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Jasso's Hope of Keeping a Low Profile Is on the Ropes

April 04, 1993|KIRBY LEE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Salvador Jasso Jr. is not the greatest at keeping secrets, but he is trying his best when it comes to hiding his boxing exploits from his Roosevelt High classmates.

Jasso, 16, the 1989 Silver Gloves champion at 100 pounds, appears to be fighting a losing battle, especially after his debut as an open boxer at the U.S. Amateur Boxing championships in Colorado Springs last month.

Competing against boxers 16 and older for the first time, Jasso advanced to the quarterfinals of the 132-pound lightweight division before losing to eventual champion Abayomi Miller.

Jasso's showing propelled him to sixth in the latest U.S. Amateur Boxing Federation national rankings.

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"My friends try to keep up with my achievements but I try to keep it as low profile as I can," said Jasso, a sophomore. "I try to avoid problems with people at school coming up and trying to challenge me because I'm a boxer."

Jasso has yet to face many difficulties in the ring, compiling a 59-5 record in a boxing career that was spawned a little less than six years ago at the Resurrection Gym in East Los Angeles. He will compete in the 65th Golden Gloves tournament this week in the L.A. District Regionals at Lincoln Park Recreation Center. Preliminaries begin Monday, with finals scheduled for Saturday.

The Southern California championship and state finals, also at Lincoln Park, are scheduled for April 17 and 24. State champions will advance to next month's national championships in Little Rock, Ark.

"I'm competing against men who are old enough to be my father," said Jasso, who will turn 17 on April 12. "They're a lot stronger, but I'm pretty sure I can take the (national) title. I've been training really hard for this."

Jasso, who lives in East Los Angeles, has managed to balance school with training year-round, twice a day, six days a week.

He wakes up before dawn and runs seven to eight miles at Griffith Park. After school, he spars for two hours at the Azteca Gym in Bell. In the weeks before a major tournament, he often trains seven days a week.

"I don't have lots of time to be with friends except at school," Jasso said. "Sometimes it affects me to not be out on the streets doing all these things, but I prefer to be in shape rather than hanging out."

His father was an amateur boxer in Mexico, but Jasso did not get his first taste of the sport until he peeked through an open door while walking past the the Resurrection Gym in 1987.

"I never pushed him into boxing because I wanted him to make his choice," the elder Jasso said.

The next day Jasso's father took him to the gym, where he showed immediate promise.

Jasso was the 1991 Junior Olympic runner-up at 125 pounds. He has won seven junior (16 and younger) Region 14 titles--an area that encompasses Los Angeles, San Diego and Nevada.

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"He's got a big future," said Manual Robles, who has been Jasso's trainer for the past two years. "He's just a kid and he's fighting in open tournaments against men in their late 20s."

Jasso has drawn comparisons to Roosevelt alumnus Paul Gonzales, the 1984 Olympic light-flyweight champion, and Garfield graduate Oscar De La Hoya, the only U.S. boxer to win a gold medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Jasso has sparred with Gonzales and De La Hoya and both have offered tips and advice.

In a speech to the Roosevelt student body last year, Gonzales called Jasso the next Olympic champion to come out of Roosevelt and East Los Angeles' third gold medalist.

"Being Mexican-American, I look up to them in a way," Jasso said. "Paul got out of gangs to make something of his life and Oscar worked hard. Paul told me never to turn pro until I win a national championship because it's something you'll never get a chance to do again."

Jasso might not have to wait too long.

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