By Sarah Whitman
Senior Staff Writer
They call him Hurricane Sammy.
Samuel Valentin is a 15-year-old boxing champion with one thing on his mind—fighting his way to the 2012 Summer Olympics.
“My dream has always been to go to the Olympics and represent my country,” Hurricane said, taking time out from training at his home gym in Wesley Chapel. “I want to become a professional boxer so I can travel and see the world.”
Hurricane tried on his first pair of boxing gloves at age 5. His father, Samuel Valentin Sr., is a former kick-boxer who was training boxers in Plant City when his young son unexpectedly stepped up to the punching bag.
“He just started hitting the bag and mimicking everything the boxers were doing,” Valentin said. “I knew then he had a natural talent.”
Hurricane began boxing in amateur fights at 9 years old. He has since placed in three world championships and acquired more than 20 state titles, including 2009 Police Athletic League (PAL) State Champion. His record is currently 96-14.
“He has never been knocked out,” Valentin said. “He’s such a talented kid, the way he moves; he has never even been really hurt.”
Hurricane will compete in the Junior Olympics April 31 through May 2 in Ybor City. He has six Junior Olympic Championship belts already. They are displayed on the wall in his garage, along with an impressive trophy collection.
“To be a good boxer, you have to be self disciplined,” Hurricane said. “You have to be dedicated. It isn’t just about having skills. You have to want it.”
Hurricane is a sophomore at Wharton High School, where he maintains good grades and has gained the support of friends. He works out everyday after school, usually at Calta’s boxing gym in Temple Terrace.
He tries to get his homework finished before heading to the gym around 6 p.m. He trains for three hours a night. He lifts weights, practices moves in the ring and spars with his trainer, Luis ‘Hurricane Tony’ Arreola, the former professional boxer who gave Sammy his name.
“I’ve known Sammy since he was 5 years old,” Arreola said. “It’s been exciting watching him grow. When he wins, it feels like I’m winning as well. It’s like I’m in the ring with him.”
Hurricane said Arreola and his father support him in all his efforts.
“Working with my dad, it feels good because when it’s just me and him, there are no distractions,” Hurricane said. “It feels good because not a lot people have a support system and I have someone who is always by my side, helping me get to where I want to be.”
Hurricane has been an inspiration to his dad.
“The hunger that my son has to achieve his goals is inspiring,” Valentin said. “He has changed my life. A few years ago I weighed almost 600 pounds. Working out with Sammy, I’ve lost more than 287 pounds. He gave me a reason to really live life again.”
Hurricane adheres to a strict diet that includes daily protein shakes. He currently competes in the 132 to 138-pound weight class; so healthy eating is essential. He said pizza is his weakness.
“I love pizza so I have it every couple weeks, but I can’t eat it all the time,” he said. “I hardly ever drink soda.”
Hurricane does not mind making sacrifices. He knows what it takes to stand in the Olympic ring. Every time he fights, he’s one step closer to the London games 2012.
“I will compete in Olympic trials in 2011,” he said. “Before that, I’ll be in a tournament to make the team that travels around the world competing pre-Olympics.”
Hurricane is not worried about being distracted by all the attention and excitement.
“It’s all about focus,” he said. “When I’m in the ring and the crowd is cheering me on, there’s a lot of adrenaline. I take that energy and I focus on the fight. The best fighters are people who are humble.”
For more information, visit www.hurricanesammy.net.