Golden Gloves Boxing: Philly teen boxer can go long way

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First, there was Uzbekistan.

This former member of the Soviet Union, just north of Afghanistan and east of the Caspian Sea, invited a U.S. boxing team to compete inside its borders, and U.S. boxing officials asked this particular teenager from Philadelphia's Juniata section if he wanted to come along. But that was scratched.

Then, there was Cuba.

There still is Cuba. This teen continues to mull over the idea of spending 10 days at the U.S. team's Colorado Springs, Colo, camp and competing the ensuing 10 days in the Olympiad of Cuba at Camaguey.

But next comes Pittsburgh.

Danny Garcia's prospective world tour first stops in Heinz Field's West Club starting at 7:30 tonight as he represents the East against the West in the Pennsylvania Golden Gloves Championships. If he successfully defends the 132-pound state title he won last April, Garcia will have a choice: Does he want to advance to the National Golden Gloves in Omaha, Neb., April 22-30, or the Cuba competition, April 25-May 5?

Put another way: Big Red country of the Nebraska Cornhuskers or Big Red Communist country of Fidel Castro?

"I'm not really sure about that yet," Garcia, 18, said. "I haven't really decided yet where I'm going, to Cuba or Omaha."

Of course, Rod Sulka of McKeesport's PKKG club stands in front of that itinerary dilemma, for Garcia must defeat him to advance in the Golden Gloves. Two factors seem to bode well for Garcia, though. For one thing, Sulka has lost his past two state Golden Gloves title matches, at 132 pounds in 2004 and at 152 last year. For another, Garcia not only is a defending state champion, he is a national champion as well.

One month ago, Garcia -- ranked No. 4 nationally at 132 pounds by USA Boxing -- decisioned Luis Ramos of Santa Ana, Calif., to win his division at the U.S. Championships in Colorado Springs. It was the same event where the Hill District's Tika Hemingway won the 176-pound category, earning a berth on the U.S. women's team for the Pan Am Games, May 24-June 5. Likewise, offers to compete internationally came Garcia's way following his Colorado Springs triumph.

"He really wants to be the Golden Glove champion, that's the key," Frank Cariello, the president of the state Golden Gloves organization, said of Garcia, who helped the East win six of nine bouts in the state finals last April but then lost in the National Golden Gloves quarterfinals in Arkansas. "With that on your resume, it goes a long ways. It's more prestigious than U.S. champion."

Garcia is a veteran of 90 amateur fights, a norm for pedigree Philadelphia-area fighters. He started boxing at age 10, walking past the Harrowgate Boxing Club in his neighborhood almost daily and just deciding one day to stop in and sign up. After all, it's only two blocks from his house.

His father, Angel, trains this 5-foot-8 fighter from George Washington High School in northeast Philadelphia. Dad, mom and three siblings planned to join him in Pittsburgh tonight, to see where his boxing career takes him next.

Chuck Finder can be reached at or 412-263-1724.


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