Jose Mena looked up to Bulldog Boxing Club champions as a child.
Considering his recent success, the 27-year-old Medford resident may soon have a younger generation of boxers looking up to him.
Mena earned a berth into the Golden Gloves National Tournament after winning the 178-pound final by unanimous decision during regional competition on March 14 at Barry's Boxing in Las Vegas.
He and one other Oregonian — Portland's Lorenzo Caldera — advanced to nationals, set for May 12-17 at the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.
Before his triumph in the gambling mecca, Mena was victorious at the Oregon Golden Gloves in Bend.
Endurance played a major role in the regional final, he says.
"I was fighting a guy from Arizona," he recalls. "The first round went good. I came out boxing pretty good. I got him with a few hard hits and kind of controlled him for a little bit. The second round, it got a little tougher. My stamina started kicking in. Finally the last found I was a little gassed but held on."
The 6-foot Mena has trained at a converted garage in Central Point called Fearless Boxing with Salvador Regalado and Jose Cabrera. He works out five days a week and lifts during the weekend while balancing a job and helping raise his son Alexander, who is almost 2.
Mena has been boxing for around six years.
"Growing up here in Oregon, I had friends who would go to Bulldog Boxing," says Mena, who graduated from Phoenix High in 2004. "They had a good team (with) guys like Mike Wilson. I never got the chance to fight until I turned 21."
Mena, who says his speed is a strength, hopes to one day turn professional.
"Winning the Golden Gloves really motivated me," he says. "This is my first one. That was my stepping stone."
Getting the chance to return to Sin City feels great, Mena says.
The road there won't be easy though, he adds.
"It's going to take a lot of dedication," Mena says. "A lot of hard work. You sacrifice a lot of things."
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt