Chicago boxer Kenny Sims Jr. has earned a spot in the World Amateur Championships… (Chicago Tribune )
Two Chicago-area residents earned their places on Team USA at the 2013 AIBA World Amateur Championships on Saturday.
Eduardo Martinez and Kenny Sims Jr. both won gold in their divisions of the U.S. Championships national tournament in Spokane, Wash. Their wins secured their spot to represent the United States at the World Amateur Championships in October in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
It will be the first time any Chicagoan has fought in the World Championships since Michael Bennett won gold in 1999. The event is held every two years and are a close second to the Olympics in importance in the sport.
Sims (lightweight, 132 pounds) defeated Cresencio Ramos of San Antonio in the finals Saturday, while Martinez (bantamweight, 123 pounds) beat Stephen Fulton Jr. of Philadelphia. Both victories were by decision
"This is a dream come true to win the biggest tournament in the country," Martinez said. It's his first national title, while Sims has won several.
This year's U.S. Championships also marked the first time since 1984 that the Elite Men's Division boxers did not not wear headgear. The 21-year-old Martinez had mixed feelings about that fact.
"You have more punching power, but you feel the punches more too," he said. "You have to keep your hands up and be careful."
Another danger of fighting without headgear is head butts, and Sims learned the hard way.
"I got cut near my eye by a head butt in my first fight," the 19-year-old South Side resident said. "Luckily they taped it and it didn't open up again the rest of the tournament."
Though he lives in Aurora, Martinez travels trains on the South Side with Sims Jr. and their coach Kenny Sims Sr.
Both fighters leave April 15 for Team USA training camp in Colorado Springs, Colo. They will crisscross the planet the next few months, competing in 18 international events before the World Championships.
Martinez also is scheduled to compete in the Chicago Golden Gloves finals Thursday at Cicero Stadium.
Bill Hillmann is a RedEye special contributor.
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