Beaverton Police Activities League boxer shook off rib injury

Angie Ornelas had her opponent square in the crosshairs.

Rolling after commanding the first round of the Junior Olympic boxing semifinals in Alabama on June 29, Ornelas was well on her way to a shot at the championship bout, and a chance at the gold medal.

However, 30 to 40 seconds into the second round with the decision in her favor, Ornelas took a shot to the rib cage that sucked the air from her lungs and turned her into more of a defensive fighter. Sore and bruised from a body shot connected in the one spot a boxer can't stand to be hit, Ornelas took a deep breath in-between the second and third round and COURTESY PHOTO: JOCELYN TAYLOR - Angie Ornelas took third in the Junior Olympics in June after going through a rigorous training regimen with the Beaverton Police Activities League boxing program.

It's doesn't matter who she's facing, Ornelas will never back down in the ring. No matter what happened, Ornelas wasn't going to succumb to the injury. She kept exchanging blows, protecting her sore side and lasted all three rounds with her Chicago rival.

Her Beaverton Police Activities League head coach Charlie Rios said Angie went out in round one and dominated. Ornelas said her left-handed jabs, hooks and right-handed punches put a lot of pressure on the foe and gave her the early edge. Hindsight, as Rios pointed out, is 20/20, but he believes a healthy Ornelas would've secured the battle without a doubt. In the end, Ornelas lost by technical decision, but by no means did she come away empty-handed. Ornelas fought through the pain and won the third-place match to bring home a Junior Olympic Bronze Medal.

“I felt pretty confident, and then once I got hit, it was hard for me to move and punch because of the pain,” said Ornelas. “But I went back to my corner, and my coach was like, 'Suck it up!' So that motivated me to not give it up. It was a tough fight.”

A rare talent

One of Ornelas' cousins who also boxed at PAL's Clubhouse in the Beaverton Resource Center brought her to the gym for the first time three years ago. Ornelas thought she was just going to workout, not be part of the competitive program. But after two weeks of training, Rios asked her to become part of the Beaverton PAL team. Her mom, Nolia, wasn't so sure of letting her daughter join, but relented after Angie's dad encouraged her to try it out.

“I actually liked it more than I thought I would,” recalled Ornelas. “My mom goes to my fights now and watches me, but she's not so convinced about it. She doesn't like me getting hit, but I like the sport, and she's with me if I like it.”

Ornelas is a rarity in the Oregon boxing world — an elite, 16-year-old female fighter who has to seek out sparring partners and quality opponents. There are so few female boxers in Ornelas' weight category, and even less at her competitive level, that she has to practice against several hand-picked male fighters like Junior Golden Gloves National Champion Alex Hughitt at Beaverton PAL. Angie's nearing the 20-fight experience mark in her third year of boxing, so trying to find sparring counterparts worth her practice time is tough.

“She's an upper class, elite competitor,” said Rios. “That doesn't mean other girls can't work with her, it's just that there's no point in them working with her. She has to work with kids who have the ability to fight at her level because that's the only thing that's going to make her better. She's always boxing at a higher level with the kids she's working with.”

Fearlessness in the ring

Engaging in fisticuffs with bigger guys like Hughitt toughened Ornelas. She learned how to fight an opposition that was stronger and faster by foiling their attacks and even coming back on the offensive a few times. Strength-wise, the boys had the upper hand, but Rios applauded Ornelas' attention to technical detail and fearlessness in the ring inside the ropes.

“We don't go out and try to kill each other, but we develop more skills, and I think that helps,” said Ornelas. “Sparring with them makes me more aggressive and get used to the power of the punches. When I fight girls, I don't feel the punches so hard.”

In the month prior to the fight, Ornelas was in the Beaverton center Monday through Saturday, raining blows on the punching bag, running wind sprints and going toe-to-toe with her male counterparts. In all the sparring sessions, Rios encourages Ornelas' opposer to go win the round against her. They're all team members in the gym, Rios said, so they're not trying to knock each other into next week with crippling haymakers. But, competition takes place, even in practice.

“When she spars with Alex, there's a competitive thing going on,” said Rios. “Alex doesn't want her to get to him. If he can help it, he's not going to allow her to get to him. Her goal is to get to him. Sometimes his defense doesn't work for what she's doing, and sometimes her offense doesn't work for what Alex is doing. But, that's what we're trying to achieve. We're trying to overcome those things so that when we get into competition, we can use those skills.”

Ornelas said she'd like to become someone big someday in women's boxing. She said her career prospects depend on staying in the gym, maintaining her dedication and working hard to get there. Her impact on Beaverton PAL has been widespread as well, Rios said. More female fighters have come out as of late, and she's been a role model for younger battlers trying to get to the national level.

“The dedication and commitment of Angie for the year, that's what paid off for her,” said Rios. “She's a leader in the gymnasium. She shows up, trains and has displayed amazing dedication to what it is she does and to being a part of the team. She's been an excellent leader in the organization.”

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