Johnson City Athletic Club boxer Ty Breland will compete in the Silver Gloves regional in Little Rock, Ark., this week. (Trey Williams / Johnson City Press)
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Ty Breland would be excited about boxing in Little Rock, Ark., even if it wasn’t for a regional Silver Gloves title.
Bouts are hard to come by for the 5-foot-9, 225-pound 14-year-old, and any official competition is exhilarating.
Breland, who lives in Elizabethton, and fellow Johnson City Athletic Club boxer Nolan Peck will compete this week in the Silver Gloves regional (Jan. 15-18).
Breland advanced unopposed through the district on Dec. 28 in Nashville. Jonesborough’s Peck, an 80-pound 11-year-old, defeated Chattanooga’s Paul Fripps in Nashville.
The JCAC’s Malik Bowman also won the district, defeating Nashville’s Jared Ortiz, but won’t compete in Little Rock.
Boxing was love at first sight for Breland, who is also a rising freshman lineman in the Hampton football program. But at his size and age, opponents aren’t easily locatedin the ring. Breland is 5-2 in four years, and three of those bouts were against Caleb Clay (Huntsville, Ala.).
“The first thing I really wanted to do was box,” Breland said. “Dad used to box for Cob Riddle, and when I was about four or five he started showing me jabs and everything. And after that I watched ‘Rocky’ and that’s what I really wanted to do.”
The clincher was seeing a local card at David Crockett High School.
“I remember Charlie Watson was the last fight,” Breland said, “and that’s the one that made me really want to start, because he came out and I remember he was wearing camouflaged trunks and it was a really good fight. I really wanted to do it after that. ... I was either nine or 10 years old.”
Breland told his father, Mart, he wanted to begin boxing, and soon he was training under JCAC coach Scott Vance. The veteran Vance said he was burned out before Breland, whose passion for the sport has given Vance a second wind.
“He loves boxing,” Vance said. “He works hard. He’s dedicated, disciplined. He’s a kid that’s a student of the game. He watches tapes.
“His daddy will call and say, ‘You know what he’s doing? He’s watching Mike Tyson … and Roy Jones Jr.’ It’s funny seeing a kid that’s 14 years old, and Roy Jones Jr. and Tyson are pretty much in the generation before him.”
Breland doesn’t view video solely for entertainment. The crowding Peek-a-Boo style of Tyson and others such as Floyd Patterson, Jose Torres and Tommy Morrison best suits the short-armed Breland.
“We look at a lot of Tyson tapes on YouTube,” Vance said, “and we’re trying to copy the Peek-a-Boo style of Cus D A’Mato with Tyson, because he’s’s a short heavyweight. Ty can move his head Peek-a-Boo style throwing a lot of uppercuts. I’m teaching him how to do the angles. ... He’s coming along really good with that style and it’s natural for him.”
Vance said it’s frustrating not finding more fights for Breland, but sparring with the likes of Jake Robbins and Mitchell Bright, as well as middle-aged men such as Larry Hardin and Angel Ramirez, have aided development.
“Mitchell’s a lot taller and lankier, and most of the guys I fight are gonna be taller than me,” Breland said. “And I’m not gonna fight anybody as fast as Jake is right now.”
Peck has a 12-7 record. He’s been boxing two years at the JCAC, though he’d been doing it on his own prior to that.
“Playing video games got me into it,” Peck said. “I was in second grade and I got some boxing gloves one day.”
Vance said Peck is a hard worker. Peck’s workload includes working out with Bowman.
“I like sparring with Malik,” Peck said. “He’s pretty challenging for me, because he’s a lot taller and that’s like the people I’m gonna usually be facing.”
Peck’s favorite victory might’ve been his third career bout.
“I won by eight-count in Crossville,” Peck said. “That was pretty cool.”
Beating Brice Clark at the Legion Street Rec in the Bobby Hughes Classic in 2012 was also gratifying.
Oscar Padilla (San Antonio) is expected to be the top competition for Peck in the Silver Gloves regional, which includes fighters from Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Another San Antonio product, Daniel Gonzalez, will be a favorite in Breland’s bracket.
“But Ty and Nolan will have a chance,” Vance said, “if they do their best.”