NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Raised in the Hub City, two-time national champion boxer Leroy “Lucious” Davila will never forget his roots here.
Davila won the national title in 2013, and successfully defended the title going into the US National Boxing Championship on January 25.
Davila’s semi-final match ended in a unanimous decision over Houston’s Dominique Sosa that was described by StiffJab.com as “a sharp, switch-hitting counterpuncher with a good body attack” with “the most dominating performance of the morning session.”
WBAN described Davila's final match as “a masterpiece,” where he defeated Joshua Franco of San Antonio, Texas in a unanimous decision.
Winning is nothing new to Davila, who holds a 41-12 amateur record and has competed at the highest levels of the sport, winning various championships and medals in recent years.
Davila says he first learned to box from his single mother Cheryl, as he was growing up on Carman Street in the city's First Ward. His large extended family has supported him throughout his career.
“Growing up we always had gloves around,” said Leroy. “We were an athletic family. I was always playing sports.”
Davila credited his mother for being his biggest inspiration and doing everything she could to keep him off the streets and out of trouble, along with his older brother, two older sisters.
Leroy spoke with New Brunswick Today about his home city. The boxer said New Brunswick was where he learned to care for others and be friendly with everyone he came into contact with. He talked about mixing with different groups and treating everyone equally.
Davila says that his mother kept her children in line when she was around, but she often had to work late hours and leave Leroy and his siblings with extended family.
As a youth, an altercation resulted in Leroy being severely stabbed, giving him a chest wound that required approximately 160 stitches.
In his TeamUSA profile, Davila says that if he wasn’t boxing he’d be “honestly, in a lot of trouble.”
Making the Commitment
Davila first started doing technical training at the New Brunswick Boxing Gym when he was 18, and two years later, began taking his training seriously with Joe Espino.
Leroy said that he liked boxing because size didn’t matter nearly as much as skill. At 108 lbs., Davila competes as a light flyweight, a division where elite class fighters compete without headgear.
Two major changes helped to propel Leroy into the next phase of his career: a new coach, and a worthy rival from Denver, Colorado.
The relationship between Leroy and current trainer Steve Rivera is built on trust and respect gained over the years. Rivera, who worked with Leroy's former coach, is also the grandfather of Leroy’s soon to be 2 year old daughter Kharma or “Baby Lucious.”
Rivera, who lived in New Brunswick for 40 years before moving to Somerset, said he simply loves boxing and enjoys working with Davila.
“[Leroy]’s very humble. He’s like a 108-pound Sugar Ray Leonard.”
The two display an incredible connection, and often don’t need to speak.
“Sometimes [Leroy] won’t have to come to me. Sometimes he’ll come to the corner, and we’ll talk about getting his left hook in, changing it up, but I really trust him in the ring,” says Rivera.
A Worthy Rivalry
In addition to Rivera's rigorous training, Davila also draws inspiration from a long-standing rivalry with Denver’s Louie Byrd.
Davila lost to Byrd more than once in his career, but when asked what was the worst fight of his career he quickly named a 2009 fight that ended in a decision he felt unfairly went to Byrd.
Later that year at the National Championships, Byrd was the one fighter Leroy hoped to avoid, but as luck would have it, he was drawn to fight against him in Round 1. Davila chuckled as he remembered thinking, “anyone but him.”
This time, Davila was leading going into the 3rd round, but he was winded. Byrd unleashed a flurry of punches that caused the referees to stop the fight and declare Byrd the winner.
Davila said he then started to question his career choice, thinking, “There had to be something better than this.”
But instead Leroy set his sights on two goals: defeating Byrd and becoming a champion.
“I dreamed about him for 2 years,” admits Davila. “He was the only boxer I hated fighting.”
A Champion is Born
That motivation paid off in 2012, a breakout year for Davila. He won the 2012 Police Athletic League Championship, the 2012 Golden Gloves, and earned a silver medal at the US National Championships.
His fight against Byrd in the 2012 semi-final round of the US National ended in a 21-20 decision for Davila, in what he called his “best fight.”
Davila has grown to be a leader among his peers, serving as captain of Team USA in 2013, a role he has so far continued to live up to in 2014.
After taking the title at the US Championships, both Davila and Rivera were ready to begin training to prepare for the 2015 Olympic tryouts and the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
A good performance at the 2015 Boxing World Championships in Doha, Qatar will be critical for Leroy’s contention for the Olympic spot.
In the meantime though, Leroy is enjoying spending some extra time with his family. A loving father, Davila lists his daughter as his biggest motivation in his TeamUSA 2013 Profile.
“I thought it would be harder, but I’m lucky to have a good support system,” Davila told New Brunswick Today. “My schedule makes it hard to have the time to spend time with [my daughter], especially when I get home so tired from training or traveling, but any chance I get I try to make it count.”
Leroy has made sacrifices to become a champion, and was clearly emotional as he considered the time lost from his daughter and his other family members. But the accomplished fighter takes consolation from the fact that his family supports him and that he does his best at every chance he gets.
“I’m not perfect, I don’t even try to be perfect. I just try to be the person I’m supposed to be.”