For the second year in a row, being healthy proved to be a winning strategy for Erik Rogers even though the Buffalo super heavyweight would have preferred to have earned his way to nationals.
The 27-year-old will be among the New York State Golden Gloves open-class champions to test their boxing mettle against the United States’ best next month in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the National Golden Gloves Tournament.
Rogers earned another trip to nationals because his scheduled bout against Pat Thompson got scrapped when the 30-year-old Thompson pulled out of the tournament because of a knee injury.
“I don’t like anything given to me,” said Rogers, who represented the state at nationals last year when an injury prevented champion Drew Graziadei from attending the tournament.
“I hate when there are walkovers, but this kind of thing happens in amateur sports. I would like to have earned it.”
Rogers will take the trip to Salt Lake City, though, as he is one of just two Western New Yorkers to punch their tickets to nationals, which start May 13. He’ll be joined on the state caravan by Niagara Falls’ Ezra Scott, a former three-sport athlete at Niagara Catholic who captured the heavyweight title the same way Rogers did Saturday, via walkover.
An estimated crowd of 500 watched Saturday’s 16-fight card at The Tralf, as eight boxers from throughout the state, excluding the New York City area, earned state titles in novice, sub-novice and open classes.
Only open-class champions advance to nationals.
Two youths — Buffalo’s Marcus Floyd and Niagara Falls’ K-Shawn Agee — also earned state titles as their Junior Olympic bouts were part of the card that included six match bouts where nothing but pride was on the line.
The area could have had a third representative in Salt Lake City, but the 114-pound open bout between Jake Ventry of Niagara Falls and Buffalo’s Josh Perez got canceled as Ventry failed to make weight while Perez didn’t show up — missing a chance to win the title via walkover.
The state Golden Gloves Tournament took place over four monthly cards that began in January with some state champions crowned prior to Saturday night’s finals due to the number of entries in various divisions.
The only time Rogers set foot in the ring Saturday was to accept his first open-class championship trophy with the rest of the tournament’s champs.
Thompson, who beat Graziadei on the first night of the tournament back in January, said via phone he suffered a torn meniscus four weeks ago. The injury failed to heal sufficiently enough for the construction worker, who won a light heavyweight Gloves title as a novice three years ago, to give it a go Saturday.
“It’s very disappointing,” Thompson said. “I felt I had the edge on winning the tournament and going to nationals.”
The fight no one got to see would have been an intriguing one as the 6-foot-1 Thompson is a straight-ahead style boxer who likes to work inside against his opponents, while 6-3 Rogers is a more skilled fighter who likes to use his jab and take advantage of his reach.
“We were really looking forward to that fight,” state Golden Gloves president Don Patterson said. “It was going to be a very challenging fight.”
Buffalo 141-pounder Dante Palmer, the 2009 open Gloves champ at 123 pounds, lost his bid to return to nationals as he dropped a decision to hard hitting Will Madera of Albany. Palmer absorbed some hard shots, ducked many of them and had some decent punching exchanges with Madera. Madera landed more body blows, especially during the decisive third and final round, to win his second title in three years at 141.
“He’s a hard puncher,” said Palmer, who lost via first-round stoppage in last year’s state final to current unbeaten professional Emanuel Colon. “He was wearing me down but I stood in there. … I did a lot better than last year.”
Agee won his second straight Junior Olympic title, this time in the 15-year-old, 138-pound division via third-round stoppage of Luis Alvarado of Rochester. He put Alvarado down with a left-cross, right-hook combination to take the decision out of the judges’ hands and earn a spot in regionals May 30-June 2 in Lake Placid.
“It feels better than I expected it to be,” said Agee of the championship moment. “Being a part of the card is a really big step in my life. ... This is maybe the point where I can show people I’m a good boxer and can go pro someday.”