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Two area boxers set to compete in national tourney

In addition to Berlin Center’s Zion Hensley, two additional area boxers are hitting the national circuit in hopes of getting a national rank.

Both 10-year old Xavier Martinez and 24-year old Chris Hill along with Hensley make up a trio of local fighters representing the Mahoning Valley starting today at the 2021 USA Boxing National Championships in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Hill, originally from New Castle, Pennsylvania, came over to the Youngstown area to train with local coach Rocky DeFranco. Hill mentioned how despite just coming over, he’s been treated like family since day one.

“I just moved over the border in July,” Hill said “I’ve been boxing for about six years now. I found Rocky’s gym on Facebook, I walked in and he greeted me like a friend from day one and he agreed to help start training me. He made everything possible for me to get down here to nationals. I’m looking forward to going down and getting ranked in the country.”

While an engineering student, Hill is hoping to make boxing his full-time pursuit. That constant strive for improvement is what keeps him going.

“Just being great in the sport,” Hill said when asked about his motivation. “I’d love to be one of the greats, so I always try as hard as I can and I’m always a hard worker.”

While not a Youngstown native, Hill is proud to represent an area that has so many notable names in its history.

“It feels good,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of a lot of big names that come out of Youngstown, so it feels good to come over here and start training in Youngstown.”

Embracing that blue collar mentality, Hill describes his fighting style as aggressive, opting to try and wear down the opponent throughout the match.

“I always come forward,” Hill said. “I go to the body a lot. I try to keep pressure on my opponents as much as I can and try to break them down throughout the rounds.”

Martinez, the youngest of the area trio, picked up the sport a few years ago and has gone from just doing it for fun, to having very high aspirations.

“When I started I wanted to fight, and have fun and now I just want to be a world champion,” he said.

Being a young fighter, DeFranco has to take extra steps in showing Martinez the ropes as opposed to an older fighter like Hill.

“(Martinez) needs to be pushed and taught a little bit more, but of course, they still learn no matter what,” DeFranco said. “As they grow, they learn more. … When (Martinez) comes in, we’re just teaching him the basics right now and he’s catching it. We added a left hook into his arsenal and his left hook has been the reason why he won his last two fights because his left hook is really, really good.”

“We’re starting to put combinations together and he’s starting to get the basics of boxing,” DeFranco added.

Both fighters have their first bout today. Martinez fights at noon and Hill enters the ring at 6 p.m. The two each have goals of representing the United States at the Olympic level. Success in this tournament here is the first step of making that happen.

byauger@tribtoday.com

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