Thirteen-year-old Julius Ballo may be a normal teenager at his Tierra Del Sol middle school in Lakeside, but in the boxing ring, he’s a national champion.
The Santee resident started boxing when he was three. He first competed in the ring when he was eight. “My dad pushed me,” said Ballo affectionately.
Training at El Cajon’s Bomber Squad Boxing Academy, he won the Southern California Silver Glove championship for the 90-pound class of 12- and 13-year-olds late last year. Later, he went on to win the California state title.
On January 7, representing California at the southwest regionals in Compton, Ballo competed in sudden-death elimination boxing tournaments against the champions from seven other states. He won the tournament.
Over the February 11–12 weekend, Ballo and his family flew to Kansas City, Missouri, for the national competition. Competing against the regional winners for seven other areas around the country, Ballo placed first.
Ballo’s coach, Berlin Kerney, says, “He is ahead of his time.” When Ballo was eight and first started working with Kerney, he said talking to Ballo was like talking to an adult. “He has no reserve. Whatever I tell him, he translates it and then does it,” said Kerney. "He’ll analyze it first, think about it, but then works hard on it.”
On February 17, Ballo was honored at a banquet put on by the Neighborhood Market Association, a San Diego–based Chaldean organization that has thousands of members who own corner markets and liquor stores.
It was the first time outside of the boxing world that Ballo got to show off his large national championship belt, holding it high above his head. Ballo also showed off his boxing persona to a standing ovation — a charming but all-knowing smirk with a clenched fist close to his chest and his “number one” digit extended from the other hand.
Now that Ballo moves up to the next Silver Glove boxing division — 14- and 15-year-olds — what are his goals now? “I want to take it all the way to the 2024 Olympics and a gold medal,” he said. He hopes the Olympics will be held in Los Angeles that year so his friends and family can attend.