SALT LAKE CITY — Normally, knocking an opponent to the ground just a little more than a minute into the first round is a good thing.

But for Salt Lake City’s Gabriel Chairez, it actually made his fight a lot tougher.

“Once I dropped him with those first couple shots, I got excited,” said the 19-year-old Salt Lake Community College student after beating Gianni Madrid in Saturday’s Golden Gloves state championships at the Sorenson Multi-Cultural Center. “I started focusing on the knockout. I figured I could take him out pretty quick, and I got it excited and it took me off my rhythm.”

The idea that he could end the fight quickly caused him to deviate from his usual methodical approach to boxing.

“I wasn’t necessarily doing everything I should have done,” he said. “It made it a tougher fight than it should have been.”

The fight between Madrid, who boxes out of State Street Boxing, and Chairez, who boxes for Police Athletic League, earned the “Best Bout” award from judges — in large part because of the way Madrid battled back after two hard hits from Chairez sent him to mat. Madrid’s grit made the championship fight a thriller, something Chairez appreciated, but also felt he could have avoided with a different strategy. “I should have just stuck to what I was doing,” Chairez said. “I let that knockdown get into my head.”

Chairez went to the quarterfinals of the National Golden Gloves Tournament last year, which was also the year he won a $1,500 scholarship from the Rocky Mountain Golden Gloves chapter.

“It actually helped a lot,” he said. “I don’t have a job that pays too much. Going to school, training, studying, with a job, it would be a lot harder without the help. With that scholarship I am able to work a part-time job and do everything I need to do to train hard.”

All five of the title fights were battles, which can only be a positive sign for how Utah boxers will fare at next month’s regional tournament, which will be part of FitCon.

In the 114-pound weight class, Diego Alvarez (Los Gallitos Gym) defeated Matt Searle (Fullmer’s Boxing), while Jonathan Montelongo (Reyes Boxing) defeated Andres Mercado (Flash Academy) in the 123-pound weight division.

Bladimir Estrada (City Center) defeated Felipe Nino (Louie’s Gym) for the 152-pound championship, and Robert Martinez (State Street) defeated Eduardo “Lalo” Riquelme (Factum) for the 201-plus state title. Milo Gutierrez (Fullmer's), Daniel Galloway (Salt Lake City) and Skyler Torres (Foley's) all won uncontested state titles at 141-pounds, 165-pounds and 201-pounds, respectively.

Montelongo and Mercado put on a great show as Mercado’s length forced Montelongo to change the way he would normally box.

“He was so tall, I had to hit him in the body and just pressure him,” Montelongo said after his win. “It was more brawling. …I just thought, ‘I have to break him down, just stop him.’”

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Montelongo’s father convinced him to start boxing at age 11, but the Horizonte alum said he gave it up to play soccer.

“And then I quit that, too, and then I got into trouble,” the 25-year-old Salt Lake City man said. “But then I came back to boxing. It saved my life.”

He said he learns something from every fight and he is just grateful for the chance to face the challenges that will come at next months’ regional tournament.

State Street and City Center boxing gyms won the Top Team awards.


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