ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Aspiring athletes use all kinds of motivation to spur themselves on to success.
Gilbert Orlang's motivation to become the best he can be in the boxing world is simple.
"My family is living in poverty and it's been hard," the 14-year-old Dieruff High School freshman said. "I want to change that. I want to be successful. I love boxing. I grew up as a fat, chubby kid in New York City, living in the slums. I had people bullying me because I was fat and I had a chipped tooth and everything. I had to do something for myself. I had to make myself better."
So, after moving to Allentown 3 1/2 years ago, Orlang got himself into the gym and began working hard. He saw boxing as a road out of his troubles and he's already on the right path.
Now, the fat, chubby kid who was once bullied, is fighting back in a big way.
In little more than a year of competitive boxing, Orlang has emerged as a rising star in two national events.
He won the state Junior Olympics/Golden Gloves championship last year and was ranked fifth nationally.
He then made his mark in the recent Silver Gloves tournament, winning six bouts before losing to Jacob Ramos of Kansas City in the national finals of the age 14-15, 125-pound division in Independence, Mo.
Despite the loss earlier this month, Orlang is ranked No. 2 in the nation in his class. He is clearly someone to watch on a local, state and national level.
"The Silver Gloves championships was great because it was a lot of top competition," the ever-enthusiastic Orlang said. "I fought against guys who had 150 fights, but this was only my 15th or 16th. In nationals, I fought guys who were great fighters and had a lot more experience. It was good for me."
Orlang, who is a regular at the Hammer Training and Fitness Center on Allentown's East Side, has an upbeat, infectious personality that has everybody pulling for him.
He is determined to work hard and become the best he can be and those who know him don't doubt him.
"He's a tremendous kid who has been upbeat from Day 1," Paul Pinnock, Orlang's trainer, said. "He came into the gym the first time and said 'Hey everybody, how are you doing?' Everybody likes him. Everybody looks forward to seeing him come into the gym. He was a little, chubby kid and not someone you expected to succeed.
"Initially, I just said 'Sure kid. Whatever.' But he kept coming two or three days a week and we just worked and worked. I nicknamed him 'The Greatest' because I wanted him to believe in himself. He has lived up to that and more. He's just a kid who has overcome."
Pinnock said that Orlang's family has had its share of troubles and has moved several times. Nothing has come easy for him, and yet, he possesses something that many in much better circumstances lack. That's desire and a passion to succeed.
"He's No. 2 in the nation at the age of 14," Pinnock said. "You don't get there by accident. He won six very tough fights to get to the Silver Gloves finals. His heart and his intelligence and his speed are what make him special. He's got the whole package. I really believe he can go a long way."
Pinnock said that Orlang is very cagey inside the ring and makes himself very difficult to hit.
"He uses the angles very well," he said. "He has surprisingly long arms and his strength is deceptive for his body type. Overall, his slickness is the key."
Pinnock has been trying to get Orlang to hit the books as hard as he hits his opponents.
Orlang smiled when asked about it.
"I admit I slacked this quarter because of nationals and when I did, my dad took away the gym from me," he said. "That's something that made me very determined to go and get my work done. That got me determined to bring my grades up and that's something I know I need to take care of."
Pinnock keeps a close eye on Orlang. The two are close.
"We trained for two years before he ever fought competitively and he has made me so proud," Pinnock said. "We put in a lot of hours. I was so nervous before that first fight because you never how a young person is going to perform when it comes to fight time. There was a question mark and his first fight was against a really big kid. Gil went out there and did his thing. He was a natural.
"I knew right away that he had potential and he has gotten better and better ever since."
Orlang will next participate in the 16 and under 2016 Junior Olympics tournament in May.
Pinnock is also training other local fighters, including Allen High student Francis Oran.
"Francis just came back from the USA Nationals where he won his first fight and lost his second and he's getting ready to go into the Golden Gloves," Pinnock said. "I train about six or seven kids and it's what I love to do. These kids could use financial help because they don't have much. That's why I give them what I can.
"I work for UPS and there are times when you're tired and it's tough. But I am always thinking about these guys and look forward to working with them. They give me everything they have and I wouldn't want to do anything else."
Information from: The Morning Call, http://www.mcall.com