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Amy Donaldson
Idaho's Kendra Reeves, left, and Utah's Deseree Jamison await the judges' decision after their first-round Golden Gloves Regional fight.

KEARNS — Kendra Reeves only showed up at the boxing gym day after day because she wanted to lose weight.

“I started out and I hated it, hated every minute of it,” said Reeves, who defeated Utah fighter Deseree Jamison in the first round of the Golden Gloves Region Tournament Friday night at the Salt Palace. “It was so hard. Now it’s all I think about.”

That single-mindedness helped the 24-year-old Idaho Falls woman defeat Jamison in a gritty slugfest. She advances to fight for the Rocky Mountain Regional championship on Saturday at 2 p.m. This is the first year Golden Gloves has included women in its tournaments, which culminate with the National Tournament in Omaha, Nebraska, next month.

Even having blood smeared all over her face and arms couldn’t dampen her enthusiasm for her newfound passion. Reeves had never played sports until her fiancé suggested she take up boxing as she began to undertake a weight loss effort. “I started out at 220,” Reeves said. “I weight 152 now, so I’ve lost over 70 pounds.”

She said she loves boxing so much that four months ago she and her financé, Jason Samargis, a long-time boxing coach, decided to open a boxing gym.

“We’ve been open a little over four months, and we’ve already outgrown it,” she said. “It’s been crazy.”

Reeves isn’t the only one who will compete for a Regional Title and a trip to the Golden Gloves National Tournament on Saturday afternoon.

Herriman alum Ismael Gutierrez defeated Wyoming’s Isaiah Tafoya to advance in the 141-pound division.

“I didn’t know him, but I’d heard about him,” Gutierrez said. “He was a tough fighter. I’m glad both (of us) made it out of the ring safely.”

He said he’s been working to get in better shape after losing in the first round of a USA Boxing Tournament in New Mexico a couple of months ago. He won the state tournament in his weight division and hopes to make it to Nationals.

“I want to thank God,” he said after being named the winner. “Without God, this wouldn’t be possible.”

Gutierrez, who trains at Fullmer Brothers Boxing Gym, felt like a winner before he ever stepped into the ring Saturday, as he was one of three Utah boxers to earn a $2,000 scholarship from Redmond Mineral.

The Salt Lake Community College student said plans to go to the University of Utah after graduating from SLCC to pursue a career in sports medicine.

“I thank God…for that scholarship,” he said. “That’s really going to help.”

He said he feels strongly about earning his college degree, even as he pursues boxing.

“Boxing changed my life, but I want to have another plan,” he said.

The other two boxers who earned Redmond Mineral Scholarships were Santana Decarlo and Susly Zamora, both athletes from All Heart Boxing Gym.

In the other bouts Friday:

James Cox (Lights Out, Utah) def. Daren Cafero (Montana) at the 70-pound division; Dylan Bahena (Lights Out, Utah) def. Donte Velardo (Montana) in the 65-pound division; Tanner Gurule (Fullmer Bros, Utah) def. Andrew Lopez (Louie's, Utah); Salvador Perez (Idaho) def. Liam Baxter (Montana) in the 141-pound division; Jon Bryant (Utah) def. Austyn Bronco (Idaho) in the 152-pound division; and Heneli Paea (Utah) def. Jonathan Garcia (Idaho) in the 165-pound division.