Amy Donaldson: Boxing offered fighter a second chance

Published: Monday, May 6 2013 7:10 a.m. MDT

Six boxers will represent Utah in the upcoming 2013 National Golden Gloves Tournament at the Salt Palace.

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OGDEN — Fighting cost Jesse West his freedom.

Boxing offered him purpose.

West’s impulse to lash out at the world put him on a path for sadness and self-destruction.

The sport of boxing showed the 28-year-old Clearfield native just how liberating discipline could be.

But it wasn’t actually the ring that saved West from a life of addiction and agony. It was love.

He hesitates to share such personal spiritual details with a reporter he doesn’t know, but he also hopes that sharing his story honestly might save someone else.

West was the ringleader of a rough crowd when he was in high school. He used his fists to solve his problems, which only created more complicated issues. His drug use turned quickly into addiction, and it landed him in jail.

All the while, his junior high sweetheart did the only thing she could for him.

“When I was out running around, getting in trouble on those long nights, she was praying and reading and crying, just waiting for me to come back to her,” West admits. “It was really tough on her part, with how hurt she was all of the time.”

The answer to her prayers came when he decided to seek God on his own. He began praying and reading the Bible as he tried to overcome the addictions that held him captive.

“I didn’t want to ruin all of the things in my life that was great,” he said. “I hurt a lot of those people running around, and with my history of drug addiction I knew what the reality was. There’s not a whole lot of people who come out of it and get on a good path.”

He knew he needed something more than the desire to live a good life.

“I knew I needed something greater than my willpower or a group, which was the Lord,” he said. “I read my Bible every day and I prayed. Each day was kind of tough at first, but I really don’t have a thought, ever, of drugs or alcohol — ever.”

He said people often express disbelief that he simply prayed his way to sobriety. They even offer stories of others who’ve battled addiction and failed.

“I just tell them, ‘Maybe they haven’t found the healer yet,’ ” West said. “This was about four years ago.”

It was, he said, faith in Jesus Christ that “settled me down onto a path where I could pursue the sport.”

Five years ago he married his sweetheart — Jennifer — and they now have two children, Destiny, 2, and Dexton, 6 months, whom he refers to as “a future state champion.”

And it is his faith, the love of his family and the healing power of sport that have him setting some fairly significant goals this spring.

West is one of six Utah boxers who will compete at the National Golden Gloves Tournament May 13 through 18 at the Salt Palace Convention Center. In order to compete in the tournament, which brings the country’s best amateur boxers to Utah to compete for national championships, West, who will fight in the 201-plus heavyweight category, and his fellow competitors had to win state titles and region titles.

The others competing and representing the Rocky Mountain region are:

      • 123 lbs — Alan Leyba — Utah
      • 132 lbs — Francisco Lopez — Utah
      • 141 lbs — Abram Martinez — Wyoming
      • 152 lbs — Larry Gomez — Utah
      • 165 lbs — Danny Galloway — Utah
      • 201 lbs — Andrew Scott — Utah
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