LOWELL -- The best amateur boxers in New England are heading to Tennessee in hopes of punching their ticket to glory.
The National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions begins in Chattanooga on Monday and will conclude with the championship finals on Saturday. The tourney will feature men’s and women’s Open Division champions from regional Golden Gloves Tournaments held throughout the United States.
This year’s tourney is being held at the Chattanooga Convention Center. Bouts are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. each night.
Team New England is looking to make its presence felt in one of amateur boxing’s showcase events. This year’s squad has a nice mixture of experienced veterans and youngsters on the rise.
“It looks like a really good team,” said New England Golden Gloves Director Bob Russo. “There’s a lot of talent. Again a lot of it has to do with the luck of the draw.
“If you get in a tough bracket, you could potentially fight five times against strong competition. Even though the fights are only three rounds, everybody in this tournament is a champion from their region so there are no easy opponents.”
The men’s team will feature Jose Ferrer Jr. (114 pounds, New Bedford), Felix Parrilla (123, New Haven, Conn.), Joshua Foster (132, New Haven, Conn.), Alejandro Paulino (141, New London, Conn.), Marc Solis (152, Clinton, Conn.), Francis Hogan (165, Weymouth), Jesse Batanda (178, Nashua), Demek Edmonds (heavyweight, Worcester) and Stephen Moss (super heavyweight, Holyoke).
The women’s roster includes Elizabeth Leddy (132, Portland, Maine), Arika Skoog (141, Roxbury) and Emily Jones (152, Woburn).
Parrilla has plenty of big-bout experience on the men’s team. He advanced to the National finals at 123 last May. Parrilla, who has been named the Outstanding Boxer at the New England Tournament of Champions the past two years, is looking to take the next step and win a national title.
“Felix Parrilla lost a very disputed decision last year at the Nationals,” said Russo. “He’s a national level kid. He’s a complete boxer. I believe that this will probably be his last shot at a (Golden Gloves) national title and then he’ll turn pro.”
Russo liked what he saw from Paulino when he fought in Lowell at the New Englands.
“He’s very aggressive,” said Russo. “He has a good amount of Open class experience. He’s a real good fighter. He’s really fun to watch.”
Batanda has quickly made a name for himself in the local amateur boxing circles. A slick stick-and-move boxer/puncher, Batanda won the New England Novice Tournament and then went on to bang his way to the New England Open crown.
“He won the Novice championship and then went right into the Open Division and won a New England title,” said Russo. “He doesn’t have a lot of experience, but boy he doesn’t look it. He has a lot of ability.”
Foster comes from a boxing family. His father, William Jr., is a former professional fighter, and his older brothers, Charles and William III, each won New England crowns as amateurs before turning pro.
Edmonds is a powerful puncher with plenty of experience at heavyweight, while Hogan had a great deal of success competing at the Junior Olympic level.
Leading the way on the women’s team is Leddy, who is a three-time national champion.
Skoog and Jones each fought extremely well in Lowell and will look to continue their winning ways in Chattanooga.
“At this level it ultimately comes down to having good boxing skills,” said Russo. “If you don’t have those type of boxing skills, you will eventually run out of road.
“Most of this team has the type of skills it takes to do well. We have fighters with experience. A lot of them have been here before. I feel this team is going to do a real good job representing New England.”
Muhammed Brooks and Jason Estrada are Team New England’s coaches.
Officials from New England who are working at the Nationals are Laurie Purcell and Melissa Kelly.
Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi