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Orlando High School Boxer Qualifies for U.S. Olympic Trials

The little man who just returned from a run in 95-degree heat has big dreams.

He would like to go to London for the 2012 Olympics, not as a spectator but as a member of the U.S. boxing team. To get there, he will pound away at tires with a sledgehammer, jump rope and punch heavy bags and speed bags in what passes for a gym — his coach’s two-car garage in west Orlando.

In short, Norberto Torres, a rising junior at Orlando University High, will do whatever it takes.

“It will mean everything to make the Olympics,” Torres said. “That would be my No. 1 goal. I’ll be in history if I make the Olympics. They’ll remember me.”

Torres has qualified for the U.S. Olympic boxing trials July 31-Aug. 6 in Mobile, Ala., in the 108-pound division. One boxer, plus an alternate, will qualify for the U.S. team out of each weight class.

Jason Galarza, who, along with Todd Harlib of USA Boxing, has coached Torres, is confident. As the youngest fighter to reach the trials in his weight division, Torres lacks the experience of other competitors, such as three-time USA Boxing national champion Louie Byrd.

Nonetheless Galarza sees intangibles in his 5-foot-3 fighter.

“When I first started coaching him last year, I saw the drive,” Galarza said. “He doesn’t give up. He told me when he first came here, his dream was to go to the Olympic box-offs.

“He is where he wants to be.”

Said Torres: “People say, ‘You’re too small to be boxing. You’re too pretty.’ But they underestimate me.”

Torres first started boxing in the fifth grade, when his family lived in the Pine Hills section of Orlando. His father, Norberto Sr., took him and his two brothers to a gym to learn to defend themselves.

“My dad didn’t want us to be bullied,” Norberto Jr. said. “It was entertaining. I liked the challenge.”

Said Norberto Sr., who boxed while growing up in Puerto Rico. “I knew he would make it. He had that dedication. I told him, ‘Size doesn’t matter.”’

Torres said he has seen Norberto improve significantly since he has worked in Galarza’s garage gym. A single-minded focus allows him to train multiple times a day, several days a week, all with London on his mind.

Erickson Lubin, a rising sophomore at Dr. Phillips, is one of five boxers training with Galaza. He will compete in the Junior Olympic nationals next month in Mobile.

“You can’t really be into other sports,” Lubin said. “It has to be an everyday thing to get to this level. Sometimes it is your only sport.

“After a while, it just comes to you.”

Said Torres: “I’m not nervous about the trials. I’m just getting ready. I think I will be able to qualify. If I don’t make it, I don’t make it, but I will try my hardest.”

Whatever happens at the trials, Galarza does not foresee Torres’ goal changing.

“If he doesn’t qualify for the Olympics, he will stay amateur,” Galarza said. “Four more years of experience, and he will be the No. 1 guy in his weight class.”

Source: Stephen Ruiz, Orlando Sentinel

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