 14, will box in the 132-pound division.

'Little warrior'

Returning to the national tournament is 'a big responsibility,' Estrada said. 'I had to work really hard to get there.'

With 54 fights under his belt, being in the ring has become second nature for the JB Thomas Middle School seventh-grader.

'Boxing is part of my life - it's like a second family to me,' he said.

He's been training with the Beaverton PAL Boxing Team for six years three times a week.

When he's not in the training room or fighting in tournaments, he runs and works out at his house, doing pull-ups on a bar in his living room as he watches cartoons or taking shots at a heavy bag hanging from a tree in his front yard.

'Efrain's work ethic is incredible,' Huey said. 'The other kids look to him as an example of what they are working toward.'

Rios agreed.

'He's dedicated,' Rios said. 'He's committed. He's a little warrior. He's one of our mainstay leaders in the gym.'

Estrada's also fast and strong - two qualities that will serve him well in Missouri.

'Very elusive'

Zurita has earned a reputation as a physically strong fighter in his four years with the Beaverton team and his 27 matches.

'Junior is also very elusive and he's got the ability to see everything around him,' Huey said.

'He has really superior hand-eye coordination,' Rios added.

The Westview High School freshman's workouts include two-hour sessions in the training center and five- to six-mile runs.

He considers his strengths in the ring to be landing hard right punches and dodging his opponents' fists.

'Boxing is a fun sport,' he said. 'It's hard work.'

Qualifying to compete at the national level means a great deal to him.

'It's the best,' Zurita said during a break between bouts Monday night. 'I'm looking forward to winning.'

The key to accomplishing his goal will be 'keeping my mind on the fight,' he said.

'Junior's a terrific kid,' Huey said. 'He genuinely likes to work hard.'

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