Lally toughens up for Pan Am Games

One thing Kenny Lally learned about himself last week at the Cheo Aponte Cup boxing tournament in Puerto Rico - he doesn't have a glass jaw.

Hector Luis Garcia of the Dominican Republic did everything he could to try to find out if Lally's chin was made of china and despite a solid pounding, it hurt, but did not break.

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"That was one of my toughest fights to date - he hit hard, he was tall and he was skillful," said Lally.

"I could move these other guys with my combinations and speed but this guy (Garcia) would not go anywhere. He was in front of my face the whole time. I got my chin tested and he tagged me a few times but I did not go down. I lost every round.

"I just wasn't strong enough."

Despite his loss to Garcia, the eventual gold medalist in the 56 kilogram weight class, Lally didn't go home empty-handed. He was rewarded with a bronze medal, having had to fight his way to the playoff round. To get there, he earned unanimous decisions over Kendrick Stewart of the Bahamas and Abimael Ortiz of Puerto Rico.

Unlike the 2011 Cheo Aponte Cup, when Lally earned a bye into the second round of the tournament, he and three other 56kg fighters had to fight in the preliminary round.

"I was only there for less than 24 hours when I fought the first guy (Stewart) and I felt the jet lag," said Lally. "He was shorter than me but a lot stockier and I just fired off my combinations and he couldn't handle my movement."

Before he fought Lally in the quarterfinals, Ortiz knocked his Mexican opponent unconscious and Lally knew he had power.

"It was really close and by the last round my coach (Daniel Trpanier) told me I had to let it go and so I just let my hands go and he couldn't handle my speed," Lally said. "These guys were throwing two or three punches and I was throwing seven or eight. There wasn't a lot of power behind it but when you throw that many punches it makes an impression on the judges."

The tournament was held in the sweltering heat and humidity of an outdoor ring and Lally admitted he was at a disadvantage compared to his opponents who grew up in warm climates. At one point during his bout against Ortiz, the sun shone in Lally's eyes just as Ortiz landed a punch to his face.

"All the odds are against me fighting in these countries, but that's when the mental part comes in, you just have to block it out," Lally said. "That's why I've gone as far as I have. I've got a very strong mind.

"Gold would have been nice but winning two fights to get bronze, I feel great about getting third out of 12 people, and these were strong countries. That year I took off was the best thing for me - I'm stronger than ever and I'm motivated again."

Lally has already earned a spot on the Canadian team for the Pan American Games in Toronto, July 10-26, which means he won't have to take part in a national team qualifying tournament in Mexico in June. Lally will leave for Toronto in late June to begin a two-week training camp in the lead-up to the Pan Am tournament, which will be held in Oshawa.

He plans to add five pounds of muscle mass to his frame before that, and will dehydrate his body for the weigh-ins, then add that weight back before his first Pan Am fight. The International Boxing Association dropped headgear rules adopted before the 1984 Summer Olympics and brought back a pro style 10-point scoring system to try to attract more amateur boxers. The new rules will apply to the Pan Am Games and 2016 Olympics. Coming in 2016, youth fighters and women will also be boxing without padding to protect their heads.

Lally has 116 fights on his 14-year boxing resume but has fought just eight times without headgear and likes the change.

"Your vision is a lot better and you feel more free and it hurts a lot more getting punched, but man, when you hit somebody without headgear it feels good," said Lally.

"You do have to be a little bit sick to be in the sport. I love it, I would never go back."

Lally will be in Regina for the Mayor's Cup Canada versus USA event, where he'll take on a yet-to-be-determined American opponent in two matches May 24 and 28. Lally will have Bob Pegues, his Inner City coach, in his corner that weekend.

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