Beaverton Police Activities League protege wins with hard work

To be a champion, a boxer has to sacrifice.

Title belts don't come cheap. They aren't handed out like toys at Chuck E. Cheese's, given to those who didn't put in the work to get the glory.

Alex Hughitt won the Junior Golden Gloves National Championship on July 20, becoming the Beaverton Police Activities League's first ever national champion. But, with how much labor and effort the stoic scrapper put into his title bid, it could be argued the 13-year-old took the crown months before the prize fight ever took place.

The 114-pound Hughitt had to wake up at 9 a.m. every morning and run for 45 minutes, sometimes as far as five miles. Then, after a quick break to gain his second wind, Hughitt worked out at the Beaverton Resource Center, punching the heavybag, jabbing the speedbag, shadow boxing with partners and pumping iron in the weight room. If his friends wanted him to stay up late and play video games and Hughitt had to train the next day, he went to bed early. When his family ate McDonald's, 13-year-old Hughitt passed on the cheeseburgers and fries for salads and lean meats.

“The toughest part was eating right because every day I'd wake up and say, 'Oh man, I'm so hungry, but I can't eat that or that',” said Hughitt. “I'd be eating vegetables mixed with chicken and drinking water every day — but it was all worth it.” by: COURTESY PHOTO: JOCELYN TAYLOR - Alex Hughitt won the Junior Golden Gloves National Championship on July 20, becoming the Beaverton Police Activities Leagues first ever national champion.

This was Hughitt's third year competing in a national event. He began boxing with the team at Beaverton PAL when he was 8 years old. He's fought 54 matches and been in the gym with coach Charlie Rios for the past five years. That dedication and experience came into play at the GG National Championship. Hughitt said he knew the training routine, what the intensity level was going to be like at the match itself and the strain it took to be the champ.

“It feels great. It was hard, but it paid off,” said Hughitt. “I was nervous, but I was used to it because I've been there so many times. I knew who I was fighting.”

Dedication and discipline

There were days when Hughitt rolled over in bed, looked at his blaring alarm clock and contemplated throwing it out the window in favor of more sleep. Yet, he never did. Any time Hughitt thought about throwing in the towel during the conditioning approach or skipping a session on the side of hanging out with buddies, the boxer visualized himself with that gold belt wrapped around his waist.

Hughitt was unfailingly devoted and focused on being the titleholder. Rios said over the last year and a half or so Hughitt really stepped up his commitment to the craft, working out three hours a day, six days a week for four weeks prior to nationals.

“Trying to get a 14-year-old kid to do that takes a lot of discipline. That's what it takes to be a champion — you have to be dedicated, and disciplined,” said Rios. “Alex demonstrates all those qualities. He's respectful, disciplined and dedicated to what it is he does. He had to show up in the gym, his parents had to be committed to it, and it's just a real effort.

“It's hardcore,” continued Rios. “By the time they're ready to compete in any event after we've put them through the training course, we're not concerned about their ability to have the conditioning to perform. The rest of it becomes mentally, will they perform? We know they can because we see them day-in and day-out, it's will they actually bring it during the competition.” by: COURTESY PHOTO: JOCELYN TAYLOR - Alex Hughitt worked out six days a week in preparation for the Junior Golden Gloves National Championship.

During the month-long training period, Rios stressed to Hughitt that the championship bout would provide an uncommon opportunity, his chance to go after gold and bring it home.

“I had a lot of motivation,” said Hughitt. “I knew I could do it. I just like fighting, going out and trying to knock out the other kid. I try to keep my opponent outside, stick him with the jab, and chop him down like a tree.”

Rios said his prized pupil took the message to heart and stepped up big, taking each of the three one-and-a-half minute rounds as all-out battles.

“He was very motivated to win and go after the guy, and he did,” said Rios. “He knew what our fight plan was, and he really attempted to follow that from the beginning of the round until the end. He was having success with it continuously and that's what won it for him — staying focused for all three rounds.”

Renewed focus

Rios estimated Hughitt will end up competing in three to five national events in 2013-14. As a national champion, Hughitt possesses specific recognition, and he'll be able to participate in the 2014 Junior Olympics as a 14-year-old. To represent his country, community and family on the national stage would symbolize everything, Hughitt said, including a renewed focus.

“It'd mean a lot more work, a lot more dedication,” said Hughitt. “I want to become the best, like (Floyd) Mayweather, all those guys, and be at the top.”

Rios said he thinks Hughitt hasn't come close to scraping his ceiling as a fighter. In the next four years, Hughitt could have as many as 100 live-action matches under his belt. Additionally, if Hughitt becomes a runner-up or a champion at one of the national events, he might be asked by the United States Boxing Committee to participate in junior competitions all around the world. Hughitt, if he stays hungry, could find himself fighting over in Europe or Fiji in the not-so distant future.

“They're refining these athletes' skills to bring them along for the next Olympic games (in 2016 and 2020) so it's a building process,” said Rios. “That kind of experience can take them to new heights, especially when they get national championships.”

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