Over three thousand miles away from Puerto Rico, can a 1-0 fighter live up to the island’s boxing tradition?
It’s no secret that Puerto Rico has a rich boxing tradition. Twenty-eight year old Bryan Sanchez was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico, meaning he’s inherited part of those riches. For the last seventeen years he has called the Pacific Northwest his home.
His love for boxing is almost instantly apparent. But it wasn’t always this way. Growing up, Sanchez admits, “I was more about WWE” as he struggles to remember his first boxing memory. “My first boxing match I ever seen was Floyd Mayweather Junior versus Oscar De la Hoya” says Sanchez. That fateful day with his boxing fan cousins illuminated a new sport for Sanchez, who admits, “before that I didn’t even know what boxing was.”
Head coach James 'JC' Cortez
James Cortez Wade, Senior has been around boxers from a young age. JC or Coach is how he’s known--going back to his time sparring boxers hailing from Des Moines to Chicago and now Portland. A former boxing prospect himself, today at sixty-six years old, JC has an eye for talent.
His father-like demeanor allows him to work well with young fighters. In other words, coach JC doles out tough love with a healthy dose of cautious optimism to every prospect who trains with him. Formerly the head coach at Grand Avenue Boxing, JC trains Bryan at Go Hard MMA & Fitness, after a four-alarm fire caused Grand Avenue to shut its doors in August of 2019.
For a time during Sanchez’s high school career at David Douglas, he excelled at both wrestling and bad decision making. As a freshman he made the varsity wrestling team but then didn’t make the grades to compete. Then, as a junior, he made the varsity team again only to be expelled. With 20/20 hindsight Sanchez recognizes, “I kind of threw my high school sports career away.”
Fortunately Bryan Sanchez also excelled at making and keeping relationships. He met his longtime girlfriend Tiffany during high school and also kept in touch with his wrestling coach after dropping out. He appreciates what he learned during and after high school. By keeping in touch with his coaches and working odd jobs with them, he’s learned everything from
plumbing to roofing. Sanchez shares, “I’ve just got lucky and people have helped me out over the years.”
After obtaining his GED, a chance encounter with a high school friend got him back in the gym, but for MMA. Sanchez recalls, “the gym I started had a boxing side and a MMA side. I always liked throwing my hands, so I would dab over [to the boxing side] once in a while.”
At nineteen he was competing in MMA and by twenty-three, after another chance discovery while driving Tiffany to beauty school, he met George Gonzales at Grand Avenue Boxing. “Since then I’ve been going hard with the boxing” says Sanchez.
Going hard is Coach JC’s motto. For the past four years, JC has coached Bryan Sanchez at tournaments like the Golden Gloves and Nationals. At first sight Coach JC knew he had a prospect. “I looked at Bryan as awkward, in a boxing sense. He reminded me of Aaron Pryor.” Coach JC
explains, “Pryor was a really good fighter, and Bryan fight like him.”
As an experienced trainer, JC knows what prospects need in order to make it. They need to have more than style to be great fighters. The mental aspect exceeds the physical and a boxer’s ability to deal with adversity is what sets a fighter apart.
JC shares, “the boxing game is ten percent physical and ninety percent mental.” He acknowledges the opportunity he has to help build boxers up and put them in a position to see themselves grow.
Dealing with adversity
If Sanchez wrote a list of adversity he’s faced it would undoubtedly include growing up without his father, witnessing his single mother raise six siblings, and lack of money compared to other kids.
Sanchez has seen other fighters with premium gym memberships, top-of-the-line equipment, strength coaches, and even nutritionists. On the other hand, Bryan is a self-described do-it-yourself guy.
“Me not having a gym, me not having no money, I’m going to do pushups outside. I’m going to use what nature gave me because I didn’t have money. I’m not going to let anything stop me.”
Not even injury or a stoppage due to corona-virus.
Coach JC has seen him overcome adversity before--like coming back from a shoulder injury and re-establishing confidence in a shoulder that carries a powerful right hand. Even so, Coach JC constantly reminds Bryan that the process of improvement never stops. According to Coach JC, “when you know you’re physically together…the mental part takes over.”
Going back to 2018, Sanchez was contemplating transitioning from the amateurs to the pros. Besides, he’s always felt like his style is pro. In late 2019, after talking to his family, he made his professional debut. At 1-0 he’s yet to prove himself. After a high-level amateur run, he believes his pro career will be much better.
After 20 years of living in Portland and with a high boxing IQ, it stands to reason that Coach JC has heard it all before. Coach JC shares, “I was fortunate enough to be around enough people that knew the game.” Pre COVID-19 stoppage, Coach JC had scheduled Bryan’s second pro fight for April. It was then cancelled due to the corona-virus pandemic.
According to Coach JC, “before this thing hit, [the boxing game] was beginning to know who we were."
For Sanchez, overcoming adversity yet again will mean staying in physical shape during the stay at home stoppage. It will also mean coming back better than ever at 135 lbs.
With his trademark cautious optimism, Coach JC believes that with the proper positioning and support from those connected within boxing, in two years Bryan Sanchez should be rated. Further, Sanchez should be in consideration for a title shot, ideally at 135 or 140 lbs.
With the support of Tiffany, his mother, sisters, and JC in his corner, Bryan feels ready. It’s the competitive mindset, work ethic, and his love for the boxing game that has propelled him.
Over three thousand miles away from Guayama, can a 1-0 fighter live up to the island’s boxing tradition?
Once the physical is together and the mental part takes over, Coach JC shares, “the skies the limit.”
Follow Bryan Sanchez on Instagram | bsanchez135
For fight inquiries Coach JC can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org Photos courtesy of STRKE Media