By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Two Tupelo High School students have been deeply immersed in the world of boxing in the short six months since they first stepped into the ring.
Jose Ortega and Nelson Browning, both 17, began boxing in the Police Athletic League six months ago and have since been named the Mississippi Golden Gloves Champions of their weight and age classes.
The two went to the Golden Gloves Championship in Ocean Springs last month to get a bit of in-ring experience.
“I wanted to take them to Ocean Springs to give them a taste of what the Golden Gloves was about,” said Grady Hurley, PAL boxing coach. “I don’t know that I expected them to advance since it was their first fight, but they did what they did in training and had a lot of heart and advanced.”
Advancing from the state Golden Gloves means the two will represent Mississippi in the regional tournament this week in Little Rock.
To prepare for the regional, Hurley took Ortega and Browning to Jackson, Tenn., for a match.
Ortega, a junior at Tupelo High School, opted to skip the prom in order to get more experience in Jackson.
Ortega competed in the 147-pound novice class and Browning in the 165-pound novice class. They each won their fight in Jackson, Tenn.
“They handed out four trophies among about 25 competitors, and Jose and Nelson each won outstanding boxer of the night trophies,” Hurley said. “Jose won the trophy for having the best match of the night.”
Browning said, since coming to the sport, he has enjoyed the work ethic it requires.
“Everything you do here in practice shows on Saturdays when you get in the ring,” he said. “It’s good to know you’re going to win if you train hard enough.”
Ortega agreed the hard work feels good.
“When you get done you’re tired but that’s how you know you did your work,” he said. “The worst part, though, is doing the work.”
The two will begin the regional Golden Gloves tournament in Little Rock on Thursday.
Hurley said he is working the two boxers extra hard this week since they will be competing against boxers who have probably had much more training.
“I’m pushing them and making them mad at me this week,” Hurley said. “They’re sparring three rounds and against a fresh guy every round. They look awesome for the amount of time I’ve had them and we’re proud of them.”
Two PAL boxers have advanced to the regional tournament in the past and Hurley said only one he knows of has advanced further.
Regional champions will compete in the national tournament in Salt Lake City.