ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. -- Abram Martinez has known for years what he wants to do with his life. The 16-year-old boxer wants to fight beneath the brightest lights the sport has to offer.
"My dream is to fight in the Olympics and represent the U.S.A.," he said without hesitation. "I will continue to work harder and train harder until I can hold that gold medal in my hands."
The Rock Springs High School junior is on pace to reach that rare opportunity. He has more than a half-dozen multi-state regional titles and is now preparing for his second trip to the Junior Nationals in Mobile, Ala.
Born in Dallas, but raised in Rock Springs by his parents Guadalupe Delarose and Joaquin Martinez, Abram started working on that dream at age 8. Even then, it was much later than he wanted.
"I wanted to box when I was 6 years old. I saw it and I just loved everything about it, but my mom just told me it was a phase and I would eventually grow out of it and want to do things that the others played," he said. "My mom gave me an awesome birthday present when I turned 8 by signing me up on a boxing team. I haven't stopped since then."
"My great-grandpa fought professional in Mexico where he won a national belt, but he was killed when he was just 22," he tells the Rock Springs Rocket-Miner (http://bit.ly/M3Xox1 ). "The only thing I have to remember him by is a picture of him holding that belt."
Abram's drive to own a national belt has been in the works for eight years and counting.
"I love boxing. It is a sport where you need to have respect and courage," Abram said. "It takes a tremendous amount of conditioning, heart, skill and determination. Boxing isn't a sport; it's a lifestyle."
Because he is one of few boxers around at his age, Abram was once pressured to try another sport so he could compete with friends. He joined the Rock Springs High School wrestling team his freshman year in a journey that only lasted three months.
"My first match I ever wrestled I ended up punching the guy in the face," Abram said of his forfeit. "He asked me 'what was that for?' It was just my reaction. Wrestling is OK, but it was not for me so I didn't do it again after that season."
In the meantime, Abram has developed into one of the country's top boxers. He has won seven state championships, six Wymondak (Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota) regionals titles, took third at the World National Tournament, second at PAL Nationals and has also competed at the Golden Gloves, Silver Gloves and Gene Lewis nationals.
"My mom is my biggest fan," Abram said. "She supports me 100 percent and always tells me that if I truly want my dream to come to reality that it will, but that nothing is free in this world and you have to work hard to earn what you want. My mom is my hero."
Mom, who organizes raffles to help pay for Abram to live out his dream, can also be his worst critic. She made that clear two years ago after a tournament in Rawlins.
"I was beating this guy pretty easy so I didn't fight as hard as I should have because I didn't want to hurt him too bad," Abram explained. "I ended up winning and got a trophy. When we got home from Rawlins, my mom broke my trophy and some of my other ones and was mad at me because I didn't try my hardest. That has never happened again. Sometimes she can be harsh and tells me everything I did wrong until I fall asleep thinking about it, but I love her."
The challenge has been greater the last two years as Abram has been on his own most of the time. His trainer last year quit for personal reasons, leaving the young boxer to work on his own.
It was just another fight Abram found a way to win. Competing at the 132-pound division, Abram qualified for Junior Nationals last year without a trainer.
"I wake up at 5 a.m. Monday through Friday and take a 30-minute jog," He said. "After school I do all my intense training which includes head movement, bag work, weights, flex training, shadow boxing, jump rope, speed bag and sparing. On days that I'm just too tired to do the running part I go swimming to build conditioning."
Dieting is also a big part of Abram's day in maintaining his 5-foot, 6-inch frame. He only eats lean meats and has few carbs and no sugars. Fish, chicken and nutritional supplements are his three best friends.
Things starting looking up for Abram late last year when he met a former heavyweight fighter and former sparring partner of Muhammad Ali. He finally found someone to push him harder after months of training alone.
"We drove to Evanston three nights a week for sure and any another other nights I had free so I could train with him," Abram said with a smile. "He showed me new moves, better punches, faster counter punches. I improved my style and made me a more skilled fighter in just four months. I am so grateful for him."
The long drives and training ended earlier this year when the trainer moved, so Abram was left on his own once again.
Abram resumed his own workout regime and has his sights set on the Junior Olympics in five weeks. He leaves next week for a 20-day boxing camp in Casper before moving on to Alabama for the big finale.
Abram lost by a decision in the quarterfinals at last year's Junior Olympics without a trainer or a coach, but a much different finish is expected this year as he wants knockouts, wins and a title.
"When you knock someone out you are not looking for it, it is just an opportunity you find and take because it may not come back," Abram said. "You have no friends when you are in the ring, so you must be vicious and want to win more than anything in life. My goal this time is not just to win, but to demolish my competition."