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December 21, 2014

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UNLV student puts football aside for boxing

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Heather Cory

Bradley Blankenship, a UNLV student and boxer, jumps rope while he trains at Elite Boxing Gym. Formally a skilled football player for Sierra Vista, Blankenship gave up the sport to pursue boxing.

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Bradley Blankenship, a UNLV student and boxer, pounds the punching bag while he trains at Elite Boxing Gym. Formally a skilled football player for Sierra Vista, Blankenship gave up the sport to pursue boxing.

Click to enlarge photo

Bradley Blankenship warms up at the beginning of his training session at Elite Boxing Gym. Blankenship made his professional boxing debut Friday night at the Rio.

Click to enlarge photo

Bradley Blankenship, a UNLV student and boxer, pounds the punching bag while he trains at Elite Boxing Gym. Formally a skilled football player for Sierra Vista, Blankenship gave up the sport to pursue boxing.

Switching from the football field to the boxing ring has forced UNLV sophomore Bradley Blankenship to make a lot of adjustments.

While anchoring the backfield for Sierra Vista, which he led in rushing his senior year, Blankenship was a muscular 5-foot-10, 200 pounds. A stockier build may have made for a more punishing running back, but it was a major hindrance in the ring.

“I got hit so much when I first started to box,” Blankenship said. “I couldn’t move fast enough in the ring.”

When Blankenship, 20, graduated high school in 2007 and turned his focus to boxing, his first order of business was to lose about 40 pounds and become more nimble on his feet.

He gave up weight training in favor of cardio workouts and a more selective diet.

After about a year of competition, Blankenship is 18-4 with three belts as a novice and one as an open competitor.

His potential came to the forefront at the Nevada State Golden Gloves tournament on Jan. 24, when he won the 165-pound class by defeating Martines Porter.

“For somebody with his experience, that win was incredible,” said Gil Martinez, Blankenship’s coach at Las Vegas Elite Boxing Gym. “He is still so new that he’s trying to find his style. He is more of a counter-puncher, but he wants to be aggressive.”

The victory, his biggest so far, helped ease whatever tension Blankenship had about pursuing a new sport.

“I loved football, but moving on has opened a new door for me in boxing,” he said.

Even when Blankenship was in high school and courting football scholarship offers, boxing was always in the back of his mind.

He grew up admiring fighters such as Mike Tyson and Oscar De La Hoya, so when collegiate football did not pan out, he took the opportunity to try boxing.

“I was always interested in boxing, but my mom wouldn’t let me fight until I turned 18,” he said. “I guess she was afraid I might get hurt.”

By winning the state Golden Gloves tournament, Blankenship qualified for the regional tournament in March.

He will also be competing in the USA Men’s Open on Feb. 6 and 7.

Blankenship is also taking a full load of classes at UNLV.

“My ultimate goal is to be the welterweight champion of the world someday, but like with anything in life, you need a plan B,” he said. “I want something to fall back on.”

Blankenship has received plenty of help in the ring from Juan Heraldez, a fellow Elite Boxing Gym fighter and sparring partner.

Heraldez won the Nevada Golden Gloves championship at 141 pounds after defeating Yul Abragan.

He is ranked No. 2 by USA Boxing in his division and will also be travelling to the Golden Gloves with Blankenship.

“I feel very comfortable with their chances at regionals,” Martinez said. “The thing about them is that they work hard. They are very dedicated, and that you can’t teach.”

Sean Ammerman can be reached at 990-2661 or [email protected].

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