In only a year at the Augusta Boxing Club, Justin Deloach has figured out exactly what it takes to compete in the ring.
On Friday night, in front of his family and friends, his trainer, professional boxer Ray Whitfield, and even his seventh-grade teacher, he showed just how far he's come.
Deloach punched his way to a tight, semifinal victory over Felix Rodriquez in the fifth annual Ringside/Comcast Junior National Boxing Classic, which features 121 junior boxers from 19 states competing at May Park Gymnasium.
Deloach advanced to tonight's championship match in the 13- and 14-year old, 106-pound weight class.
"Everyone told me that I had heart, and I think I showed it," Deloach said.
"I was just trying to make my mom proud," he said.
The successful night came as no surprise to his teacher, Jason Medlin, who was in attendance filming the victory.
"Justin is respectful, intense. He brings the discipline and respect he's learned here into everything he does," Medlin said.
One of the most avid onlookers was fellow club member Roman Pulley.
The 13-year-old, who typically trains with older, more experienced fighters, took the loss against Washington D.C.'s Dusty Harrison, regarded by many in attendance as one of the night's most polished boxers.
"This was the toughest fight I've had. He was fast," Pulley said. "Fighting here in Augusta is great because it's always competitive, and I always get to fight when we have these events. It's exciting having everyone here."
In the 70-pound weight class, 9-year-old Doctress Robinson lost a tough battle with Pennsylvania's Justin Emrick.
But Doctress' father, Lucius, was beaming with pride at the way his son fought in only his fifth-career bout.
"The most important thing is that I could tell he was having fun," Lucius Robinson said.
Reach Justin Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.