Fifteen-year-old Sergio Martinez knows life is about making choices.
His coach tells him making good choices is the easy part. Then it’s about living with the choices you make.
The two boxers, one retired and one just beginning, believe their sport is much like life. When you step into the ring, it’s only you and your training. You can’t blame anyone for your mistakes.
Sergio, a freshman at Natrona County High School, is learning to fight from Clayton Jensen at the Casper Boxing Club. He’s one of the top ten boxers in the U.S for Silver Gloves.
“Not bad for a little boy from Wyoming,” Jensen bragged.
And Sergio’s sights are set on the 2020 Olympics.
He compares his relationship with his coach to the famous pairing of Mike Tyson and Cus D’Amato. Sergio wants to emulate Tyson. He sees himself in the man.
Like Tyson, Sergio has had his share of troubles. The teen moved to Casper from Mexico a few years ago. He could barely speak English, which now rolls off his tongue with a distinctive American accent. He learned you can come from a tough background and still be great.
It all depends on you.
Sergio watches fights between champions on grainy black and white matches on YouTube. Then he tries out their styles in the ring.
He looks to his coach for guidance. He tries to do the right thing, to control his life through his hard work. He keeps out of trouble at school and keeps his grades up. Jensen won’t let him match unless he maintains at least a C average.
The work isn’t just for boxing in Casper, or going to tournaments in Arizona, California, and Colorado. Sergio dreamt recently about the Olympics. The next morning, a Sunday, Sergio ran into his Jensen at church.
“Coach, I got a new goal,” he said. “I’m gonna start training for it tomorrow.”
Sergio can see his life ahead of him, like he could reach out and touch it. He’ll win the Olympics. He’ll go pro. Maybe he’ll be arrogant like Muhammad Ali. Maybe he’ll be humble like Manny Pacquiao.
For now, Sergio arrives at the Club two and a half hours each day before boxing class begins.
One of the coaches there told him it takes thousands of repetitions before something becomes a habit. He’s taken that to heart. So in between the dreams and the choices, he trains.
In the empty Casper gym recently, Sergio’s short breaths echoed. Each time his fist hit the bag the sound exploded in the wide space like the sudden applause of a crowd.
Follow education reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner.
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