Christian Palacio of Turlock isn’t like most amateur boxers his age.
The 23-year-old Pitman High alumnus has only been boxing for about five years, accumulating a 14-4 amateur record at 156 pounds. Despite there being thousands of boxers across the nation who have been in the ring for their entire lives, the Turlocker has already earned a unique opportunity to qualify for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris, France.
Next week, Palacio and his team from The Truth Boxing Gym in Turlock will be traveling to Pueblo, Colorado to participate in the 2023 USA Boxing Last Chance Qualifier from Sept. 9 to 16. It is the last competition for boxers to punch their ticket directly to the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in December.
“To go [to the Olympics], represent the U.S., that would be everything,” Palacio said. “It’s a big shot. Honestly, I’m nervous for the experience, but that’s a good thing. Even in my sparring, I always get the jitters, but it makes me focus more whenever I go to fights.”
Palacio is coached by his father, Adrian Palacio, and trainer Tomas Fernandez. They both agree that there is something different when it comes to the 23-year-old.
“I've been to Nationals plenty of times, and I know this kid can do it,” Fernandez said. “I have worked with a lot of kids, but this kid is fast. Not just that, but he’s humble and disciplined, and that’s what makes you a world champion, and he can do it.”
And while the main goal in the coming days is to earn a spot at the Olympic qualifiers, the team has made the decision that Palacio will turn pro next year, regardless of the results later this month.
“I think all coaches have been around him and even the other teams that come around him can see it when you watch them,” Adrian added. “They all agree that even just watching his style and the way he is that he's going to be a better pro than amateur. The way he the way he conducts himself the way he is in the rain. We just all see the sky's the limit for him.”
Palacio has been nicknamed “La Maquina,” or “The Machine” in Spanish, by his coaches as he is relentless in the ring with Mexican-style pressure. He has also been busy fighting about once a month, holding his own against Floyd Mayweather-promoted fighters with hundreds of matches under their belts.
“We’ve always put him in there not to go looking for the easy sparring or the easy fights,” Adrian explained. “We want to challenge him. About last year, we started seeing him hold his own… So that's our biggest goal by next year to go pro.”
Despite his impressive showings against experienced opponents and his professional ambitions, Palacio still feels like an underdog heading into the USA Boxing tournament, as he isn’t the most well-known name in the amateur circuit due to his late start in the sport.
“I know it would be a big shock to a lot of people to put on a good showing and to all of us to really show my skill up there,” Palacio said. “I always try to visualize what I’m going to do against the hardest fighters because it doesn't make me falter when I'm training. I've always been a big over thinker. I'm critical of myself. But over the years, sparring with other pros that I know are really good, they showed me that I am a good fighter.
“I have confidence in myself that I can have a good showing, but I’m not going to chill,” he continued. “My attitude is always to work harder. This is an opportunity that can do a lot of big things for me. If I want to go pro and make good money and have a good life, it starts here.”
“As coach in a corner, I’ll be honest, I can't sleep sometimes,” Fernandez said. “But the best fulfillment in the world is when we believe in these kids, and they believe in us. That’s what makes it special when you win. And I know he can. This kid has sacrificed a lot, so let’s do it.”
Brackets, bout schedules and results for the 2023 USA Boxing Last Chance Qualifier will be available at www.usaboxing.org/2023-last-chance-qualifier in the coming days.
“I’m excited to showcase what we’re doing at this gym and to represent Turlock,” Palacio added. “And like coach said, let’s do it.”