Nathan’s first time sparring against another opponent didn’t go so well, according to his father, Michael. The sparring partner hit Nathan hard on the nose, and he started to cry.
Angela wanted to run over and comfort her son, but Michael, himself a former boxer, suggested she give Nathan a minute. Then, he went over to talk to his son.
“I asked him if he was OK, and he said, ‘Yeah,’” Michael said. “We started talking, and I said to him that if this is something he wants to do, then we’re going to do it all the way. He said he wanted to do it.”
Nathan made the right decision.
A few years later, he’s the No. 1-ranked boxer nationally in the 8- to 9-year-old age group at the 85-pound weight class after winning his division at the National Silver Gloves Tournament this winter in Independence, Mo.
Lugo had to win three single-elimination bouts in a bracketed style tournament to take home the belt. He won his first series of bouts in Georgia, which qualified him for a regional tournament that included other winners from Georgia, Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C. After defeating several of the other regional fighters, Lugo advanced to the national meet and faced other regional winners, en route to capturing the belt.
Lugo, who is 32-9, has won several medals over his career, though this was his first championship belt.
“It felt really good to win the belt,” said Lugo, who turned 10 on June 22. “I was really excited. I worked hard to get it and I feel like I deserved it.”
Lugo trains for roughly two to three hours after school Monday through Friday. Saturdays are typically spent sparring. The rising fifth-grader at Addison Elementary School in east Cobb said training includes jumping rope, hitting the bag and sparring, among other things.
Lugo does his homework on the bus ride home and continues it when he gets home before heading out for training.
Michael Lugo, who owns his own boxing and fitness gym in east Cobb, is proud of Nathan’s accomplishment. The father-son duo has spent many hours on the road going to tournaments in neighboring cities and states, as well as hours together in daily training. They travel to roughly three events a month.
When Nathan reached the final bout in Missouri, Michael had a strong feeling he would win.
“I saw the kid Nathan would have to face if he won,” Michael said. “He was a brawler who would just try to come at you and attack. Nathan can brawl, but he can box, too. I got him to jab at the kid a lot and move and get his punches in.
“It was a split-decision, but it didn’t have to be. Nathan outclassed him in the ring. The kid was really respectful, though, after the loss, and we appreciated that. He had our respect.”
The Lugos almost didn’t make it to Missouri. The day they left was same day the metro-Atlanta was shut down by a winter storm. Ultimately, the Lugos reached the tournament 15 minutes before they were scheduled to be there.
Another one of Michael’s pupils, 10-year-old Antony Reeves, who boxes at 75 pounds, is ranked No. 5 nationally. Reeves and several other boxers weren’t able to reach Missouri because of the winter storm.
Nathan did, however, and his father was glad they made it.
“I was overjoyed he had won, but really nervous during the bout,” Michael said. “As a coach and a father, I was more nervous than he was.”
Nathan, who also likes football, said Floyd Mayweather Jr., the unbeaten championship fighter, is his favorite boxer.
“I don’t like his attitude, but he’s a good boxer,” he said.
Nathan feels validated that his hard work has helped him reach the No. 1 national ranking. It also helps him with his long-term plans.
“It feels great to be No. 1,” he said. “I’m really happy all of my hard work is paying off. My goal is to be the best boxer with the highest number of knockouts. I also want to be an Olympian.”