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Orlando Sentinel

Club Trains Boxing Newcomers

By Shannon Shelton

June 12, 2002
Copyright © 2002, Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved.

PHOTO: At practice.


DELTONA -- Cameron Pritchett, 14, goes by the alias "The Cat" for his fancy footwork. Fourteen-year-old Chris Lopez earned the moniker "Iron" after standing up to a bully at school twice his size.

Then there's Jonathan Jeanniton -- J.J. for short -- better known as "The Hit Man." It seems an unlikely fit for Jeanniton, who projects a quiet, laid-back demeanor during boxing practice.

"A friend said I had a hard punch," said the 147-pound Jeanniton, 14.

They are just three of the nine amateur boxers who spend their evenings practicing in the year-old Deltona Boxing Club, which trains at The Fitness Pit on Doyle Road. It's the only USA Boxing-affiliated club in the Deltona area.

Philip Ford, a former boxer and a coach for 20 years, has seen more than 100 athletes come through the program since he started the club last July. Few chose to stick out the grueling training regimen and the sometimes painful outcomes.

"Once they found out they could get broken noses, most quit," Ford said. "Courage is the number one attribute needed in boxing. It's surprising the ones who stick with it."

The courageous ones include fighters like Chris' older brother, Candido Philip Lopez, 16. He proudly includes the name of father Philip Lopez in his introduction, as he too was a boxer.

"My dad got us in it, and kept us in it," said Candido Lopez, who weighs in at 119 pounds. "We've had our ups and downs, but we've learned to love the sport."

Luis Diaz, 15, is the smallest member of the club at 100 pounds. His courage has been tested not only in the gym, but in his recent transition from Puerto Rico to Florida. Diaz has been in the mainland United States for a little over three months and speaks almost no English.

"Boxing has helped me to understand English," Diaz said quietly in Spanish.

PHOTO: Deltona Boxing Club.


Amanda Jones, 17, is the only girl in the Deltona Boxing Club. The 156-pounder is so good, Ford said, that he has trouble finding bouts for her since many of the female boxers in the area aren't as technically skilled.

"Amanda has the toughest job," he said. "She has to spar with the boys in practice. They don't cut her any slack."

The Deltona Boxing Club is not associated with The Fitness Pit, but gym owners Tom and Barbara Farnsworth supplied the equipment for the program. Boxers pay a monthly gym membership fee, but receive free training since Ford is a volunteer coach.

The athletes in the Deltona Boxing Club are all novices, the description given to those who have fought less than 10 bouts.

Some will have their first bouts this weekend at the Sunshine State Games, an annual showcase for Florida's amateur athletes. They'll don the team's silver trunks and black tanks and prepare to finally put into use all the training they've gained.

This year's competition will take place in West Palm Beach.

Ford offers free training to all youth boxers and will negotiate fees for training adult boxers. Youth boxers train Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 5-6:30 p.m. Contact Ford at 386-860-6200 for more information.

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