York City 11-year-old fights toward Junior Olympic nationals
When he was 2 years old, Antwoine Dorm Jr. watched "Rocky."
He'd somehow figured out how to work the DVD player, and he played the Sylvester Stallone movie over and over.
And then he started mimicking the movie's hero, throwing little punches, shadowboxing with the air.
"Everyone used to think it was cute," said his father, Antwoine Dorm Sr. "Now it's becoming a passion."
So his dad started training him. The younger Antwoine — also known as "Mr. Man" — is now 11, and has boxed his way into the Junior Olympic National Championships.
He slugged through first the state championship earlier this year and then the Mid-Atlantic regional championship this month, winning two fights at each. Now it's on to the nationals in Dallas, starting June 26 — if he and his father can raise the money. Via a gofundme page, they had raised $715 as of Friday evening, out of the $5,300 Antwoine Sr. estimates they'll need to go and stay for the week it runs.
At the nationals, Antwoine Jr. will fight against kids his age in his weight class, which is 90 pounds. He beat the best of the state and region in the same class and age — though he has really just been boxing competitively for about a year, his father said.
Antwoine Jr. said he genuinely likes boxing, and aims to keep it up — he'd love to make it a career.
"I like getting my anger out," he said.
He's got it all planned out, up to the time he retires from the sport in his 40s, probably to go into acting, the hope would be, he said. The idea of becoming a preacher also appeals to him, he said.
Right now, Antwoine Jr.'s on a four-fight winning streak through the state and regional championships, which he went into coming off of back-to-back losses. He's 14-4 in his short career, and relishes the fact that during the current hot streak he's avenged both his first and most recent loss.
"I came back," he said.
Mr. Man still loves the "Rocky" movies. His favorite is "Rocky IV" — "The one with Drago," he said after a moment's thought — and he often gets hyped for fights by listening to the soundtrack from "Creed," the latest film in the franchise.
His father insists he only started training Antwoine Jr. when the then-2-year-old was inspired by the movies.
"First thing I teach is footwork," Antwoine Sr. said. "If you don't have balance, you don't have nothing."
The punching comes later, he said.
Antwoine Sr. himself boxed, but he says he always enjoyed the training more than competition. He still enjoys that and loves kids, so creating a boxing gym for kids just made sense, he said. His daughter Adriana — Antwoine Jr.'s twin — is a skilled boxer, too.
The gym, a nonprofit volunteer organization, was lively around 5 p.m. Friday, though the elder Antwoine said it actually was a little quieter than normal. A teenager exercised on a treadmill, throwing light jabs as he jogged before turning 90 degrees and jogging laterally and then a further quarter turn had him jogging backward. In a raised ring, a little kid threw haymakers at an adult's gloved hands.
A few kids were taking a break and chatting, while a few more a little way away sat on folding chairs and did homework.
Antwoine Jr. skipped rope for a bit in the middle of the gym. Then his father put on focus mitts — the broad, flat gloves trainers don to have the boxers punch at — and the two went to work. Antwoine Jr. methodically threw punches at his dad's mitts, the syncopated percussion of glove-on-glove slaps cracking through the gym.
Antwoine Jr. spends two hours a day every day in the gym during the school year, and three hours during the summer, he said.
He runs with the high school track team, his father said, in an effort to "keep his wind." On days when he doesn't work out with them, he runs to and from school at McKinley K-8 on the south side of town. He'd done that the past two days, Antwoine Jr. said. He doesn't mind running, but he doesn't love it, either; for Mr. Man, it's a means to an end: staying at his sharpest as a boxer.
Both Antwoines say Antwoine Jr., whose favorite fighter is Roy Jones Jr., is a flexible boxer; he changes his approach based on who he's fighting. If someone's tentative, he goes aggressive, but if the other boxer is always on the attack, he turns it into a war of attrition.
Leading up to the fight, the younger Antwoine stays pretty unflustered.
"I'm the one who gets nervous," his dad said.
Antwoine Jr. had been experiencing some nerves leading up to the regional fights last week, he said. But that was a feeling that existed only outside the ropes.
"As soon as I got into the ring, it's all calm," he said.