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Oswego Gym Teen Boxer Heading to Nationals

Erik Santiago of Plainfield has been boxing at Rocket Boxing in Oswego since he was 5-years-old.

Aux Sable student Erik Santiago, 13, in the ring with coach Chris Chodhary. Credit: Shannon Antinori
Aux Sable student Erik Santiago, 13, in the ring with coach Chris Chodhary. Credit: Shannon Antinori
At an age when most kids are playing with Legos or learning to ride a bike, Erik Santiago was getting in the ring.

The Aux Sable Middle School student was just 5 years old when he began boxing with coach Chris Chodhary at Rocket Boxing in Oswego.

Chodhary said, typically, he doesn't take students younger than 8 or 9, but he was impressed enough with Erik to give him a shot.

"He was very dedicated," Chodhary said. "He fell in love with the sport. He's like a sponge — he just absorbs everything I tell him."

That dedication paid off, and the now-13-year-old is a three-time USA Boxing Silver Gloves champ. His most recent win came at the regional competition Jan. 4 in Wichita, Kansas.

The teen — who is also on the football, baseball, basketball, wrestling and track teams — will head to the national competition Jan. 30 in Independence, Missouri.

Erik trains five days a week, working on his conditioning, head movement and agility.

"The mental part is probably the hardest," Erik said. He said he and his coach review videos of his fights to see what adjustments he should make to his technique. "I take notes on what I do good and what I do bad," he said.

"Mentally, I really burn these kids out and I push they beyond their expectations," Chodhary said. "I train them to overcome those psychological things in the ring ... As [Erik]'s matured through the years, he's able to understand the higher levels of boxing, the strategy. It's like a chess match."

Chodhary believes the training also pays off outside the ring in school and other sports. 

The teen said his love of boxing comes from his dad, also named Erik. Both his dad and mom, Melissa Warden, make sure he stays on top of his studies, balancing school with his dedication to boxing. "It's hard, but it's worth it," he said.

Erik will compete at nationals on Jan. 30.

"My goal is to win it all," he said. 
 

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