SALT LAKE CITY — Danny Galloway didn't see a place for himself in organized sports until he saw an ad for a free boxing class.
The 16-year-old Highland High student was looking for something to do and found a sport that he said gives him purpose.
"I saw a free class and I decided to give it a try," said Galloway after earning the 165-pound championship by defeating Travis Jones, a former Dixie State football player who trains at XSI in Lehi, Saturday night at the Utah State Golden Gloves Championship. "I fell in love with it."
Less than a year after he took up the sport and competing in his first open class tournament, he is a state champion.
"I just love the discipline," he said. "It's made me feel a lot better about myself."
He said his mother had mixed feelings about his desire to take up boxing, but she also knew he needed something besides school in his life.
"She knew I was interested in it and that it would be a good thing to do with my time," said Galloway, who trains at Salt Lake's Fight For Your Life club.
Galloway's was one of four fights that determined state champions who will move on to the Regional Golden Gloves Tournament hosted at the Sports Mall in Murray on April 13-14.
The fight of the night featured BYU pre-law student Brandon Packard, who trains at Fullmer Brothers Gym in South Jordan, and Aaron Griffith, who also trains at Fight For Your Life. The 141-pound championship bout was a thriller between two fighters who have battled each other twice before, with one win apiece.
Griffith, a 26-year-old businessman, had always wanted to take up boxing.
"I wasn't getting any younger, so I decided to do it," he said, laughing. He was a swimmer and played rugby while at Skyline High.
Both Griffith and Packard have only been boxing for about a year.
Griffith said he's improved "exponentially" with every fight.
"That last round was pretty rough," he said of Saturday's win.
At 132 pounds, Highland High alumnus Ignacio Chairez, who trains at the Muay Thai Institute, defeated Elias Sandoval, YTA. Chairez's younger brother followed him into the sport and won his Junior Olympic bout earlier in the night.
"He's been there for us since we were little," said 15-year-old Gabe Chairez, who defeated Bladimir Estrada, City Center. Gabe said he was afraid for his older brother, who got into a lot of trouble when he was younger. Ignacio turned his life around to be a good example to his two younger brothers, both of whom box.
"I was worried about him," said Gabe. "I didn't think he'd fix himself up, but he did. He didn't want to see us get into any trouble. He took up boxing and after that, he became a different person."
Four boxers advance to April's regional tournament as unopposed champions: 114 pounds - Jonathan Martinez, Louie's; 123 pounds - Isaac Aguilar, Muay Thai; 152 pounds - George Vigil, Fight For Your Life; 201 pounds - Andrew Scott, XSI.
Organizers praised the Sorensen Multicultural Center for how it hosted the two-day event.
"It went very well," said Larry Fullmer. "Every bout tonight was very close. You couldn't ask for better bouts. The venue was great, and the crowd was great. All in all, I think things went really well."
It was the first Golden Gloves tournament hosted in Utah since Don Fullmer died in February. Don was honored with a standing 10-count both nights.
"It was hard not to see him here," said Larry. "I don't remember coming to one of these without him."
In the Junior Olympic Division: 65 pounds - Jackson Pilivi, Fullmer Brothers, def. Seko Alofipo, Louie's Gym; 71 pounds - Mehki Benn, SLC, def. Mateo Tillahashi, Morris Boxing; 72 pounds - Diego Alvarez, Ogden, def. Askite Alofipo, Louie's; 112 lbs - Roberto Perez, Gate City, def. Danny Martinez, Muay Thai; 127 lbs - Gabe Chairez, Muay Thai, def. Bladimir Estrada, City Center; 153 lbs - Torlando Morris, Morris Boxing, def. Randy Duran, Fight For Your Life.
In the open show bouts: 120 pounds - Isaac Aguilar, Muay Thai, def. Jonathan Martinez, Louie's.