PATERSON, NJ - A recent visit to Woodland Park’s Team Machine Deli found 20-year old John Vallejo busy helping his mother and sister prepare food, serve customers, and more.
His dreams, however, go well beyond the family business. Vallejo, he said, has Olympic gold on his mind.
“Since I first started boxing, it’s always been a dream of mine to go to the Olympics,” Vallejo stated. “When I fought in a tournament, in Utah, I met Olympic boxer Shakur Stevenson. He gave me some tips and told me to never quit trying.”
Stevenson was a silver medal winner for the United States in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
An important step to the world stage, Vallejo recently continued his winning ways having captured the Golden Gloves crown in the 140-pound weight class.
Vallejo recounted that he won his final match by a 5-0 decision, and described it as a “good feeling” when the referee met him at the center of the ring and held his arm up, declaring the Paterson native as the victor.
Not diminishing the challenge he faced in that final fight, Vallejo described that he didn’t feel tired at the end of the match.
“I was well prepared. I had trained six days a week, for four months. I actually knew my opponent and had sparred with him before. He was active throughout the entire match,” the pugilist said, giving an almost punch by punch refresher of the five rounds that lasted the full three minutes apiece. “I kept my foot on the pedal and did not give him any breaks. He was a tough guy.”
Now with East Hanover’s club F.O.E. (Family Over Everything) where he is coached by Roger Chance and regularly spars with Rajon Chance, 18, and Saleen Kelly, 22, Vallejo told TAPinto Paterson that he has stepped up his training, preparing for his next challenge, the New Jersey Diamond Gloves tournament.
In 2018, Vallejo captured the East Coast championship when competing in the same tournament, but this year, he said, he has added strength by wearing a 25-pound vest while training.
Donning the extra weight for running drills, as well as when is hitting the speed and heavy bags, he hopes, will put him in position as a top two place winner, giving him an automatic qualification for the 2020 Olympic Trials.
Recognized recently by the New Jersey Amateur Boxing Association for his competitive prowess, and with the backing of his mother and father whom he credit for “always being there for (him),” Vallejo seems to carry the right attitude to continue on in the sport, perhaps adding his name to the list of legendary local boxers.
For now, Vallejo is on the road to Tokyo 2020.
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