Five years ago, Timothy Rojas decided to make a major decision in his life, when he enlisted in the United States Army. The North Bergen resident wanted to be like his father, Freddie, who was a medic in the US Army during his days.
“I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” Rojas said in a phone interview from Fort Hood, Texas, where he is stationed and working in the 504th Military Intelligence Brigade.
So the Paramus Catholic graduate headed to the Army after high school. After basic training, he had two tours of duty in Afghanistan before returning to Fort Hood.
“Any deployment is tough,” said Corporal Rojas, who is on the verge of completing his military service. “But it was a rewarding experience. I’ve made some amazing connections.”
Rojas made some solid relationships during his days in North Bergen as well.
“I must have been about 12 or so, when I started boxing at the North Bergen PAL,” Rojas said. “Oscar Noriega was the coach back then. My family was all boxing fans. I think I was always interested in the sport. I wanted to give it a try.”
But Rojas’ interest in boxing waned after he turned 14 years old, when a popular trainer and mentor at the North Bergen PAL named Pedro “Pee Wee” Burgos ended his own life.
“Pee Wee’s death had a lot to do with it,” Rojas said.
In August of 2015, while still stationed in Fort Hood, Rojas’ infatuation with boxing began to take flight again.
“I always wanted to get back into it,” Rojas said. “I felt like I had an unfulfilled chance. Even though I’m getting older, I wanted to see how far I could take it.”
Rojas stumbled across a local boxing gym in Killeen, Texas, where Fort Hood is located.
“I got lucky,” Rojas said. “The gym that I went into had a coach who was the United States Olympic coach in 1996 and 2012.”
Rojas met Jesse Ravelo, a retired military man who made a lifetime out of the US Army and boxing coach with an impeccable reputation like the corporal said, in JR’s Boxing Gym.
“I walk into a gym and there was an Olympic coach in the vicinity,” Rojas said of his meeting Ravelo. “I was happy to find his gym.”
After a year of training, Rojas decided to take his talents into the ring as an amateur.
Last month, Rojas entered two local amateur tournaments in Texas – and won both of them.
First, Rojas boxed in the 150-pound class at the Houston Open Ring Nationals (HORN) in Houston Aug. 20-21. There were boxers from all over the country at the tournament.
Then, a week later, there was the Sterling Gloves tournament for Texas-based boxers at Georgetown, Texas, fighting in the 150-pound class. Rojas won the belt as the Sterling Gloves champion for his weight class.
“I just wanted to see how far it took me,” Rojas said. “I had no idea I could win. I absolutely didn’t think I’d do anything. My gym really pushed me. They made me work harder. My unit was also very supportive. I did better than what I thought. It was the best decision I ever made.”
Rojas doesn’t have any glories of grandeur. He’s not looking to turn professional.
When he returns to North Bergen in six months, Rojas will attend Fordham University full-time to study finance.
“My goal was to see how I could compete as an amateur,” Rojas said. “My focus when I get back home will be school.”
Rojas still has a major field exercise that he has to complete before his tour of duty is completed. He will be in the field until late October, so a return to the ring will have to wait.
Thanks to Sgt. Dominique M. Clarke for contacting the Hudson Reporter to inform the paper about Rojas’ exploits and to contribute the photos. The two Army men are in the same 504th Military Intelligence Brigade in Fort Hood…
Here are some of the best performances from Week One of the high school football season.
In any other week, Kyle DeOrio of North Bergen would have been the Athlete of the Week. The Bruin signal caller completed 28-of-39 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns in the Bruins’ 27-22 win over Bayonne. In that game, David Drouet caught 11 of DeOrio’s passes for 112 yards.
There was also the passing performance of Lincoln’s Darius-George Hillburn, who completed 15-of-21 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns in the Lions’ 46-24 loss to Irvington.
On the rushing attack, Weehawken’s Brayan Pedron had a stellar day, collecting 261 yards on 27 carries and three touchdowns in the Indians’ 32-17 win over Bogota. Nasir McNair of Bayonne had 173 yards on 13 carries and two TDs in the loss to North Bergen.
And Union City’s 20-0 whitewash of West Orange included solid defensive efforts from Jacob Gonzalez and Josue Collazo, who combined to collect five sacks…
It’s time for No. 9 in the list of Top 25 Sports Characters over the last 25 years and the distinction goes to the late, great Marty Seglio of Union City and Weehawken, although known for his work with the people of the great school St. Joseph of the Palisades, also gone like Marty.
For more than 50 years, Marty was the total heart and soul at St. Joseph. He was the athletic director, but he was far more than that. He was the man who helped build the school’s locker room and storage closets with his own bare hands. He made sure that the uniforms were kept immaculately clean. He was so totally devoted to the HCIAA that he even cooked for the monthly meetings of the organization – and he was an amazing cook.
Marty was also involved with a host of other charitable organizations. He was so beloved by the members of the HCIAA that the organization named a division of the league in his honor right before his passing in 2000.
There’s no question that anyone who ever knew Marty knew he was quite the character, mostly as beloved, caring, loving soul. And well deserving of his place in this list…
Marty Seglio is a member of the Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame and had a category for community service named in his honor.
The Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame Induction Dinner will take place Thursday night at the Chandelier Restaurant in Bayonne at 6 p.m. Some of the worthy inductees include football stars Ed Duran, Dwayne Williams and Dwayne Sabb and Elnardo Webster, Jr., both of whom played in the NFL; basketball stars Gino Morales and Marty Schade; track standout Katie Kopacz and the 1988 Memorial High School baseball team, which won the national championship.
For more information, call (201) 915-1388 for tickets or go to the Lincoln Park Administration building… — Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com