Familiar Ring: A Portland Boxer Looks to Come Back for Himself, and for a Friend

Newspaper Unknown – Date Unknown - Jerry Lauzon

Mario Andelic needs no motivation to prepare for the upcoming Golden Gloves tournament.

More than daily sacrifices and a dream of personal success in the ring drives the 21-year-old welterweight. Andelic’s arduous past and a unique friendship give him heart and hope that he can fulfill a promise.

“Every boxing tournament is special for me,” said Andelic. “This one is just a little more special.”

Andelic and seven teammates from the Portland Boxing Club will travel to Burlington, VT for the Vermont Golden Gloves tournament Saturday.

It will draw amateur boxers from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and upstate New York, and is scheduled on three successive weekends to determine a representative for the New Engalnd championships.

The New Engalnd tournament will be February 19-20 at Lowell, MA, and the winner will go to the national tournament in Denver in June.

Andelic would like to go to Colorado, a far cry from where he grew up.

Six years ago Andelic emigrated to the United States from war-ravaged Bosnia with no formal boxing experience and only a few words of English in his vocabulary.

He managed to graduate from Portland High and is now studying computer technology at Andover College. To meet financial obligations, Andelic has two part-time jobs.

“I find time to get to the gym and work out,” said Andelic, who still speaks with a heavy accent. “I make time.”

And beyond the new guy on the block attitude, Andelic has other goals he wants met.

Two years ago Andelic won the Vermont Golden Gloves as a super welterweight, but last October dislocated his left shoulder in the second round of a fight. Andelic insisted on finishing and single-handedly won a unanimous decision.

The aftermath of the injury didn’t have so happy an ending. Surgery was needed to repair Andelic’s shoulder and his opening bout in Vermont will be his first in 15 months.

“I’ve been working hard for a few months,” said Andelic. “There is no pain in the shoulder. I’m ready to go.”

Andelic is inspired by the memory of his friend, Ben Ellis, who won the super lightweight division in Vermont last year and soon after was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. Ellis died in September. He was 17.

Ellis was especially sympathetic when Andelic was recovering from shoulder surgery and the two forged a friendship.

There was a common thread: Ellis fought out of a tough environment and a learning disability in Rumford, and Andelic struggled for acceptance and a new beginning in the United States.

“I’m doing this for him, my friend,” said Andelic. “He’s still with us. He’s always going to be with us.”

Bob Russo manages the eight fighters and admits “there’s a hole where Ben was. It was a painful loss for everyone here.”

The Portland Boxing Club again will be well represented. Heavyweight Anthony Reed is the defending New England champ, lightweight Lee Lamour is a two-time Vermont champ and Liz Leddy won the novice featherweight division a year ago.

The four other fighters – middleweight Shane Baker, lightweight Phil Chason, middleweight Aemir Alfatlawi and welterweight Liz Kuronya – will be making their first appearances in Golden Gloves.

Chason, Alfatlawi and Kuronya are in the novice division, meaning they have had fewer than 10 amateur fights.

Baker, a senior at Mt. Blue High in Farmington, was ranked No. 3 in the junior division. He recently reached the Golden Gloves requirement age of 17.

Chason, a junior at Windham High, will make his final appearance in the novice division.

“If you ask anybody about amateur boxing they’ll talk about the Golden Gloves,” said Chason. “I’m trying to take this as any other fight. It’s a way of keeping myself sane.”

Andelic has watched from the edge of the ring long enough.

 “A lot of people went up the ladder when I was out,” he said. “I want to make the most of this second chance.”

 

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