Winning the 2007 Golden Gloves Championship was the highest point of his life, said 30-year-old Glen Cove resident and amateur boxer Raul Nuncio.
This year, Nuncio is striving for gold yet again, and after competing in his first fight in over a year on Feb. 16 at the Hempstead Recreation Center, he has stepped up his training for the 2011 tournament in April.
While Nuncio won his most recent fight, he said he wasn't satisfied with his performance: "I don't feel like I did too good," he said. "I felt like I should have done a lot better."
After winning 165 pound gold in the novice division in the 2007 NY Daily News Golden Gloves tournament, Nuncio said he was on top of the world. He'd fought and won six fights to win gold, including a stop in Glen Cove. He'd even sparred five rounds with former world champion Zab Judah at Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn, shortly after Judah challenged pound-for-pound Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a furious spectacle.
"I had worked so hard, and I was so nervous, there was a lot of pressure. I couldn't allow myself to lose," Nuncio said about the 2007 championship.
Born in 1980, Nuncio left his hometown of Santa Ana, El Salvador for Los Angeles, at the age of 17.
“Looking back, I wasn’t thinking about it at the time, it was just something I did," Nuncio said. “I was talking to my uncle on the phone and he told me that I could make a better living in America; I could have a better opportunity for myself.”
After a several month stay in California – where he took classes to learn English– and a stint in Arkansas, Nuncio moved to New York. After almost 10 years as a New Yorker, Nuncio found a small north shore city where he would learn to call home: Glen Cove.
Nuncio took a job at Glen Valley Deli, where he met world championship kickboxer Tim Lane. With a background in Taekwondo from his life in El Salvador, Nuncio jumped at the chance to train with Lane.
Nuncio quite drinking, smoking, and said goodbye to late nights out – fully immersing himself in the life of a fighter.
Nuncio competed in and won his first kickboxing fight in 2003, but his training was disrupted after he broke his left hand while preparing for another fight.
He changed his stance from orthodox to the southpaw, allowing himself to practice with the most important hand and work on his jab, a fighter’s most important asset.
It was nearly a year before the cast came off. Nuncio remained a southpaw, and transitioned from kickboxing to a career in boxing. His first bout would be in the 2006 Golden Gloves, and the talented but inexperienced amateur made it to the semifinals.
While Nuncio conceded defeat in the 2006 tournament, the 2007 Championship took Nuncio all the way to the finals at Madison Square Garden.
The fighter said that since that glorious night at The Garden, he's had a difficult time finding success in the ring.
Nuncio found momentum in the 2009 Gloves and made it to the semifinals, where he was matched with Naim Terbunja, the fighter who represented Sweden in the 2008 Summer Olympics. Nuncio dropped a decision to Terbunja – who went on to win gold – defeating 2012 Olympic hopeful Marcus Browne.
In the 2010 tournament, Nuncio made it to the semifinals yet again and dropped another decision to Travis Peterkin, who went on to win the 165 pound open championship.
This year, at the age of 30, Nuncio said he believes he’s got the magic again.
“I used to work three jobs and go out and fight injured, it’s not that way anymore," Nuncio said. “I'm fully healthy and focused on boxing."
Nuncio’s current head coach, Eddie O’Boyle, agrees: "This year, Raul’s 100 percent. He’ll win by gutting out, he’s in top shape, and he’s stronger," said O’Boyle, who trains with the fighter at the Competitive Edge Athletics Gym, located behind . “After we plan to turn him pro, and we’ll progress him along, and allow him to transition over to the pro ranks.”
Nuncio said he hopes to find success in the open division which is filled with candidates for upcoming Olympics trials.
"Gold in the open division this year would be the highlight of my life, and just one step closer towards ultimately a world championship," Nuncio said. "I’m fighting for a better opportunity for myself and for my family. My life has had a lot of ups and downs, a lot of tough moments. It’s been a roller-coaster – but through everything I’ve learned – I’ve become the man I am today.”