The journey to championship glory in boxing can be quite arduous, and that trip for Destyn and Trevon Hopkins begins most days on a bus.
Six times a week, the Niagara Falls High School students make the trip to Buffalo via public transportation to meet their father/coach Terry. Terry Hopkins Jr. picks them up at the bus stop, shuttles them over to a nearby fitness center where they engage in workout sessions that can last anywhere from 3 to 4 hours.
The brothers admit that sometimes they do get tired of the long days, but it’s in those moments that they reach down and focus on the task at hand. Boxing is not just some passing fancy for these teens. It’s what they want to do some day for a living. They both want the honor of representing Old Glory at the Olympics.
Both have shown recently that they may have the talent to make some noise in a sport where dreams often go unfulfilled.
Destyn, 14, and Trevon, 17, padded their resumes recently with eye-catching triumphs and hope to ride that momentum toward making names for themselves on the national and world level.
Destyn won his first Ringside World Championship earlier this month at a tournament that drew more than 1,600 competitors. Destyn earned his title belt in the boys intermediate open division 119-pound class for his age group by earning a decision in the final against Jose Camacho on Aug. 2 in Independence, Mo.
Destyn’s crowning glory came roughly six weeks after Trevon showed him the way by claiming his first championship at a major event. Trevon won the 141-pound title in his age group at the Paul Murphy Nationals in Doraville, Ga., which is near Atlanta.
For Trevon, his triumph came nearly nine months after a runner-up finish at the National PAL Tournament and a couple other close calls where he came out on the short end of the judges’ decisions.
Let’s make one thing clear. These wins alone won’t lead to Rio, but the teens now have an idea of what it takes to win on an elite stage – and that’s a good first step.
“We need to keep winning. That’s the goal, to keep winning,” said Terry Hopkins. “We know it’s not easy. ... The political aspect,” in the sport, “is tough, but he won a world tournament, so people know who Destyn is. Trevon won in Atlanta, and people were talking big about him in Atlanta. They’re starting to get in there where people are noticing him.
“You have to at least make it to the championship or win it for people to recognize you. ... I can say on that note we’re blessed because we’ve made it to a few championships.”
Both were expected to return to the ring this weekend at the second of two Paul Murphy Nationals in Georgia, but Trevon will miss the two-day event, which concludes Sunday, with a shoulder injury – the same ailment that prevented him from fighting earlier this month at the Ringside World Championship.
While the injury has blunted Trevon’s momentum, he’s not bitter.
“A little bit disappointed, but I know I’ll get in the ring soon,” said Trevon, who has been boxing for 11 years. “You don’t want to go into the ring unprepared. I’m a little disappointed, but I know what’s needed to win. If I trained my butt off and then couldn’t fight, then I’d be really mad.”
Trevon showed what can be accomplished when a boxer is mentally and physically at tip-top shape in June. He cited that as being a big reason why he won at the Paul Murphy nationals, a tournament that drew more than 500 competitors in various divisions. Trevon beat the pre-tournament favorite via decision.
“Can’t really explain it,” said Trevon when he heard his name announced as champion. “I was filled with joy. I couldn’t believe it at first. I just thought back at all the training I did. ... I was happy, thank God.”
“He basically outclassed the kid ... but he’s done that before and they’ve taken it from him,” said Terry Hopkins, noting that some judges are more likely to give a boxer they’re familiar with a little more leeway for being off his game while scoring a bout than they are to give credit to boxer they don’t know.
The one who perhaps benefitted most from Trevon’s win though was Destyn.
Destyn, a confident and very skilled boxer, didn’t do as well as he had hoped at the Paul Murphy event because he slacked off a bit during his training. (Both Terry and Trevon warned him during training, too.)
Slacking is something Destyn didn’t do in the weeks leading up to the Ringside World Championships.
“He worked harder because he saw I worked hard to win the title,” Trevon said of the impact his win had on his brother.
“Losses are good, to me, in some sense because it makes them work harder,” Terry Hopkins said. “When you have raw talent, you don’t think you have to work. They need to know that there’s other guys out here just as talented. If they work harder than you, they’re going to put out more than you.”
Trevon learned how to box because he kept getting into fights against kids who picked on him when he was little. His first reaction to being picked on was to use his fists, something he was good at, instead of turning the other cheek.
As a way of trying to keep him out of schoolyard scraps – Terry began training him so that he could learn the discipline of controlling his anger and emotions.
Destyn accompanied the two to these workouts and showed interest in wanting to learn about the finer points of the sweet science as a 2-year-old. He’s been training 11 years.
While having a father as a coach can be quite challenging, the trio finds ways to lighten the mood at the gym during training (unless it’s the final days leading up to a big fight or tournament, in which Terry is all business – something the kids still are getting used to).
“When it’s fun there’s a better bond,” said Trevon, noting that all three also enjoy going to the movies.
It’s also fun when they’re winning, something Destyn wants to do this weekend.
He’s been working hard since winning his world title belt.
While being the hunted is part of the reason he’s been busy training, Destyn has more selfish reasons for putting in some more time on the heavy bag, for running that extra mile, for working on his technique via shadow boxing.
“It’s worth it,” he said. “I want to keep winning. It makes me want to work harder now that I know I can win” a world title.