Boxing has played an important role in Dario Villegas’ life for as long as he can remember. “I grew up around it because my dad always watched it, so it just grew into me.” Villegas began boxing at eight, when the Muscatine County Boxing Club (MCBC) first opened. Since then, he has enjoyed considerable success. Now, at fifteen, Villegas will compete for a spot on the Junior Olympic Team at the upcoming team trials in Lake Charles, Louisiana on December 7th.
Villegas worked hard to develop the talent he needed to have a shot at the Junior Olympic Team. Along with training at the MCBC, Villegas practices with his father, Leobardo “Leo” Villegas, and competes in boxing tournaments across the county. “We have to travel a lot further to get him the training he needs,” stressed his coach, Santos Saucedo. After Villegas won the Eastern Elite Qualifier and Regional Open Championships in Columbus, Ohio, he has traveled as far as Milwaukee to practice with experienced boxers.
Though making the Junior Olympic Team presents no easy task (Villegas must place as one of the top two boxers in his age group nationally to do so) he feels ready to put up a fight for it. “I’ve put the work in and feel confident,” he shared. Villegas’ first place win at the Eastern Elite Qualifier and Regional Open in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2018 and repeat performance in Columbus speak to his skill and determination and point to more success at the Junior Olympic Team Trials.
As the team trials approach, the MCBC plans to hold two events to help him finance his trip. On December 2nd, Boonie’s will donate a portion of their proceeds to Villegas to help him cover his expenses while on the road. On December 6th, the MCBC will hold a women’s Zumba class with the $10 class cost going to support Villegas. The Merrill Hotel, through the Howe Foundation, has pledged to cover his transportation costs, helping make sure Villegas has the best possible shot at following his Junior Olympic dream.
Villegas has high hopes of making the Junior Olympic Team and dreams of getting to travel the world with them competing against other young athletes. Even so, he knows he will have to do his best in Louisiana. However, boxing has taught him, “that you have to fight for what you earn [and] you earn what you fight for.” A true fighter at heart, Villegas has what it takes to earn a place on the Junior Olympic Boxing Team.