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13-year-old wins Silver Gloves
(Published February 21, 2005)

Staff Writer

When 13-year-old Shaborn Ryals saw his uncle training boxers at a local gym, he knew boxing was something he wanted to try.

A year later, Ryals brought home his second national boxing championship trophy, after winning the 2005 National Silver Gloves tournament earlier this month.

The Silver Gloves, held Feb. 2-5 in Independence, Mo., brought together about 500 young fighters, ages 10 to 15, from across the country. At the event, separate tournaments are held for each of 12 different weight classes in three divisions: Junior, ages 10-11; Intermediate, ages 12-13; Senior, ages 14-15. Second-place finishers receive a medal and first-place finishers receive a trophy, jacket, belt, medal and top-ranking in the nation.

Ryals, in his first Silver Gloves appearance, won the Intermediate Division for the 112-pound weight class.

Local boxers Patrick Harris, 10, and Antonio Jones, 13, also competed in the event, fighting in the semifinals of the Junior Division's 65-pound weight class and the preliminaries of the Intermediate Division's 90-pound weight class, respectively.

Ryals, Harris and Jones are all members of "The Headbangers," a D.C. youth boxing team coached by Barry Hunter that trains at Bald Eagle Recreation Center in Southwest Washington.

This may be the best effort that I've ever seen from one team," Hunter said of the athletes' performance at the Silver Gloves.

The three were among 24 youths to attend the event from the Potomac Valley Association, the governing body for youth boxing in Montgomery County and Prince George's County in suburban Maryland and in the District.

Boxers must first win in a series of local and regional tournaments before advancing to the national competition. Winners of the local competition, held at the Sugar Ray Leonard Gymnasium in Palmer Park, Md., advanced to the regional tournament, held Jan. 6-8 in Augusta, Ga.

Hunter said competition at the Silver Gloves is "so fierce" that simply getting there is an accomplishment. To win, he said, is "just a bonus."

The Silver Gloves victory is Ryals' second national championship. He also won the Ringside Tournament in Augusta, Ga., last June.

Sometimes, outside I'd fight a lot," Ryals said, when asked why he started boxing. "I thought I would do something positive with the fighting."

The eighth-grader at Johnson Junior High School has been boxing since September 2003 and has been able to defeat competitors more experienced than he, Hunter noted. His opponent in the Silver Gloves championship was from California, the source of the team's toughest competition. Ryals said he was able to defeat the left-handed fighter by throwing a lot of right-handed punches.

Fighters like him only come around once in a lifetime," Hunter said of his athlete.

Since he started the team in 1993, Hunter said The Headbangers have won close to 60 national titles in "every major national tournament in the United States," including 10 Silver Glove titles. This year's Silver Gloves marks the first time in three years the team has competed in the tournament, last winning in 1999.

Other competitions in which the team has placed on top include the National Junior Golden Gloves, the Mayor's Cup, the National Police Athletic League (PAL) Boxing Championships, the Women's National Championships, the USA Boxing Championships and the National Junior Olympic Championships.

The Headbangers are training for their next competition, the Black Gloves, to be held in Texas in July.

Hunter said he loves challenging the kids he works with, hoping they "go out and be the best they can be." He boasts about the talent and ambition that radiate from the athletes he coaches.

Of the three who competed in the Silver Gloves, he called Jones the "soul" of the team, saying that of the younger athletes, he was "an extremely, extremely tough competitor." Jones, a seventh-grader at Kingsview Middle School in Germantown, Md., said he wanted to box since he was 7 and watched his 15-year-old uncle train in the gym.

Jones competed in the Silver Gloves during the team's last showing at the competition three years ago. To be as young as he is, "his knowledge of the game really, really exceeds his age, big time," Hunter said.

Harris, a fourth-grader at Friendship-Edison Public Charter School who likes to play video games, follows a legacy of gifted boxers. His father competed on the U.S. National Team, Hunter said, and his uncles, Anthony and Lamont Peterson, competed in the 2004 Olympic trials.

The coach said that "skillwise," Harris "may be better than both his uncles and his father," possessing a sense of control that is beyond his age. "You don't see 10-year-olds picking and choosing their shots" like he does, he said.

Both Jones and Harris are ranked third in the nation in their classes.

About 40 or 50 youths between the ages of 8 and 18 frequent the gym at Bald Eagle Recreation Center to practice boxing, many coming from poorer neighborhoods and "broken homes," said Hunter, a D.C. native who lives in Fort Washington, Md.

They didn't have a whole lot of nothin', but in the gym they found a whole lot of somethin'," he said.

Copyright © 2005 The Common Denominator