Rochester boxer at National Junior Olympics
Nate Burkhalterhas never won a national boxing tournament, but he's come very close. The 16-year-old would like nothing better than to claim his first national title when he competes in the National Junior Olympics.
Burkhalter of Rochester will be fighting in the National Junior Olympics, for boxers 15 and 16, starting today in Mobile, Ala. He is ranked No. 2 in the nation at 139 pounds, but will move up a weight class to fight at 145.
"My goal is definitely to win the whole thing," Burkhalter said. "I've been in six or seven national tournaments and never won, but I've been close."
He's had runner-up finishes at the national level. He had to win the Junior Olympic Regional title in Iowa a month ago to qualify for the National Junior Olympics.
"I'm definitely more dedicated," he said. "I know what it takes. I feel each time I lost (at the national level) I got more dedicated and stronger."
Burkhalter, who stands 5-foot-11, is in his fifth year of boxing. The junior-to-be at John Marshall trains a the Fourth Street Youth Boxing Gym in Rochester. He is at the national tournament with coach Shaun O'Connorof the Fourth Street Gym.
Burkhalter is a four-time silver medalist in national competitions.
"He's a top-ranked fighter, but he hasn't been able to get the gold (at the national level)," O'Connor said. "Getting the gold, that's his goal."
O'Connor has trained a lot of fighters over the years and he likes the skill set he sees in Burkhalter.
"He's one of those kids who's just a natural athlete," O'Connor said. "But he has great dedication. He's one of those kids you have to tell to go home. His work ethic is phenomenal."
Burkhalter has been putting in plenty of work both in and out of the ring lately. He has a boxing and gym training session that will last two and a half to three hours a day. Then he will also add a 4- or 5-mile run later in the day.
"I've been doing a lot more strength stuff," he said.
Burkhalter has also added more running in an attempt to keep his legs strong. He takes a 35-15 amateur record in the National Junior Olympics and he hopes the extra work pays off.
"Probably my jab (is my strength), which has gotten a lot better," Burkhalter said. "And my (punching) speed has increased also. But I've also become more a boxer and less fighter as I've gone along."
Burkhalter can expect a tough challenge at the national event as many of the top boxers in his weight class have qualified.
"He knows most of the guys he's fighting down there," O'Connor said. "There are three or four national champs in his weight class and also the No. 1 seed in his weight class so he's got some stiff competition."
There is also plenty on the line. Each of the 11 weight classes features 14 boxers. The winner of each weight class will earn a spot on the U.S. International Team and will get to travel to about four locations outside of the country for bouts.
O'Connor isn't dismissing Burkhalter's chances to win.
"He's a talented fighter," O'Connor said. "I haven't seen too many kids with his abilities."
Burkhalter is excited about the opportunity.
"I feel focused and ready to go," he said. "You're always a little nervous before you get into the ring. This is my biggest (tournament), but it's very similar to one I just competed in, the National Silver Gloves."
Anyone who wishes to support Burkhalter in his national trip or possible international berth can contact the Fourth Street Boxing Gym at 288-7458.