Eddy Guillen hadn’t even set foot in the ring and he was already blushing.
As the final round of the Kansas City Golden Gloves Regional Championships kicked off Saturday, April 18, the ring announcer had a special introduction prepared.
“He goes to college, and ladies – he’s single.”
Guillen, a Heavyweight boxer from Independence, Mo., said his girlfriend wasn’t very happy about the announcement. This was the first time she had been to one of his fights, because Guillen doesn’t usually invite people.
“It makes me nervous,” he said. “I don’t want to lose.”
Guillen said he started boxing in the summer of 2008 after a friend invited him to the gym. He said he initially went because he had nothing else to do but was immediately hooked and never looked back.
“I started boxing and I fell in love with it,” Guillen said. “I like the workout. I like the pressure. I like the intensity. And I liked fighting.”
Since stepping into the ring, Guillen has won two KCGG Regional Championships, fought in two national Golden Glove tournaments as well as four Ringside World Championships.
Guillen said balancing his schedule can be tough. He is a senior at the University of Central Missouri, with a double major in science and history.
“It’s very difficult,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I didn’t compete in last year’s Gloves. I was taking 17 credit hours, working and trying to train. It’s not easy. It’s school, work, homework. Everything else is obsolete.”
Guillen said doing so much outside the ring while still keeping a competitive edge comes down to one thing: the will to win.
“Winning feels beautiful,” he said. “It feels amazing. Being a champion, being a winner, it’s the best feeling in the world. No one can take that away from you.”
Chris Walden, president of KCGG, said a lot of Guillen’s success is attributed to guts.
“Eddy is a puncher,” Walden said. “He stalks his opponents and lands hard shots. He is not afraid to eat some leather on the way in to land a harder shot on his opponent. This is a great style to watch and very effective.”
Guillen lost this year’s KCGG regional championship, but it hasn’t slowed him down. He said he will fight in the 2016 Olympic trials qualifier that takes place in Colorado Springs, Colo., scheduled for June 20- 27.
“(The loss) makes me want to try harder – especially for the trials,” Guillen said. “Even though it was a loss, I still felt that I was the better boxer – a better technical athlete than he is. It hurts a little bit, but – at the same time – it is what it is. It’s boxing.”
Guillen said he will refocus his efforts to get ready for the Olympic trials. He said he will begin training a lot more, with an emphasis on sparring with other boxers.
“I hope Eddy is motivated by the loss (at the tournament) and will double down his efforts for the Olympic trials,” Walden said. “He can do well. He would be a great representative for Kansas City and for the USA in Rio.”
Guillen said he thinks it’s time for him to move on from boxing and enter the next phase of his life. He said next year will probably be his last.
“I think Eddy could do anything he puts his mind to,” Walden said. “He is currently juggling school, boxing and coaching. School is his priority. When Eddy decides what he wants to do when he ‘grows up,’ I am sure he will accomplish it and I suspect it will be something that involves working with youth or giving back.”
Guillen said making it to the Olympics would be a big incentive to keep boxing.
“I know I can compete at that level,” he said. “But the fact it comes down to is, do I want to keep the intensity, the training, the dedication that it really takes to be a top-level boxer? It is not easy. It is not for everybody.”