Georgia Games Boxing
Top Gun fighters take home six medals
by Chris Goltermann
There's a reason why boxing makes for great sports movies. Whether fiction (Rocky, Million Dollar Baby) or non-fiction (Raging Bull, The Fighter), the individual conflict both in and out of the ring, makes for great stories.
Kyle DiGiulio may be one of them.
After dropping the first two fights of his career - and to his coach's admission, looking like a fish out of water - DiGiulio stunned a pair of opponents to win the Lightweight 132 pound division as one of six medal winners from the Top Gun Boxing program, led by Greg Elder at last weekend's Georgia Games tournament in Marietta.
Three fighters from both Coweta and Fayette training out of PTC Combat Fitness earned medals at the Games, held this year at the Fair Oaks Recreation Center in Cobb County.
They were led by golds from both 20-year-old DiGiulio, a former Northgate High wrestler, and Rayshawn Boone, another 132-pounder out of Fayette. Adding silver medals were newcomers 18 year-old Jessica Kurtz of Fayette (lightweight 132) and Jerami Zamora (middleweight 165) of Newnan.
Bronze medalists included Angel de la Trinidad of Coweta and Diego Castillas, a PTCCF martial arts youth instructor. Also competing in the event was Coweta fighter Devin Bowles.
At least five of the six medalists expect to be among a half-dozen entries from the Top Gun team at next month's annual Paul Murphy Title Belt tournament in Doraville.
While all six medalists impressed both Elder and assistant coach Xavier Tolliver during the event, DiGiulio outing was described by the former as 'utterly miraculous.'
'He's an animal trainer, a hard trainer. But I just didn't really think he could ever pull it off, and he did it in the most bizarre fashion I've ever seen,' Elder said of DiGiulio, who held a meager 1-2 record coming into last weekend. ''I've never seen it as a coach and I've been doing this a long time,' Elder nearly had to pull DiGiulio out of the ring at the Georgia Games during his debut in 2012. His fighter kicked the towel out of the ring in his first fight, had a referee stop the second to DiGiulio protests before barely winning his third in a split decision.
'With such a dismal start, you usually see an abrupt retirement. [But] when that doesn't happen, what's a coach to do?,' said Elder, who also coaches at PTCCF, of DiGiulio, nicknamed 'Kamikaze.' 'Each time I addressed [his commitment] he'd say 'you'll see. I can do it coach. And now he has.'
Even prior to this year's games DiGuilio struggled to make weight for the tournament, which using USA Boxing rules, didn't separate fighters between skill classes unlike last year's Georgia Games.
'I didn't think I'd make weight, but I did,' DiGiulio said.
Top Gun Boxing was represented at this year's Georgia Games by: Front, from left: Jerami Zamora, head coach Greg Elder and Jessica Kurtz; Back row, fromw left: Angel de la Trinidad, Kyle DiGiulio, Devin Bowles, assistant coach Xavier Tolliver and Rayshawn Boone. Not pictured: Diego Castillas. Six of the team's seven fighters medaled.
Elder described both bouts as 'spectacular, but unconventional performances,' against tough competition. 'He made it look almost easy.'
Boone, a boxing instructor at PTCCF, equally won his gold medal match with what Elder called 'a dominant style and superior speed.'
Among middleweights, 21-year-old Zamora nearly came away with another gold in the 165pound division.
'He forced the action,' said Elder of the newcomer.
Another new face that has equally impressed, Kurtz, an 18-year-old lightweight, seemed equally determined despite suffering a broken foot two weeks into training.
'I was concerned having worked with only a few females and only a few weeks to develop her style,' Elder said. 'She dug in deep to compete with no excuses.'
Kurtz's only loss came to an opponent with 11 fights under her belt in a match that her coach said 'went toe-to-toe until the final bell.'
Looking to repeat as a Georgia Games champion, de la Trinidad - a Northgate student was battling nagging shoulder problems that hampered the team captain from adding another gold in the 152-pound division, while managing to medal for the second straight year.
Also earning a bronze was Castillas in his debut, which included a loss to the eventual division champion.