It’s the fifth consecutive victory for Union City’s own amateur boxing champ Jason Escalera, who last Friday, April 13, won the light heavyweight title of the 2007 New Jersey Golden Gloves.
The fight took place at Linden High School in Linden.
Standing at 6 feet and approximately 173 pounds, Escalera defeated contender Mike Mitchell of Paterson in an aggressive four-round match up.
Escalera, a member of the Union City Boxing Club, is the city’s 23rd state Golden Gloves boxing champ.
“I knew I had to win this, and I was really happy and excited,” said Escalera. “I never thought I was going to get this far.”
According to his trainer Joe Botti, during the first two rounds Escalera dominated the fight and had Mitchell up against the ropes. Mitchell came back in the last two rounds refusing to be knocked down, but Escalera changed up his fighting style to combat his opponent.
“He gets very confident before he gets in the ring,” said Botti. “He’s very focused.”
The decision by the five panel judges ultimately went to Escalera, who now advances to the National Golden Gloves Championship in Chattanooga, TN that will run from April 29 through May 5.
The national winners will also automatically advance to the Olympic box-offs to determine who will represent the United States in 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.
“This is a big year because it’s an Olympic qualifying year,” said Joe Botti, trainer.
“Now I’m nervous, but I think I can do this and get through it,” said Escalera.
Still riding high
Despite his glorious victory at last weekend’s championship match, it was Escalera’s victory at the semi-final qualifying match that has everyone watching this up-and-coming competitor.
After scoring a thunderous knockout over top contender Allen Lawrence of Newark’s Dew Drop Boxing Club, Escalera advanced to the NJ Golden Glove finals.
“In his semi-final bout, he beat an Olympic prospect and shocked a lot of people,” said Botti. “We knew he had the skill and the power, and he knocked the kid out.”
Lawrence, who is ranked No. 7 in the USA, is a two-time national champion and NJ open class champ with over 90 fights under his belt.
Escalera, who just won his 14th competitive match, is a 2007 Diamond Gloves novice champion and now first-time Golden Glove champion.
Escalera delivered the first major blow to his opponent in the second round with an uppercut left hook combo that momentarily floored him. Then in the third round Escalera delivered the final blow: a right cross to the chin that sent Lawrence down for the count.
“He dominated the fight and showed that he is capable of being in national fights,” said Botti. “He knows how to change styles. He’s smart and he listens.”
Just two days later, Escalera was called by one of the top professional boxing promoters offering him a contract. However, full consideration will not be given until after the national tournament and quite possibly the summer Olympics box-off if he qualifies.
“One win can change everything,” said Botti.
In the ring
Escalera started boxing at the age of 13 after his uncle first brought him to the Union City Boxing Club at the Doric Temple, 906 Palisade Ave.
“First my uncle started bringing me here, but then I started coming on my own,” said Escalera, 22. “I thought it would keep me off the streets and [help me make] something out of myself.”
At the age of 19, Escalera participated in his first competitive match, but lost the fight.
During his fourth competitive match, he claimed his first victory at the New Jersey Diamond Gloves.
“After that [match], I thought, this is what I like,” said Escalera. “This is what I’m going to do.”
Escalera has a family history of boxing. His father was a boxer in Puerto Rico, although he never competed professionally, and his cousin Alfredo Escalera was also a World Fighting Champion. Escalera now adds his own victory to that family roster.
“We have seen him come in as a quiet kid and have watched his confidence grow,” said Botti. “Lucky [another trainer] and I knew he could do it. We were walking on cloud nine when he won the semi-final match.”
“I always told [Botti and Lucky] that if it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where I’d be right now,” said Escalera.
Well for right now, Escalera will be in the gym training five days a week for two hours a day preparing for the national Golden Gloves Championship, which is also one of eight Olympic qualifying tournaments. The winners of the tournaments will compete against each other in June for the Olympic spot.
To follow Escalera’s progress at the National championships log onto www.usaboxing.com. Jessica Rosero can be reached at email@example.com