Fourteen male and female boxers will represent the Utah-based Rocky Mountain franchise at the Golden Gloves National Tournament of Champions this week in Tennessee.
All 14 have compelling stories to share, but few can say they overcame what Clearfield’s 24-year-old Jon “Bumptime” Bryant did throughout his teenage years to make it to one of the biggest stages in national amateur boxing. On his own since the age of 13, Bryant used boxing to stay on track and avoid trouble.
“I feel like I beat the odds,” Bryant said last week before making his third trip to nationals.
The four-time Utah state champion and three-time regional champ takes a 34-7 amateur record and a whole lot of confidence into the tournament at the Chattanooga Convention Center. He will fight in the 152-pound weight class.
“My first time at nationals [in Louisiana] I felt like I wasn’t really that prepared, because I only went there with 10 fights, and I was fighting guys with 200 fights under their belts,” Bryant said. “The second time [in Nebraska] I felt like I got robbed by a decision out there. This time, I am very confident. I am going to win it this time, for sure.”
Bryant fights out of the Lights Out Boxing Club in Clearfield, where owner Julian Stevens has been his coach the past three years. Stevens also overcame a troubled childhood and several stints in prison to become a success in the local boxing scene.
“He’s a big reason why I’m here,” said Bryant, who took up boxing to stay out of trouble when he moved from Washington to Utah about five years ago.
Bryant now has two children — 3-year-old Nova and 2-year-old Jon Jr. — and is determined to give them the kind of upbringing he never had.
He was raised by his great grandmother, Harriet Wilken, in Bremerton, Wash., until she died in 2007 when he was just 13.
“I have been on my own ever since,” Bryant said, noting how he would jump from one friend’s house to another or simply live in parks, shelters or whatever else he could find.
“Growing up, I kinda had a rough patch,” he said. “I had to figure out some way to stay out of trouble.”
Bryant said his father was in and out of jail and his mother never had custody, so he lived with his great grandmother, who “enjoyed retirement as it gave her more time for raising her great grandson, Jon Jon,” according to her obituary in the Kitsap Sun.
Bryant now develops his boxing skills in between a full-time job, parenthood and training. His days often begin at 6 a.m. and end at midnight, with three hours set aside for training.
“I was planning on turning pro after the Olympic qualifier [last December], but I came up short two nights before the finals,” he said. “So I am going to do the Olympic qualifier again later this year, then turn pro in 2020.”
Bryant is part of a very strong Rocky Mountain team that also features Ogden’s Diego Alvarez, the 2016 national champion in the 114-pound weight division when the championships were held at the Salt Palace Convention Center. Alvarez, 20, is one of the favorites in the 132-pound class in Tennessee.
Highland High graduate Danny Galloway (165) and Herriman’s Toa Piutau (178) could also make deep runs.
The tournament will feature men’s and women’s bouts at the same venue for the second straight year, and five women are part of Utah’s 14-member team. Park City’s Marquenn Vellinga, a 37-year-old mother of two, and defending national champion Kendra Reeves of Twin Falls, Idaho, are seen as the region’s best bets for medals on the women’s side.
Reeves, 25, lost more than 70 pounds after taking up boxing two years ago as a way to get in shape and was ranked No. 9 in the country last May when she upset the No. 1-ranked contender, Stephanie Malone, to win the title at 152 pounds.
Local entrants in national Golden Gloves boxing championships:
112 lbs. • Maryguenn Vellinga, Park City
125 lbs. • Stephanie Mendoza, Salt Lake City
132 lbs. • Jackie Barco, Salt Lake City
152 lbs. • Kendra Reeves, Twin Falls, Idaho
178 lbs. • Madeline Waltman, Salt Lake City
114 lbs. • Matt Searle, South Jordan
123 lbs. • Jay Wright, Salt Lake City
132 lbs. • Diego Alvarez, Ogden
141 lbs. • Felipe Nino, Salt Lake City
152 lbs. • Jon Bryant, Clearfield
165 lbs. • Danny Galloway, Salt Lake City
178 lbs. • Toa Piutau, Herriman
201 lbs. • Juan Higurera, Provo
201+ lbs. • Robert Martinez, Salt Lake City