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Though no hardware won, Palacio and Cruz are still Turlock’s champions
Local boxers Christian Palacio and Oscar Cruz, center, pose with their respective trainers, Adrian Palacio of The Truth Boxing Gym (far left) and Mauricio Lopez of Rise Above Boxing Club (far right) after competing at the 2024 California Golden Gloves Tournament in Pasadena on Saturday (Photo contributed).

This past weekend in Pasadena didn’t go exactly as planned for Turlock boxers Christian Palacio and Oscar Cruz. Competing at the 2024 California Golden Gloves Tournament, each lost close decisions in their opening bouts. Although they returned home this week without championship belts, the two young men have nothing to hang their heads about and should be proud of what they have accomplished inside and outside of the ring despite what the judges that day had to say.

Cruz, 22, of Rise Above Boxing Club was the first of the two to enter the ring on Saturday. Against Carlos Aroche (Mission, CA) in the 139-pound weight division, the volume of Aroche was simply too much. For most of the match, it seemed as if for every punch Cruz landed, Aroche had two or three in response. Cruz began the bout putting early pressure on Aroche before the two eventually met in the middle for some heavy exchanges. Aside from Aroche’s volume, it also seemed as if he was also landing just a bit cleaner.

Minutes later, the 24-year-old Palacio, competing at 156 pounds out of The Truth Boxing Gym, also saw his opponent get his hand raised, though there was much more controversy surrounding this decision. Facing Daniel Mercado (Pomona, CA), it seemed as if Palacio did enough to secure the victory and advance in his bracket, defending well against Mercado punches before walking him down for the majority of the bout. In each of the three rounds, Mercado was stuck in a corner or up against the ropes as Palacio picked his shots. At the beginning of each round, though, Mercado offered a flurry of big shots, though they were all blocked or not landing cleanly. Perhaps judges were misled by the amount of punches thrown by Mercado instead of shots that actually landed. 

Both young men are understandably disappointed with the results. They return to their gyms in Turlock alongside their coaches determined to correct any mistakes they feel they may have made inside the ring on Saturday. If you talk to either of these two, the trainers around them and their families, you’ll know for a fact that they will do everything in their power to return to California’s biggest stage in amateur boxing.

Their mindsets are results of all they’ve been through leading up to last weekend. Palacio experienced a tough loss six months ago at Olympic qualifiers before falling severely ill around New Year’s Day, forcing months of inactivity. Cruz, meanwhile, is just six months removed from a major operation after dislocating his knee during a sparring session. Yet here they were, each involved in entertaining fights under the bright lights.

In the sport of boxing, it seems as if today’s professionals and their perceived greatness are only defined by their record. Many of today’s boxers refuse to rise to the occasion to face a big challenge out of fear that a loss on their record could prevent them from a world championship opportunity. In sports, the best should always face the best, even if the odds aren’t in your favor. In boxing, that’s the beauty of regional tournaments like the state Golden Gloves. But regardless of what level you are competing at in sports, particularly in combat sports, results can be decided by the non-competitors — the referees or, in boxing’s case, the judges.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “judging” as “forming an opinion through the careful weighing and testing of premises.” Opinions are subjective, a person’s unique interpretation of whatever they may be analyzing. For Palacio and Cruz, after all they had been through, should not be discouraged by what judges ruled on Saturday. As for fans and readers, these two young men and their accomplishments should not be judged on what Saturday’s scorecards read. They aren’t overhyped, nor are they boxers who didn’t deliver. Instead, they are the best of their weight-classes in the city, the county and the Central Valley region and should be applauded as such.