Home / News / Young Apopka boxers look to make their mark at Golden Gloves

Young Apopka boxers look to make their mark at Golden Gloves

Jul 21, 2023Jul 21, 2023

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — An Apopka family is preparing two of its young boxers for the National Junior & Youth Golden Gloves in Orlando.

The Leija family has been boxing since 2020.

Diego, Juan-Diego and their three little brothers wake up at 4 a.m. to train with their mom, Roxanna.

Roxy Leija keeps Diego and his four brothers hungry for what has become a way of life and turned into a passion.

“It’s hard, I know that,” Roxy said. “But I teach them to stay strict. Structure, it’s good for them. Rules, consistency, that’s where discipline grows."

After training in the morning, the family heads home for chores and a snack. Before noon, they head to Sohk Gym in Casselberry, where two of the Leija boys are preparing for the 2023 National Junior & Youth Golden Gloves. Diego and Juan-Diego will compete in the event at the Caribe Resort from Aug. 6-9, the first time it has been held in Orlando since 2019.

Hard work, discipline and passion are necessary to become a champion boxer. Diego, 14, and Juan-Diego, 11, are some of the most dedicated in their age group.

“Some of my friends think it’s easy and I work too hard,” said Diego as he packed up his workout gear. “But I don’t mind it. I know I need to wake up, work hard and stay consistent to be the best.”

Originally, boxing was just a way for the children to stay active.

“One summer I went to Texas with my uncle, and he was showing us techniques and boxing videos," Diego said. "When I got home, my dad put me into it for fitness, and then I just found a passion for the sport.”

That got his brothers interested, too.

And it's not just how the family trains. The Leijas are mindful of how the boys fuel their bodies.

Protein shakes are a staple.

“I’m grateful that I can give this to my kids,” Roxy said. “Is it hard? Yes, but I know they will not only be healthy now, but in the long run.”

It's not easy being a champion. They must sacrifice for their reward.

“No matter win or lose, stay consistent and keep going,” Juan-Diego said, getting ready to spar. “But I’ve been working for this, and I’m just happy to get in the ring.”

Diego knows there is a lot at stake, with young boxers coming from all over the world for the Junior Golden Gloves, including more than 120 from Florida. But he already has a winner's mentality.

“I’ve been working on my technique, my footwork," Diego said. "So I’m just gonna go in there and win a title to show that I’m the best not only in Florida but in the world.”