INTRODUCING GARY SALAZAR
By Doveed Linder
In this interview, eighteen year-old amateur Gary Salazar (144-20), a bantamweight (123-pound weight class) from Fresno, California, discusses his background in boxing and his plans for the future.
DL: When did you first put on boxing gloves? How old were you and what were the circumstances?
Gary Salazar: I started in 2000 when I was five years old. My uncle picked me up at my house one day and took me to a boxing gym. Little kids werenít allowed, but I went up to one of the coaches and this kid who was an amateur fighter and asked them if they would work with me. They kind of told me to get the hell out of there, so I cussed them out. As soon as I said that, they sort of looked at each other and they let me stay. My first sparring session was at seven. They did a little exhibition between me and a friend. They let us go about two or three rounds. When I got older, about eight, I did my first amateur fight. Thatís when I started learning how to throw combinations and move my head. And I just got better from there. I donít have a favorite boxer. I like a lot of boxers. I like to take a little from everybody. If I see something Mayweather does or if I see something Pacquiao does, I might try it. I fight both orthodox and southpaw. Iím very good at both. I fought a whole fight before at southpaw (even though heís primarily orthodox). I switched to southpaw, because for some reason I didnít feel like fighting orthodox. I see fighters who sometimes switch too much and they look bad. They look sloppy, but for me, it works.
DL: Give me a synopsis of your amateur career so far.
GS: I had my first amateur fight in 2003 and from there, we started going to all the tournaments. I did the Junior Olympics, but you have to be fifteen or sixteen to go to the nationals (so he only fought locally). I went to a lot of tournaments that I didnít even know what they were. I was just building my fights up and getting experience. In 2007, I won the PAL nationals and that really built my confidence up. Earlier in the year, I fought in the national Silver Gloves and I lost in the finals. Iím actually glad I didnít win that fight because I learned so much. I was eleven or twelve and I always put pressure on people, but he put pressure on me and that taught me to deal with that. I became a better fighter. Ever since I won the PAL tournament, I went to almost every national tournament you can think of and Iíve placed number one in almost all of them, from the national Silver Gloves, to the Junior Olympics, to the open PAL nationals.
DL: What about the Golden Gloves?
GS: The thing is, in 2009 I went to Central America. My parents are from Guatemala and I went over there to check out the boxing scene (this was during the time he would have been eligible for the Golden Gloves). I ended up sparring with the 123 and 132 Olympians and they liked what I was doing. Right now, I just got back from a training camp in Puerto Rico. It was a four-week camp. The head coachís name was Pedro Roque. Heís a Cuban. Heís trained a lot of gold medalists and heís now training the United States Team. I got to see why the Cubans are so good at scoring. The angles that they give kill the US Team. A lot of the Americans have a pro style, but the Cubans have perfected the amateurs. Pedro Roque helped us realize that and heís helping the American amateurs get back on top. In 2012, I went to a tournament and on my second day, I stopped a guy in the third round. I was beating him badly going into the third, but I found out I was actually behind on points! So the amateurs are different than the pros. I ended up losing in the semi-finals of that tournament. I donít like to lose, but I know that it benefits me because I want to get better. You learn more when you lose than when you win. I actually believe Iíve won a lot of the fights that I really lost, but at the end of the day, I have to ask myself if I did my best. And if I did, thatís all that matters to me, regardless of the decision.
DL: Whatís in your boxing future at this time? When do you see yourself turning professional?
GS: If Iím with the right people, I should have a world title in three years. When the time comes to turn pro, Iím going to do it right. Different promoters have said they want to work with me and weíre waiting for the offers. Weíll look at all the offers and weíll take the best one. Iíve been a very big amateur standout every time Iíve fought. I donít know if itís my style or what, but people like to see me. When I turn pro, I know Iím going to be able to sell a lot of tickets. People all over the United States have asked me when Iím turning pro, but Iím not going to rush it. Weíre going to take it step by step.
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