Three Panama City youth boxers headed west to Houston last week. Self proclaimed underdogs, the guys had just three weeks of training at Tim Cilbrith's Ultimate MMA and Boxing Gym in Panama City. But all three overcame the odds, as Chad Mercer walked away an unopposed National Champ, and the other two, Edriech Rosa and Phoenix Sikes, finished second.
"It was a good experience," said Sikes. "It makes me want to box more, and train harder."
"It was really nerve wrecking," said Rosa. "It was crazy. It was fun, it was eye opening, I have to work harder."
Both Sikes and Rosa were just a few punches away from a National title, even though they train at a gym much smaller and less equipped then those of their opponents.
"At the tournament, everybody had coaches shirts on, brand new shoes, brand new everything," remembers Rosa. "We looked around and we looked like we were from nowhere."
"Houston is a town where it's got twenty boxing clubs, they've got inter club training and fights all the time," said coach Jeff Temperley. "We went there with next to nothing, and nearly beat them. If we had more time, better facilities, who knows what we can do."
That's what Jeff and the other coaches are trying to do- turn next to nothing into something big. The gym is non-profit, the kids don't pay a dime to train, and are fighting to improve their lives.
"There could be people walking, doing drugs and stuff, but they're not because they're here," said Sikes.
"It was neat for people to see us and recognize you don't have to be the biggest gym but you can bring out champions and future champions," said Rosa.
"We opened some eyes," said Temperley. "Everybody wondered who the hell are these guys because we didn't have T-shirts or anything else we just turned up. But we really could make a difference."
Judging by the looks of it- they're well on their way.
To contact the gym, and help by making a donation or donating your time, here is contact information: