BEST LOCAL BOXER
BEST LOCAL BOXER James Abdullah Shortly after dusk inside Allapattah's Teo Cruz Boxing Gym, manager Pedro Valerio is busy assisting black and Hispanic boys and men in their bids to master the sweet science. Skinny lightweight and middleweight contenders from Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and other Latin American nations methodically pound at punching bags that are patched with duct tape. Two Puerto Rican kids, one no older than ten, the other a whisker shy of twelve, clutch and swing at each other inside the main ring. Just outside the ring a chiseled black warrior works on his hand speed, jabbing lightning-fast punches into an invisible opponent. He is James Abdullah, a rugged 22-year-old pugilist from Overtown who wants to be the next Roy Jones, Jr. "If he keeps doing what he's doing, he'll be a world champ," Valerio says. "He's got the speed, the size, the skills." The 175-pound light-heavyweight has been tearing up Florida's amateur boxing circuit. Abdullah's record stands at 12-4. Last year the slugger was crowned Golden Gloves champ of his weight class. "I was into a lot of stuff out in the streets until Valerio let me join his gym for free five years ago," Abdullah recalls. "I haven't stopped boxing since. Now I want the fame, the glory, and everything professional boxing can offer."
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