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Palacio returns to the ring, looks to prove a point in Pasadena
Christian Palacio
Christian Palacio of Turlock poses with new hardware around his neck after clinching the 2024 Central Valley Golden Gloves last month (Photo courtesy of The Truth Boxing).

After a controversial loss that kept him from advancing in Olympic qualifiers in September, an illness on New Year’s and nearly three months away from the sport, Turlock’s Christian Palacio went back to the drawing board to reflect on his boxing career. Since returning to the ring in February, he has strung together a trio of wins and has punched his ticket to his second career California Golden Gloves tournament.

From March 2 and 3, the 156-pounder proved to fans — and himself — that he was still one of the best boxers the region has to offer, defeating Salinas’ Jaime Mendoza and Visalia’s Frank Requejo to win the Central Valley Golden Gloves title. With the win, Palacio advances to the state tournament, which takes place in Pasadena from April 27 to 28.

In the title clincher against Requejo, Palacio cruised to a unanimous decision, cutting off the ring and tagging him throughout the fight. In one instance, he forced a standing eight-count.

“It felt amazing to get the win,” Palacio said. “Earning that celebration was everything.

“I never really thought about it, but I did prove to myself that I belong. This is what I want to do and I know I can do it at a high level.”

The performance was in stark contrast to the one displayed nearly six months ago at the 2023 USA Boxing Last Chance Qualifier. On the first day of the tournament on Sept. 9, Palacio and opponent, Florida’s Kelvin Brown, fought till the final bell. The 156-pounder knew it was a close one, but felt confident that he would get his hand raised. It was not the case, and it changed the Tulocker's perspective entirely.

“I was a little confused,” the 23-year-old amateur boxer said. “I was like, ‘Man, I worked so hard and I felt like I didn't do that good.’ I had to figure out what went wrong. We talked about it and we changed things up. Before that fight, that was my thing. I would take a punch to give a punch. But that loss showed that you can’t leave it up to judges. Taking punches doesn’t look good.”

Understandably disappointed, Palacio took a few weeks off to gather himself. He and his trainer and father, Adrian Palacio, thought the break would be a quick one and that they’d be back training at The Truth Boxing Gym in no time. Soon enough, weeks turned into months after he fell ill around New Year’s Day. After two months of inactivity, the boxer took a part-time job. He knew immediately that it wasn’t his calling and that a return to the gym was necessary.

“I hated it. It sucked,” he said with a laugh. “It humbled me and I knew immediately I didn’t want to waste my time. I have an amazing opportunity in front of me. That experience showed how much I loved and missed boxing.”

“Taking that little break did some good because every fighter gets burned out after a while, just constantly going through the physical grind and the mental stress of getting prepped for fights and then going into big tournaments,” his father added. “He’s under pressure. I'm under pressure. I'm putting pressure on him. We both needed to take a second.”

In late January, the father-son duo returned to the gym, training with an emphasis on defense and technical striking. His first bout back was on Feb. 17 in Hanford against Fresno’s Keon Merlo, a decision win.

“It wasn’t my best performance. I knew I was sloppy. I felt sloppy. But we got the job done and knew that we were getting back to where we needed to be,” Palacio said.

He described his performances at the Central Valley Golden Gloves a month later as “a different level.” His father explained that it was all a result of a changed mindset.

“I'd say,” Adrian said, “the biggest difference in him is maturity as a fighter and as a man… I own a gym and I’m a trainer, but I told him, ‘If you really want to succeed, you have to want this. This has to be your thing, not my thing. And he’s showing that by the way he’s preparing. He's down here, he's running, he's watching his weight. It makes a difference and it’s showing.”

The added motivation and the confidence Palacio gained from the bouts with Mendoza and Requejo is evident in his demeanor when discussing the upcoming state Golden Gloves tournament.

“I’m going to win. I know I am,” he said. “I believe in myself. My dad believes in me. And I trust him and how we’re training. We’ve been here before, and I know I can get the job done.”