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West Valley City's Isaac Aguilar is getting a second chance this week at the Golden Gloves National Tournament of Champions boxing tournament, and so far, he's making the most of it.
Aguilar, who turns 24 on Monday, defeated Sharone Carter of St. Louis in razor-close bout on Wednesday night at the Salt Palace Convention Center. Judges scored the bout 3-2 in Aguilar's favor, and when the referee raised Aguilar's hand at center ring, both boxers appeared surprised.
"I thought he had the edge," Aguilar acknowledged.
So the spunky 123-pounder moves on in his sixth national Golden Gloves tournament to Thursday's quarterfinals, hoping to leave amateur boxing with a coveted national title before turning pro this summer.
"Me just being here is a miracle," Aguilar said after the bout that was viewed by his mother, his two sisters and plenty of cousins and friends. "I wasn't supposed to be here, but because of certain circumstances, I was able to come."
That "miracle" occurred after the boxer who defeated Aguilar in the Utah state tournament and went unopposed in the Rocky Mountain region tournament, Alan Leyba, failed to produce documentation that he is a United States citizen, a requirement for the Golden Gloves nationals since 2010.
Working 50- and 60-hour weeks for Coca-Cola, Aguilar said he didn't train much before losing to Leyba, but has "hit the gym hard" the past few weeks under the tutelage of longtime local trainer Rick Montoya since learning about his second chance.
"I never doubted my abilities," he said, fighting back tears. "I was just worried about my conditioning, being so busy with work and everything."
Also moving on to the quarterfinals is West Jordan's Larry Gomez, who looked especially sharp in a 5-0 win over Steven Cardenas of Texas in a 152-pound bout. Backed by a boisterous crowd of family and friends, Gomez was more patient than he was in Tuesday's opening-round win, and set the tone early with some wicked body blows that stunned the previously undefeated Texan.
"I am ready to take this whole thing," Gomez said. "I am ready for tomorrow. We will do better. We will be ready."
It was a great night for Utah boxers, as Jesse West of Fruit Heights knocked down California's Jose Medrano in the third round, causing the referee to stop the contest.
123 pounds • Isaac Aguilar, West Valley City, dec. Sharone Carter, St. Louis
152 • Larry Gomez, West Jordan, dec. Steven Cardenas, Texas
201-plus • Jesse West, Fruit Heights, def. Jose Medrano, California, RSC
Full results in Scoreboard.