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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Friends and family congratulate Larry after his win. Utah native Larry Gomez of the Rocky Mountain Region boxes Steven Cardenas of Texas Wednesday, May 15, 2013.
I have to get busy in the third round. I’ve got to throw more punches. I came here to go all the way. —Larry Gomez

SALT LAKE CITY — Larry Gomez was just taking the next step in his journey, while fellow Utahn Isaac Aguilar surprised even himself when he won his second-round fight Wednesday night at the 2013 national Golden Gloves tournament inside the Salt Palace. And Ogden’s Jesse West didn’t even have to box three complete rounds to earn his first win.

“It feels great,” said the 24-year-old Aguilar through tears after he defeated Sharone Carter of St. Louis in the 123-pound division. “Just being here is a miracle.”

It was his sixth trip to the national tournament, but it was made more special because his work schedule kept him from training like he should have leading up to the state tournament three months ago. He lost to a teammate of Gomez’s, Alan Leyba, but when Leyba couldn’t get his proof of U.S. citizenship to Salt Lake in time, the fighter became ineligible to compete in the national tournament.

“I wasn’t supposed to be here,” Aguilar said, admitting that his job at Coca-Cola had him working 50 to 60 hours a week, which meant little to no training leading up to the state tournament. When he found out he would represent the Rocky Mountain Region in the national tournament this week, he trained as hard as he could.

Still he wasn’t sure it would be enough.

“To be honest, I thought he had the edge,” said Aguilar. “He came out more aggressive. ... I gave it all I could.”

While he had doubts about accepting the offer to compete this week after losing at state, Aguilar said he decided to take advantage of the time before he goes pro.

“I doubted my conditioning,” he said, “not my ability to fight.”

Meanwhile, Gomez, who competes at 152 pounds, handled his opponent, Steven Cardenas of Texas, much more convincingly. His bout was again the most watched and most raucous with the Texas team doing its best to match the cheers of Gomez’s supporters.

Gomez said after Tuesday night’s win that he wanted to be more patient, and he felt he did a better job of letting the fight come to him Wednesday. It wasn’t, however, the kind of bout he knows he’s capable of fighting.

“He was slick, so I had to be careful because I didn’t want to run into something,” said the 20-year-old, who won state and region without even going three rounds with his opponents. “In the first round, me and him, we were both trying to bomb on each other, so that wore me out a little.”

Gomez said he thought he hurt him in the first round and respected that Cardenas battled back in the second round. The worst part about his second fight in two days was the three-hour wait beforehand.

“I was getting more and more nervous,” he said. “It was really tiring.”

Gomez prepared for taking on the nation’s best amateur boxers by sparring his uncle, who is taller and much heavier than the fighter.

“I’m in good shape, good conditioning,” said Gomez, who is making his first appearance at the national tournament. He said he plans to learn what he can from Wednesday’s fight and come out smarter and stronger Thursday.

“I have to get busy in the third round,” the West Valley boxer said. “I’ve got to throw more punches. I came here to go all the way.”

The referee stopped super heavyweight West’s fight against Jose Medrano, after the Ogden fighter knocked the big California boxer to the ground in third round. West was happy to earn the first round victory saying he felt a little “stiff.”

He chose not to spar in the weeks leading up to the national tournament because he suffered an injury that prevented him from competing last year.

“I felt stiff, a lot of rust in the first two rounds,” said West. “That third round I started feeling right at home.”

That’s when West landed a series of blows that clearly dazed Medrano. The referee gave him a standing eight count early in the round and then ended the fight when another monster punch sent Medrano to the ground.

“It feels good to get some rust off,” he said. “It’s been a few weeks.”

He plans to watch his fight, see what he can learn and then retire his new head gear. His new head gear kept riding up during the fight.

“I’m going back to the old one,” he said.

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