PHOENIX — The Urbina family sure knows how to wear the gloves — the boxing gloves, that is.
Now Ulisses Urbina, the youngest member in the family, is carrying on the legacy of his slain brother: He wants to be just like him, a national champion.
“I started boxing after my brother passed away,” said Ulisses, 14. The South Mountain High school student hits the gym every day, honoring his older brother. “I want to complete something in my life, for my brother at least.”
In September 2013, Alexis Urbina was found badly beaten in his south Phoenix home. He died days later in the hospital after the brutal attack. Two men pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and were sentenced earlier this year to lengthy prison terms.
Ulisses remembers his brother as loving, funny and caring, always trying to make his family smile. “He was a hard worker,” he added.
Andrews Soto was Alexis’ boxing coach; he now trains Ulisses at his gym, Knockout Boxing Gym in Phoenix. He is also the teen’s brother-in-law. His wife, Sulem Urbina Soto is also a boxer and is training for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, representing Mexico.
Soto recalls when Ulisses decided he wanted to follow in his brother’s footsteps.
“Ever since the tragedy that happened with his brother, I think it awoke something inside him,” Soto said. “He really felt like he needed to accomplish some of the dreams that his older brother had.”
Those accomplishments were no small feat. The year Alexis died, he won the Youth Men’s Division at the USA Boxing National Championships in Spokane, Washington. His coach said Alexis was destined to be one of the greatest.
The story repeats itself with Ulisses.
“As long as he stays dedicated to the sport, I see him having a great future,” Soto said. “As long as he keeps that drive he can accomplish anything he wants to accomplish.”
And drive, he has. He trains six days a week, 3 to 4 hours a day. He has already been in seven fights around the Phoenix area, with only one defeat.
“I’m very proud to be training Ulisses now, I was very proud of training Alexis back in the day,” Soto said.
Ulisses credits his brother for his wins. One day, he hopes, he’ll be representing Team USA in the Olympics, just like his brother Alexis hoped to do.