Ortega shows potential in boxing tournament

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

It didn’t take long after Angel Ortega walked into his boxing gym for trainer Shiney Burns to recognize that he had a fighter with plenty of potential.

After a few workouts at the Shinehead Boxing Gym a year ago, Burns made some observation of Ortega.

He noticed that the 20-year-old Mexican, who lives in Quincy, is “a pressure fighter” with “real sharp skills. He can take the punch and give the punch.”

Ortega proved the assessment correct two weekends ago when he won a welterweight belt at the Sugar Bert Tournament in Punta Gorda at the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center. Ortega had two amateur bouts in the Open Division, winning the first by a three-round decision on the opening day then he scored a second-round knockout to capture the belt.

Angel Ortega (center) is joined by his gym mates Kelvin Brown (left) and Adin Domen following his recent win in Punta Gorda.
Photo submitted

The tournament was one of five Sugar Bert qualifiers held annually each year for a berth in the National Championship. This year’s event is scheduled for Nov. 19-22 in Youngsville, Louisiana. 

The win in Punta Gorda improves Ortega’s record to 10-5. It also gives him a shot at being one of the top-seeds in the national tournament.

Ortega, who works as a stock clerk in his parents’ convenience store, went into the qualifying tournament as one of the unheralded boxers, Burns said. The field included boxers from Puerto Rico, The Bahamas and the Virgin Islands.

Undefeated Puerto Rican welterweight prospect Xander Zayers (5-0) is one of the recent alums of the program to box professionally. Other pros that fought in multiple Sugar Bert tournaments, include TeoFimo Lopez (15-0), who will challenge Vasiliy Lomachenko on Oct. 17 for the WBA, IBF, WBC, WBO super lightweight titles.

Ortega, who is considering the same path of others who have become professionals, was optimistic throughout the recent tournament about his chances of winning a belt, Burns said.

“If you don’t know him you’ve got to be prepared for his style,” he said. “Only guys who have had a substantial amount of fights and can really box are ready to handle his style.”

The tournament is the brainchild of Bert “Sugar Bert” Wells. As it evolved into one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country, it has gained the backing of USA Boxing, Title Boxing and the World Boxing Council.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, participation in the tournament at Punta Gorda was high. According to an emailed statement from Wells through his spokesman Joey Arellano, the event helped boxers, coaches and spectators “feel some type of normalcy.”

“The amateur boxers have been practicing and putting in countless hours getting prepared to compete,” the statement said. “This event helped everyone reconnect and push through to the next level.”

Ortega is hoping to get to the national championship level and Burns is confident he could.

“He has a strong chance of winning that national championship because of his style and the way he works,” Burns said. “If you’re not in shape he is going to test your will. He is a fighter who tests your will and can knock you out with either hand. He has very sharp, fast punches and they are sneaky.”