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Nevada Boxers Aiming for Titles

The Nevada boxing club team has a mix of veterans and newcomers as it hosts its first home bout of the season on Friday at the Eldorado Hotel and Casino convention center.

There are 13 bouts scheduled on the card that starts at 7 p.m., with eight Nevada boxers competing against boxers from UNLV, UC Davis, Santa Clara, Cal, Washington and West Point.

Nevada returns Jarred Santos and JJ Mariano, both of whom were runners-up at Nationals last year. Nevada’s Garrett

Felling, who won the national title last year at 185 pounds, has to sit out Friday’s bouts due to a hand injury. He is 10-0 in his college boxing career and is expected to return for Nevada’s next home card on Feb. 13.

Santos and Mariano both want what Felling has, a national title, and both worked over the summer and fall to achieve it this year.

In addition to extra conditioning, time was spent sparring and improving boxing skills.

Mariano, a junior who will box at 144 pounds Friday, said he still gets a little nervous before a fight.

“Nerves never go away, but, at the same time, I’m really excited,” Mariano said. “It’s been a while and I’ve been itching to fight.”

Santos, a senior, said his inside game needed work.

He said rather than backing up during a bout, he is focusing on staying in the middle of the ring and throwing counter punches.

“I’m starting to get a lot more comfortable staying on the inside when I’m fighting. Slipping punches rather than attacking up,” Santos said. “I’ve improved every year, just a little bit each year. All that’s left is to try to win Nationals. That’s what I’ve been striving for since I was a freshman. This is my last year to do it.”

Kirk Johnson and Zack Smith both won in Seattle last week. Johnson raised his record to 2-1 with a unanimous decision over Jamal Johnson, of Air Force.

In his first collegiate bout last week, Smith scored a unanimous decision over Dillon Willis of the Air Force Academy at 156 pounds.

Both will be in action Friday.

Johnson, a senior boxing at 145 pounds Friday, said a team title is a possibility this year.

“This is the best group we’ve had in years. The great thing is everyone is so close. We’re like a real family and we’re all working every day to make sure we get better,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he knows now what it will take to win a national title.

“I have to work a lot harder to achieve my goals. More sprint conditioning, more sparring, just more experience,” Johnson said.

He said adding a variety of punches to his repertoire is also part of his plan.

Regional championships will be in Reno and are scheduled for March 13-14.

Doors open at 6 p.m. Friday and the card starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available through the Eldorado box office online at www.eldoradoreno.com or by calling 775-786-5700.

Source: Jim Krajewski, RGJ

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