MOUHAMED GAYE started boxing two months ago. On Sunday he picked up a state title.
The youngster’s unexpected success capped a big night for the White Gum Valley gym owned by former bodyguard to the stars Riccardo Monteleone. Its fighters took out four gold medals in Boxing WA’s novice championships.
Monteleone, a former champ of the ring, says his new protege has incredible natural talent and likens his style to that of Muhammad Ali, but with the ability to swap between southpaw and orthodox stances.
He finished off his opponents in just the second round of both the semis and the final.
Also on the winners’ podium at the North Fremantle Croatian club were Jonathan Ru, Raymond Gamble and Jackson Bartle, who at 13 years old was the gym’s youngest competitor, and in the 48kg section.
For Jonathan, the night was particularly emotional. “I lost my fight last year, so for the whole year I fought for this one moment,” he says. “My parents said I had to stop and focus on my studies, so I really wanted to win this one.”
Dad Philip says his initial fears about letting his son get into the ring were KO’d once he saw him train with Monteleone.
“As parents, particularly with teens, it is hard to motivate them, so watching the coach motivate them I have learned a lot,” Mr Ru says, adding his son is up at the crack of dawn, running almost every day in preparation for his bout.
He says it’s far healthier for teens to get into boxing than hang about the streets, and Jonathan’s boxing experience has helped him see off a couple of bullies without having to fight.
Monteleone says giving kids a good start in life motivated him to offer them free access to his gym, now tucked in behind Starland Video on South Street.
“It’s about teaching them discipline, respect and positive thoughts,” he told the Herald. He says he tries to make boxing so enticing for kids that parents can use it as a tool to keep them focused on their studies: “a tool for good.”
But the Australian Medical Association disagrees, and wants all children under 18 banned from the sport.
by STEVE GRANT