SALEM - Six months ago, Zachary Daniels took up the sport of boxing. On Saturday, the 2011 West Branch graduate will compete in one of the biggest amateur tournaments in Ohio when the Cleveland Area Golden Gloves gets underway this weekend at Brook Park Recreation Center.
"I started boxing in late September, so it's been a little over six months now," Daniels said. "During high school, I was always competitive in sports, and I knew a few guys who had boxed at the Salem club and said great things about the Christian atmosphere. So after I graduated I decided to give it a try and have loved it ever since."
Daniels took to the sport quickly. A natural athlete - he recently won the Salem Community Center Triathlon in record-setting pace - Daniel showed immediate talent in the ring. His athletic ability and swift feet help, as does his physical endurance gained as a cross country runner, but as it turns out, Daniels packs quite a punch quite literally.
"He's a small guy," said trainer and co-owner of the Salem Boxing Club Ron Jackson. "He's 6-foot-1, but he's only 152 pounds. He's slim, but he has a very, very powerful punch. Zach is a very good athlete with a very good punch."
Daniels will begin the Golden Gloves with a 152-pound quarterfinal on Saturday. His opponent is William Trommel of the Empire Boxing Club out of Cleveland.
Jackson is hoping that first bout is a fast one.
"I want him to get it over with quick," Jackson said. "Of course, I want him to win, but we're also praying that nobody gets hurt. I just want him to do his best. I have no doubt that he will. He's just so excited to get out there. I want Zach to win it all. He's been training so hard and he deserves it."
Daniels is also hoping for a victory, but more than anything wants to box his heart out and leave it all in the ring. What happens happens.
"This weekend, I obviously want to come home with a win," he said, "But as long as I fight the best fight I know I'm capable of and leave nothing up to what could have been, I know I'll come home proud."
As for Jackson, he's already proud.
"Zach's special," Jackson said. "They're all special. When they're in the club or in the ring, they're like my children. But Zach, I see so much of myself in him. He's a good Christian boy with a bit of a wild side. Yeah, he's a good boxer, but you know what? He's a great kid. He brings two younger boys to practice with him every week and you can tell they really look up to him. He's a great, great role model and no matter what, he's already a winner."
Four other boxers will represent the Salem Boxing Club at the Golden Gloves, but have already advanced to next week's semifinals. Salem's super heavyweight Derek Hale will take on the winner of Daniel Rosa (Ohio City) and Alante Green (Empire), Hanoverton's Justin Zehentbauer will take on Ryan Wiegand (Against The Ropes) at 178 and Salem's Zach Siefke will face Jon Sikula at 165. In novice action, heavyweight Ben Black of Hanoverton will face Kato Montgomery (Untouchables Boxing Club). The amateur tournament will begin today with preliminary bouts. Quarterfinal fights will be held on Saturday. Advancing boxers will move on to the semifinals on April 14. Finals will follow April 21. All sessions begin at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are $20. Children 12 and under are $10.