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Ornelas overcomes the odds, injuries for national title

by: COURTESY PHOTO: JOCELYN SIMPSON - 16-year-old Angie Ornelas won the National Adidas Police Activities League Boxing Tournament in Oxnard, Calif., in June, overcoming an injury to her left arm for the title belt.

Not again.

Not another injury.

No stranger to obstacles and adversity, Angie Ornelas’ mind waded through the worst case scenarios when a fuming sparring session in April at the Beaverton Activities Center left her left arm tingling and throbbing. Less than a year after cracking her ribs at the Junior Olympic Games that left her with a bronze medal rather than gold, Ornelas was again facing a stumbling block brought by affliction.

The various matches head coach Charlie Rios lined up for Ornelas to build her track record and heighten her standing in the female boxing world were out the window. For the second time in less than a year, it seemed, Ornelas was again double-crossed by an injury that would render her incapable of vying for the National Adidas Police Activities League Boxing Tournament in Oxnard, Calif., in June.

However, Ornelas is wired differently than most sparers. Though soft-spoken and humble away from the ring, there’s a combative fire that sizzles deeply inside the 16-year-old Sunset High student.

It’s the same competitive blaze that kept Ornelas from throwing in the towel at the Junior Olympics last summer and what roused her from the post-injury gloom as she sat on the couch with a king-sized ice bag taped to her elbow.

“At home, I was sitting there resting, and I was like, ‘OK, I have to get back to work. I have to get back training’,” said Ornelas. “I want to win, so I train harder and harder and push myself.”

Motivated by the possibility of a title belt and the chance to prove her family and Beaverton community proud, Ornelas exterminated her opponent in the championship bout in Oxnard with a decisive, three-round technical decision, completing a year-long vengeance trek that began in January.

“It felt great to know I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish,” said Ornelas. “I wanted to prove it to my parents that I could do it. I wanted to prove I was capable of winning the fight.”

Ornelas’ coaches were counting her too. In fact, assistant coach Omar Solano wasn’t shy when voicing a few amusing pre-match thoughts to his prized fighter.

“He said, ‘I don’t want to leave this tournament mad. You better win this fight’,” said Ornelas with a laugh. “That was some good motivation.”

Mental battle

Rios said any injured PAL boxer is put through an accelerated, yet methodical rehabilitation process to get them back into action as quickly as possible. Ornelas occasionally put on the gloves and got in the ring for six weeks to avoid any further damage to the appendage. Already one of the tougher boxers around, it was the mental battle, more than the physical bout Ornelas had to overcome. The natural hesitancy that comes after an injury, not wanting to re-injure the still-recovering arm existed initially, as were a few lingering tweaks here and there. Yet, Ornelas overcame the physiological strains with a straightforward way of reasoning.

“I tried not to think about it. I just go out and fight,” said Ornelas. “If I think about it more, it gets to my nerves, and it’s going to be in my mind. I tried to take it out of my mind and just said, ‘It’s time to fight. Let’s go fight’.”

There were three girls in Ornelas’ weight class during the four-day event, with Ornelas getting a semifinal bye that parlayed into the championship round. Rios and Ornelas were able to watch the semis the day prior to the title fight and formulated a plan of attack based on quickness and speed — Ornelas’ strong suits.

Triple jabs to the face, whirling around the ring and avoid getting held at all costs topped Ornelas’ fight blueprint because her opponent preferred roundhouse, knockout shots that left her susceptible to Ornelas’ fast and furious hands. Ornelas is not the kind of fighter that dances around the ring trying to tire out an opponent, judiciously looking for openings while surveying the scene. In past fights, Ornelas’ hostility has literally caused opponents to ask the 5-foot-5 phenom to stop punching them in fear of additional harm. Ornelas is partial to charging the competition with a lot of body and head punches that put the onus on her opponent to respond, which she did in the title fight.

“We didn’t know if she could handle Angie’s aggression,” said Rios. “The pressure she puts on will break people down really fast. Nobody likes that kind of pressure. Once we got through the first round, Angie had pretty much set the tone and outmaneuvered her and outboxed her. (Ornelas’ opponent) really didn’t want to punch on her anymore. She’d never boxed a female as aggressive as Angie.”

by: COURTESY PHOTO: JOCELYN SIMPSON - Angie Ornelas won the National Adidas Police Activities League Boxing Tournament so quickly, the boxer was still taking off her gloves when she was named champ.

Ornelas brought her title foe to her knees in the second round with a flurry of jabs that should’ve signified a knockout and an undisputed victory. Though the head referee waived off the finishing blow and instead gave Ornelas points for the knockdown, Rios said the opponent became “completely unnerved.”

“Once I saw her drop, I told myself, ‘Keep going. Keep fighting. Keep working’,” said Ornelas. “I just kept thinking, ‘I have to win this’ and I think that helped me throughout the fight.”

The triumph was so one-sided, Ornelas was still unwrapping the tape underneath her gloves when the tournament promoters declared her the victor.

“I finally did it,” said Ornelas. “All my hard work paid off. It felt really good to win that belt, even though it went by really fast.”

Ornelas turns 17 in January, when she’ll become a “senior boxer,” meaning she’s eligible for the U.S. National Championships in Reno, Nev., as well as the state and regional Golden Glove tournaments. Her number of opponents will increase substantially, Rios said, and the talent pool will be upgraded.

“She’s going to have to fight her fanny off,” said Rios. “She’s going to have to be as good as she can be to get through those tournaments.”

For now, Ornelas said she “just wants to focus on next year” and ensure her schoolwork comes before any future boxing aspirations. Yet, Rios noted he’d like to see Ornelas qualify for the U.S. National Team. And, if she can win in Reno, Ornelas will be a traveler on the U.S. National and International squads that compete around the world.

“That’s the top of the heap right there,” said Rios.

“That’s definitely something I would like to do,” Ornelas added.



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