ST. GEORGE – Ropati “Pano” Tiatia returned victorious from the 2012 Junior Golden Gloves National Championship in Mesquite, Nevada Saturday night, carrying another title belt and his head held high.
This win marks the 15-year-old Pine View High School student’s sixth consecutive national title; he captured his first in 2007 and has been unstoppable since then with a 55-10 overall record. And while this is not the first (or last) victory in his career, it is definitely one of the most memorable, as he was competing in the heavyweight division for the first time.
Pano faced 16-year-old Darmani Rock of Pennsylvania, who at 6-foot-3-inches, 225 pounds, appeared to have a clear physical advantage. Throughout the fight, which lasted all three allowed rounds, both teenagers landed vicious blows that may have toppled lesser competitors.
“(It was) very tough, but (Pano) came out on top,” said Paki Tiatia, Pano’s father and coach. “It looked like a David-and-Goliath fight and seeing the smaller guy taking care of business with the art and sweet science of boxing made it even more special.”
“Before I get in the ring, it is my strategy (to envision) that the fight is over and the outcome is in my favor,” Pano said. “Then all I have to do is fulfill it. You have to be confident in this sport; if you’re prepared you (will) not fear.”
A support group of over 200 was in attendance, including Pine View football coach Ray Hosner. Both a friend and mentor to Pano, Hosner said Pano faced this fight with the same steely determination that makes him successful in his other athletic endeavors.
“This guy is a true warrior, both in the ring and on the field,” Hosner said. “Where most would be scared, he just goes in there knowing he’s gotta knock the other guy around. He’s a champion.”
Both happy and humbled by the experience, Pano said there is no time to dwell on the victory. Now that the nationals are over, he will return to football this fall, rugby next spring and then begin training for the 2013 Junior Olympics. He also invited everyone who enjoyed the fight to follow his life and career on his personal webpage.
“I want to thank my fans and all those (who support) me, especially my family, who have made a lot of sacrifices to help me get to this point,” he said. “All glory to the Almighty first for allowing me to do what I do. With God on my side, I believe everything is possible (for me).”
View the full fight here
Copyright 2012 St. George News.