On Sunday, 17-year-old Alexis Urbina and his coach, Andy Soto, will arrive at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to participate in a three week training camp, organized by the USA Boxing head coach Pedro Roque. It's just another step in the journey that Urbina hopes will lead to an Olympic medal in 2016. Urbina is part of the USA Youth National Team, after having won the Junior Olympics National Championship in Spokane earlier this year. Julie Goldsticker, Public Relations Consultant for USA Boxing, says the program will seek to send the youth division boxers out to more international tournaments in the coming years, as they will be the boxers competing in Rio in 2016, and will need experience fighting boxers with various styles.
Urbina got a taste of these different styles when he competed in the Klitchko Brothers' Tournament in the Ukraine in May. Urbina didn't win a medal in the tournament, as a discrepancy in start times forced him to fight early without warming up, but he gained valuable experience watching his teammates and the other fighters in the tournament compete. "The experience was crazy. They fight with totally different styles than here in the US. They fight awkwardly. They are aggressive - they don't box. They fight. By the end of the tournament, after watching all the bouts, I felt I'd learned a lot about the way fighters from different countries fight." This is exactly what USA Boxing is hoping. Goldsticker said she was happy that Urbina took the opportunity to learn after his bout.
The Youth National Team is already experiencing a sense of camaraderie. "We took four planes to get there. The travel was exhausting. After the tournament, we stayed awake until Sunday having water fights. We didn't know each other well at the beginning of the tournament, but by the end, we became good friends," said Urbina. Having never traveled outside of the US and Mexico, this was a new and exciting experience for the young fighter.
Urbina, who will be a senior at South Mountain High School, is one five children. His older brothers competed in the amateur ranks, and one eventually had a brief professional career. His older sister, Sulem, competes as an amateur boxer and has her own aspirations of becoming an Olympic medalist. Urbina's mother, he says, is the backbone of his boxing career. "My mom is always at the gym, always at the fights. She drives me everywhere. She loves boxing. She goes to the local press conferences, and to the fights, even when we aren't fighting. "
Tagging along with his brothers to the gym, Urbina began boxing when he was nine years old. After five amateur fights, he teamed up with his current trainer, Andy Soto, with whom he went on to have more than 60 bouts. "Alexis is a very strong and determined boxer, who wants nothing more than to get better and be successful for Team USA, so he can make a name for himself," said Soto. "I believe winning the national tournament and repping USA for the first time has really motivated him and exposed him to what he's capable of accomplishing." Urbina is in good hands with Soto, who was chosen by USA Boxing to be one of four coaches training the fighters in Colorado Springs for this camp, which will include both the Youth and Elite National Teams.
In Rio in 2016, USA Boxing will find out if its plan to expose these fighters to a broader range of fighting styles is successful. Alexis Urbina takes the next step in his pursuit of a gold medal in Rio, when he enters camp next week. The big stage awaits him, and the journey to get there will yield memories to last a lifetime.