This weekend, when most of the world will be drinking champagne and ringing in the New Year, partying it up until all hours of the morning, 25-year-old Union native Dante Rastelli will be focusing on one thing—preparing for the upcoming 2012 New Jersey Golden Gloves tournament.
Since 1923 the Golden Gloves has been the most prestigious tournament in amateur boxing, giving fighters a chance to showcase their skills while getting exposure and the chance to move forward in the sport.
A fan of the sport for as long as he can remember, Rastelli always kept the dream alive of one day fighting in the squared circle as a professional. As a teenager he began training part time, and although he began working full time as a New Jersey State Correctional Officer, Rastelli still found his way into the gym as often has possible.
“As a boxing fan who grew up watching my favorite fighter Sugar Ray Leonard and other legends, I knew that if I worked hard enough I can get there one day,” said Rastelli, who expects to be fighting in the 165 pound division in the tournament. “I know 25 is later than most people begin focusing on training full time, but I know that nobody will work harder than me and I can make it happen.”
For Rastelli—who fought in the Gloves a few years back—the time to dominate is now. “The last time I fought in the Golden Gloves, I wasn’t as ready as I should’ve been, so I have been training incredibly hard to ensure I’m 100% ready to go to work.”
Over a year has passed since Rastelli began training with former heavyweight knockout artist and owner of Winning Method Management Lou Esa at Final Round Boxing and Fitness in Whippany, NJ, and the duo have been working relentlessly to prepare for the Gloves.
In regards to his fighter being older than the majority of the competition in the tournament, Esa had this to say about Rastelli:
“Dante has an incredible determination, which is a huge plus on his side. The other kids don’t have that determination. They do it because they are either inner city kids that have nothing else to do, or they can’t afford to do something else, so they do boxing. But Dante can do whatever he wants. He wants to do boxing. That want, that drive, that determination is going to be key to getting him over the age difference. He trains hard, his work ethic is fantastic, and he’s strong, because he’s 25. He’s going to be much stronger than the other kids, and I think that’s going to be the thing that gets him over the hump and makes him successful in the tournament.”
A full-time state employee making a good living, Rastelli’s motivation to win the Golden Gloves and turn pro doesn’t circulate around becoming rich and famous.
“It’s never been about turning pro to make money, it’s about the love for the sport and being able to do what I love,” said Rastelli. “I have a big belief in myself that I can be great in life. The thing is, everybody’s motivated by something in life, and with all the tragic things going on in the world, with all those giving themselves up to fight for our country, there are a lot of people who haven’t had a chance to really live their life. I work with a lot of people who have been in the military, and they have families and such, and it hurts me to see so many people giving up their life for us to have the freedom to do what we want to do, and that’s my motivation this year. I will be dedicating all of my fights to Brothers In Arms, Law Enforcement, Fire Fighters, EMT’s, and all the people who risk their lives every day so we can have freedom.”
Despite balancing a life of full time work, a girlfriend and a social life, Rastelli’s number one focus these past few months has been getting in perfect shape for the tournament.
“It is important for me to go into the tournament knowing that I have worked harder than any other fighter in getting ready,” said Rastelli. “When I tell people that I am training for the Golden Gloves, they simply think the workout consists of hitting the heavy bag a few times a day; not realizing the true dedication and commitment it takes. The only way I know I will be ready for the tournament is if I eat, sleep, and think about boxing. That’s the kind of sacrifice it’s going to take to do well in this tournament, and I can promise you this—nobody this year is going to outwork me in the ring, because I know for a fact that nobody is working harder than I am.”
Rastelli elaborated on his training regime to prepare for the 2012 Golden Gloves: running 3-4 miles a day, working with Lou Esa for two hours or so (jumping rope, shadow boxing, heavy bag, speed bag, pads, pushups, abs) and most importantly, maintaining a proper and consistent diet.
The 2012 New Jersey Golden Gloves tournament will give Dante Rastelli another chance at fighting for the gold, and achieving a goal he has worked so hard to prepare for. It won’t be about winning the jewelry around his neck, or the acknowledgement of being crowned champion in the most prestigious amateur boxing tournament; for Rastelli it will be the feeling of accomplishment within himself, proving that he could excel above the rest by putting in the time and heart.
Going forward, Rastelli has aspirations of looking to turn pro in 2012 under the advisement of coach Esa.
“It’s been a dream to fight professionally, of course,” said Rastelli. “We are going to see how the tournament goes, but regardless of the outcome, Lou and I are going to continue to do what we do—work as hard as we can to make it happen.”
Sparring partners and Lou Esa have commented that Rastelli has a very pro-style which will serve him well in the Golden Gloves and beyond.
“Anyone can turn pro, but whether or not they are successful is up to them,” said Esa about Rastelli turning pro in 2012. “It’s about how people approach it. Dante can do it because he wants it enough. If he keeps the determination he has now as an amateur when he turns pro, I believe he will be very successful. You can’t teach determination and great work ethic, and that will allow him to excel in both boxing and life.”
Dante Rastelli is a strong, technical boxer inside the ropes and a class act beyond, who has the skills, knowledge and resources to go far in this sport, and the road will begin next year.
“Lastly, I’d like to give a shot out to my girlfriend Dana; she’s been my inspiration, even though she doesn’t really support the idea of boxing for a living she has been a true inspiration to me. She is proof that miracles do exist.. She is a true warrior, and she has been on my side supporting me all along. And of course, my parents; I want to give them a better life because they have given up everything for me, and I want to return the favor.”
The 2012 New Jersey Golden Gloves tournament begins in March of 2012. Visit www.usaboxingnj.com/for more information on the tournament.