The 141-pound open division final was already one of the marquee matchups at this year's Daily News Golden Gloves championship. Only now there's a bit of smack talk to go with it.
Richardson Hitchins (Atlas Cops N Kids) might only be 17, but with years of experience as a Junior Olympian, the youngster certainly doesn't lack for confidence. Days before his April 1 clash with Michael Hughes (John's Gym) at Barclays Center, Hitchins made some bold predictions.
"He's either going to try to pressure me and try to make it an ugly fight because I'm a little boy, but I've seen that plenty of times. Or he's going to try and outbox me, like he did everyone in the tournament, but that's definitely not going to work. His skill set is levels down from mine," Hitchins said. "I'm looking to dominate him and make a statement from New York to the national level because it's an Olympic year. I have to make as statement to show that I'm going to be on that Olympic team no matter what. There's going to be fireworks that night."
While Hitchins has been impressive in his tournament debut, his finals opponent is far from a bum. Hughes (John's Gym), 25, won the 141-pound novice division in 2012 and returned to the finals in 2013 in the open class, but fell in convincing fashion to Wesley Ferrer, a lightweight now 7-0-0 at the professional level. After a year hiatus, Hughes has been brilliant in his 2015 return with four decisions over the division's top competition, including Christian Bermudez (Atlas Cops N Kids), last year's 132-pound open champ.
Photo by Ken Goldfield
"It just shows me that I am someone who has potential to go far in this world. I mean something. My presence in the ring means something. I'm not a pushover, I'm not an easy fight for anybody," Hughes said. "I think, honestly, I had the toughest road to get to the finals. With that resume behind me, I feel ready to rock going up against (Hitchins)."
Above all, Hughes is humbled by getting another crack at Barclays Center and turning that 2013 silver back into gold.
"Win or lose, just the fact that I was able to make it this far again. I'm proud of myself," Hughes said. "Of course, I don't want to walk away with second place. I want to walk away with gold. But whatever happens happens. As always, I'm going to fight my heart out. I never hold anything back. Whatever happens is supposed to happen and I'm going to hold my head high."
Nisa Rodriguez has five Daily News Golden Gloves titles, one for each year that her son, Emerson, has been alive. Naturally, she’d like to add another one this year to keep up.
Seven years after winning her first championship, Rodriguez (Atlas Cops N Kids), 24, has the opportunity to capture her sixth Gloves necklace, something only three other competitors — Davey Villar, Glen Ghany and Christina Cruz — have done in tournament history.
“Every time I go back to the finals it feels like the first time,” she said. “There’s always a different motivation for me. When I started, when I won the Gloves at 17, I was fueled by a lot of anger I had built growing up. Now it’s different. I have people that look up to me. I have my son who motivates me. I work in a school as a basketball coach and a swim instructor and I have a whole bunch of kids that look up to me. It’s amazing. I’ve had them tell me it’s nice seeing someone living their dream, doing what they love and being recognized for it.”
Rodriguez has won four titles at 154 pounds and another at 141. She returns to the 141-pound division championship on April 1 opposite Stacia Suttles (Morris Park BC), an upstart 20-year-old from the Bronx who has surprised everyone in her run to the 2015 finals, including herself.
“I’m just trying to wrap my head around the whole thing,” said Suttles, who only began boxing in January of 2014. “I imagined competing and doing well, but I never imagined going to the Barclays Center and having a shot at the Golden Gloves in my first year.”
Photo by Ken Goldfield
“I think just making it to Barclays Center is opening so many doors for me,” she continued. “It’s honestly boosting my confidence in the boxing world. I never thought I’d be making it this far and now I think I have a shot at doing whatever I want.”
With a tournament record eight titles to her name — and a chance at a ninth on April 2 — Cruz is the tournament’s undisputed Wonder Woman. But with another win, Rodriguez can stay right on her heels and continue to be Emerson’s super hero.
“He’s not a baby anymore, he’s understanding what’s going on,” Rodriguez said. “He tells me, ‘all right, let’s go running before school. Or let’s make a smoothie.’ He’s just motivating me even more to do better and to keep him proud of me.”
“I’ve got to compete with Iron Man and Spider-Man, but I’m still up there.”
Ismael Villarreal, the exceptional 165-pound novice, thumped his way into the Daily News Golden Gloves semifinals with a first-round TKO on Friday night at Holy Cross High School in Flushing. He is now one step away from Barclays Center.
An overmatched Edwin Ramirez (El Maestro BC) managed to stay on his feet, but took a beating at the hands of Villarreal (John’s Gym), who has now scored back-to-back stoppages. A brutal left hook to Ramirez’s cheek earned Villarreal the Empire City Casino Punch of the Night.
Photo by: Ken Goldfield/for New York Daily NewsIsmael Villarreal (r.) takes down Edwin Ramirez.
“I feel like the fights have almost gotten easier,” said Villarreal, who looks like the favorite to win gold. “The toughest one was the first fight of the Golden Gloves (a 3-0 decision over Wyatt Malcom). It wasn’t really tough, but compared to the rest I think that was the toughest guy. All I’ve got to do is win Tuesday (in the semifinal at St. Patrick’s HS) and from there just train hard for the finals.”...
The rest of the 165-pound novice division had better take notice — Ismael Villarreal has hands of steel.
The 17-year-old Bronx product advanced to the Daily News Golden Gloves quarterfinals on Wednesday night by stopping Joseph Capraro (Champs BC) in just 1:03 at St. Bernard’s School in Brooklyn. Villarreal (John’s Gym) wasted little time, producing several standing-eight counts in the opening 50 seconds. A thunderous right hook prompted Capraro’s corner to throw in the towel.
Photo by Ken Goldfield
Ismael Villareal (r.) makes it to the Golden Gloves quarterfinals.
“I go in, I try to throw a lot of punches and if the knockout comes, it comes,” the P.C. Richard and Son Boxer of the Night said. “I think I’m going to win. I don’t think anybody wants to fight me in close.”
In other bouts, Andrew Henriquez (John’s Gym) battled Stylianos
Kalamaras (Mendez BC) admirably for 5:49, but a booming right hand by
the 178-pound Kalamaras — named the Empire City Casino Punch of the
Night — ended the bout three seconds prematurely, giving Kalamaras his
second TKO of the tournament. Dwayne Burchello (Hempstead BC) outlasted
fellow 152-pounder Hendrycks Diaz (Elmcor BC) in the Applebee’s Bout of
The trainer of his opponent, Andrew Loh (Gleason’s Gym), had on pink bunny snow shoes that were furnished with sunglasses and goofy ears attached.
“It’s not normal,” Henriquez said. “You don’t see that every day. The more different a person looks, you got to be careful.”
After a feeling-out first round Henriquez demolished his opponent.
The lanky 19-year-old nearly knocked Loh out of the ring with a straight right hand midway through the second round in a blow that was the Empire City Casino Punch of the Night.
Henriquez then delivered three more standing-eight counts in the third round — all from right hands — before the 178-pound first-round novice bout was stopped at 1:23 of the third.
The trainer of his opponent with the unique footwear was John Douglas, a former tough-as-nails professional boxer. He said he wore the slipper-like boots for “the cold” weather.
“I had to be a little careful with him,” Henriquez said. “But as soon as the first round ended, I got more comfortable.”
Adam Henriquez and Trainer "Evy" Evelyn Rodriguez
Adam Henriquez is victorious in a first-round matchup.
...It wasn’t his cleanest fight, but Michael Hughes (Mendez BC) seems to
be back in championship form.
The 141-pounder and former novice champion won his second consecutive bout in 2015 with a convincing 3-0 victory over Terrell Bostic (Heavy Hitters BC). Hughes normally relies on precision to get through his nine minutes of action, but from what he knew about his opponent, it was important to stay aggressive, even if it meant landing fewer cleaner punches.
“I was so caught up in realizing that he couldn’t take my power and knew that pressure beats him,” Hughes said. “It was all about go. Green light, go. No speed limit, go. Stay on him. Toward the third round, I heard him breathing heavily and knew he couldn’t keep me back.”