Queens student has Olympics fever in boxing ring

Queens student has Olympics fever in boxing ring
Posted on 01/27/2015
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Story courtesy of the Pasadena Citizen

It shouldn’t come to a shock to anyone that the moment Pasadena High School product Marlen Esparza captured the bronze medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics for her efforts in the boxing ring, that others would attempt to follow in her footsteps.

Her triumphant story would undoubtedly sprout new hopefuls with a similar goal of one day competing at the Olympics.

Such a sprout has popped up in the hallways of Queens Intermediate School where eighth grader Rogelio Ortega wants one day to go after some Olympic gold, the same way Esparza dramatically did.

The 15-year-old says without question that Esparza is a role model and it would be his dream to one day compare notes with Esparza on how he earned a berth to the Olympics.

He put his talents to arguably his biggest test two weeks ago when he packed his right and left jabs plus some fancy footwork to Reno, Nev. Jan. 5-10 for the annual Youth National Championships and Junior Open at the Grand Sierra Resort & Casino.

By all accounts, Ortega did outstanding, but the youngster fell short of his objective and that was to return home from Nevada with the gold medal. Instead, he collected the silver after losing the championship match for the Youth Male 114-pound weight class. But he is regarded as the No. 2 boxer in the nation for his weight class.

“I wanted to finish number one. I was fighting against a kid from Toledo, Ohio. It was a pretty good bout. They said it was real close. It could have gone either way,” said Ortega, who owns a 56-4 record in the ring, highlighted by multiple Golden Glove championships.

Now the youngster from Ohio automatically clinched a berth on the U.S. Junior and Youth National Team. All weight class champions will prepare for the Junior Male World Championships, Sept. 2-13 in St. Petersburg, Russia. If he is unable to attend, Ortega would take his place.

Still, Ortega, now a member of the Silver Team, expects to be competing at another international location before the year’s over. But the Reno competition didn’t deter his dream that the Olympics are a reachable goal.

Competing in the Junior Male for 15 and 16-year-olds where a total of a dozen boxers all had the goal of winning the gold in Reno, Ortega captured a victory on Monday in the preliminary round, followed by a triumph in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, before making 3-for-3 on Jan. 8 with a semifinal round win.

“We really didn’t know the kid so we just wanted to see how he was the first round, just like to feel him out and then we saw what we needed to do to beat the kid. He was real short, about two inches below me so I had to stay in my range where he wouldn’t get close to me,” said Ortega, recalling the title bout along with his longtime coach, Rudolfo Silva.

In the ring for three two-minute rounds, boxers for this age group either earn a numerical score of 10 when they win the round or a nine should they lose.

“The first one was pretty easy. I fought a kid from Hawaii. The second day was a pretty tough fight. I fought a kid from Colorado. The third fight, I fought a kid from Virginia. He was real good,” Ortega said.

One usually has to qualify for the Youth National Championships, but Ortega was unopposed.

“It’s hard to find fights here. We have to go to San Antonio or Dallas,” Ortega said.

Last June, the Queens student fought at the National Championships in the 110-pound class. He defeated Juniel Garcia of St. Cloud, Fla. 3-0 in the preliminaries, followed by a 2-1 victory over Isaac Perez of Allo, N.M. in the quarterfinals.

But in the semifinals, Ortega was stopped by Marc Castro, who would go on to win 3-0, capturing that weight class championship the next day.

Back at Queens, Hornets coach Jarrett Lamberth describes Ortega as the model student, not surprised by the youngster’s success in the sport.

“He’s a phenomenal athlete and an even better kid and student. He hasn’t been able to help us out as much in athletics but that’s because he’s dedicated so much to boxing,” said Lamberth.

Lamberth noted that at the first cross country meet for the intermediate schools, Ortega captured the 11th-fastest time, due to the conditioning drills he uses to stay in shape for boxing.

“He’s dedicated, hard-working, reliable,” Lamberth said.

And those sound like the ingredients for any athlete pursuing such a lofty goal as a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team, ingredients Esparza also brought to the ring.