HELENA — H-Town Eagles boxer Anthony Espino is working diligently to build on his top-five USAboxing.org ranking, and took steps toward his aspiration of being ranked No. 1 in the country at the USA Boxing sanctioned amateur fight card at the Eagles Lodge on Saturday night in Helena.
Espino, who is ranked fourth in USAboxing.org's poll for age and weight, said he enjoyed the jubilation of winning the event in front of his hometown crowd when he defeated Santino Martinez in the 11-year-old, 95-pound division.
"I had to go my hardest in the events, and it feels good to win a fight, actually," Espino said. "When I have that kind of success, it helps me stay out of trouble. It is fun to be known more (in the community of Helena) and be known as the people's champ. It also feels good to be known nationwide."
The three H-Town boxers — Duran Caferro, Dontae Velarde and Anthony Espino — have all experienced accolades in their young careers, including excelling in the classroom, according to H-Town Eagles coach Duran Caferro Sr.
"They are 11 years old, and all three have been in the gym since they were 5 or 6 years old, in the trenches sacrificing and paying their dues and now they see the results of their hard work," Caferro Sr. said. "I am glad we were able to showcase their talent, skill and the sweet science at their home show. I am proud of all 10 fighters that got into the ring to compete. They all did their absolute best, and can all hold their heads high."
There were four H-Town Eagles — Caferro, Velerade, Oliver Schultz and his sister Ella Schultz —who received $50 for earning straight-As in school.
H-Town's Velarde won his match with Wendell Haakanson in the 11-year-old, 75-pound division.
"Today I was pretty nervous, and I thought I would fight one kid, but I ended up fighting someone else," Velarde said. "I felt a little nervous, and my opponent was excellent. I didn't think he would be as good as he was today."
Dante Vallance, another local boxer who trains at Iron House Boxing Academy in Helena, entered the ring with confidence as he continues to pursue his goal of being a boxer in the professional ranks. Vallance had a split decision against Domenick Klein, who just started his boxing career.
After taking a hiatus from the sport, Vallance is now back and utilizing showcases such as this to continue to get back in shape.
"The first month back, I was tired, but now I am completely healed, my past injuries are healed, and I am doing good," Vallance said.
Contestants traveled from all over the eastern and western portion of Montana to compete in the event.
Butte boxer Ethan Wroblewski was just one of several contestants who poured into the compact Eagles Lodge to compete in Saturday night's boxing showcase.
Wroblewski, a registered Blackfeet tribal member, is ranked in the top-10 in the Youth Men's Division in his weight classification of 141 pounds, and like many youth boxers, has aspirations to fight in more significant events.
Wroblewski and his family were just a few of the hundreds of boxing enthusiasts who packed the Eagles Lodge to near capacity Saturday night.
Wroblewski, whose father Kevin Wroblewski was a four-time Golden Glove boxing champion, began the sport he was introduced to age 13.
"I fell in love with the sport instantly," Wroblewski said. "I just try to get better, and better each day, and learn what I need to improve on."
Ethan Wroblewski, who travels to competitions with his brother Eli, attends as many boxing matches as feasible. Ethan Wroblewski fell in his match to Raven Walker in the 141-pound, 16-year-old division.
"We are trying to get to as many fights as we can, and travel as much as we can," Ethan Wroblewski said. "I love this sport. I keep trying to build a name in this sport, and I continue to train hard every day most of the time."
Eli Wroblewski, like Ethan, has boxed for six years. Eli Wroblewski fell to David Ponce, in the 14-year-old, 132-pound division.
"This sport was just a natural sport because I tried other sports, but boxing just seemed like a natural sport I gravitated toward," Eli Wroblewski said. "I continue to work on my skills, and I think I can improve that."
Eli and his brother also try to represent their Blackfeet Nation when they are fighting at these events. Both competitors have roots in Browning, admitted growing up around boxing and take pride in representing their tribal heritage.
"I try to rep my family and the Blackfeet Nation, and do everything I can to make them proud," Eli said.