Rayonta Whitfield is going back to the National Golden Gloves, and this time he hopes to bring back another belt with an Augusta Boxing Club protégé.
Nicholas Torrance, a senior at Lakeside High School, is the first Augusta Boxing Club fighter to qualify for the nationals since Whitfield won the 106-pound division in 2002. The two-time Georgia Golden Gloves champion at 141 pounds is going in with high hopes.
“I’m expecting Nick to win the tournament,” said Whitfield, now the director of the renowned boxing club on Walton Way.
Torrance has been working with Whitfield at Augusta Boxing Club since he was 10 years old. He started boxing as a way to supplement the mixed martial arts and kick boxing he was already invested in since he was 5 at Gruebel’s MMA off River Watch Parkway.
“I wanted to improve my MMA and kick boxing game and thought it would be a good experience for me,” Torrance said.
“He came in to get his hands together with the other sports and he just stayed in the program,” said Whitfield. “It helps for both because it keeps you in the gym. Days he’s not in here with us he’s at another gym. So he constantly works out whereas some other kids only come in the gym a couple days. Nick stays fit and stays working at his craft.”
It didn’t take long for Whitfield to realize he had another winner in Torrance. While only 5-foot-8 in a “welterweight” class that often produces much taller fighters with longer reaches, Torrance distinguishes himself with power, speed and stamina.
“I kind of always saw the potential,” said Whitfield. “He hardly ever loses a fight. ... He’s a short, stocky kid and loves to draw you in. He’s a good counter puncher. He draws guys in and hits them with a big shot once they fall into his trap. He makes the fight very easy. It comes from that MMA background. He’s a rough fighter. He likes to mix it up with you.”
That style quickly gained notice around the region. When he was only 15, one state boxing writer declared Torrance “the next fight star from Georgia.”
“This kid was born to punch,” John Parks wrote for GeorgiaFighters.com. “He has a ferocity in his fight game that makes his fights exciting and entertaining to watch, very reminiscent of a Mike Tyson fight. That quality alone is what sets him apart from other fighters.”
Torrance set himself apart in decisively defending at the Georgia Golden Gloves to advance to the Southern regionals two weeks ago in Knoxville, Tenn. There, he was part of an unprecedented Georgia sweep of every weight class to advance to the National Golden Gloves this week in Utah.
His victory over Michael Santos, of Alabama, was recognized as the “Best Bout” of the regionals, and Torrance was named the “Best Conditioned Boxer” of the tournament.
Those results have Torrance brimming with confidence as he gets set to leave today for his first open national tournament. The week-long National Golden Gloves wraps up Saturday, and it will take winning five bouts to claim the 141-pound title.
“I’m very excited. I’m ready for it,” Torrance said. “I’m hoping to come back with a belt.”
Having Whitfield’s experience in his corner in Utah should benefit Torrance.
A National Golden Gloves title could be just the start for Torrance’s long-term goals.
While both coach and fighter say they are just taking things day to day, Torrance opted to stay close to home and attend Georgia Regents University Augusta so he can continue working regularly with Whitfield at the Augusta Boxing Club.
“I’d definitely like to win a few national titles and in the long run possibly go pro,” Torrance said. “Taking it fight-by-fight for now until I get college out of the way.”
Within that amateur window, the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, looms as an inviting possibility. Whitfield hoped to be the first Augusta boxer since Vernon Forrest in 1992 to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team, but his quest fell short in 2004.
Torrance will be 21 in three years and at the perfect stage to make an Olympic bid.
“Win this nationals first and then (Olympics) would be a goal,” he said.