Ramsey Vesey Jr. and Lalo Ramos began amateur boxing’s tournament season last fall by hatching an inspired plan together.
Pointing to the pictures of the past local champs hanging on the walls at Moline’s Alley Cat Boxing Club, the duo vowed to become the area’s first stablemates to win Silver Gloves national titles in a decade.
That seemingly impossible dream nearly became a reality last month, though, at the 15¬and¬under national tournament in Independence, Mo.
Vesey, a 14¬-year-¬old freshman at Rock Island High School, won the 80¬pound title in the 14¬-15 year-old division.
Ramos, a 13-¬year-¬old eighth grader at Moline’s John Deere Middle School, earned runner-¬up honors in the 12-¬13 year¬-old age bracket’s 100¬pound class.
“It was fun. It was crazy,” said Vesey, whose namesake father started the Rock Island Boxing Club a decade ago. “We were so close. I thought Lalo won. They took it from him.”
Ditto for Ramos, who settled instead for a silver medal before Vesey brought home the gold.
“I was pretty down after the fight,’’ said Ramos, who works out nearly each weekday with Vesey, in a facility-¬and-¬talent sharing partnership with Alley Cat. “Ramsey following with a win, though, helped pick me up.’’
Vesey is the first boy in the Illinois Quad¬Cities to win a Silver Gloves national crown since current pro Joe Perez (in 2004) and Jesse Correa Jr. (2005) won in back¬to¬back years.
“That’s a great feeling being in that company, especially since those guys used to train with us when we were younger,’’ said Vesey, who started boxing at age 5. “I kept telling my coaches and everybody I ran into I was going to win. So when I finally got in the ring, I didn’t want to let anybody down, especially Lalo. His (decision) had me very focused and very motivated.’’
Both local boxers took different paths to the finals.
Ramos faced a full bracket of fighters, needing to win quarterfinal and semifinal bouts just to reach the championship. Vesey opened with a pair of byes, though that hardly made his journey easier..
“I’d eaten a lot of junk the week before, so when we finally got there, I was a pound or two over,’’ Vesey said. “So that whole weekend I was working out to drop the weight.
“I had to wait a couple of days before fighting, and that was tough sitting there, and not really eating. I’m glad it didn’t hurt me too much. I really wanted to fight right away and get the nerves out.’’
The national tournament appearance was the third for both, with the title assuring Vesey the No. 1 national ranking until next year’s Silver Gloves event, his last before entering the Golden Gloves, potentially against grown men.
Ramos also moves up an age bracket, with two years left in his Silver Gloves career, after advancing in successive seasons from the quarters, to the semis now finally the finals.
“Now, I only have one more step left to take,’’ Ramos said. “It hurt, but it gives me things to work on for next year. It makes me even hungrier, even more motivated now.
“The kid in the finals was waiting for me to (punch) first, and then he was counter punching me. I still thought I was more active and landing more solid blows. He was throwing one punch at a time. But now, I know I have to move more when that happens again.’’
Now, Ramos and Vesey are preparing for the Junior Olympics in June, with the two trying to spar with each other every day despite their size differential.
“It helps us both,’’ Ramos said. “He’s smaller and quicker, so that helps me learn how to fight somebody with a lot of speed. I’m bigger and have more power, so that gets him used to fighting taller guys.’’
The duo hope their daily duels lead to pro careers someday, as well as more moments like last month when Vesey shared his success with anybody he could think of, starting with a call to his mother Angela in Texas.
“All of the car rides, all of the miles we run, all of the workouts we’ve shared basically year round,’’ Vesey said, “all of the sacrifices we’ve made have been worth it.’’
Photo by Luis Lara