Plum boxers ready for Golden Gloves opportunity
The Western Pennsylvania Police Athletic League will present a card of Golden Gloves boxing at 3 Lakes Golf Course on Saturday, and two boxers with Plum connections will step into the ring with sights set on a victory.
Matt Hefner, 15, a tenth-grade student at Plum High School, and Craig Kido, 30, a 1999 Plum graduate, are scheduled to be a part of the card of 10 to 12 bouts.
Kido, who works in a laborers union, will be fighting for the second time. He won his debut in November with a second-round victory during a show at the James 5:16 Center in Tarentum.
Hefner, who also plays the trumpet in the Plum marching band, will fight for the first time.
Kido wrestled his senior year at Plum, and then eight years passed before he entered the world of boxing and began training with fellow 1999 Plum graduate Derek Gionta at Boyce Gym in Plum.
“I saw Derek in Monroeville, and he said he was still coming down (to Boyce Gym) to train and work out,” Kido said.
“He asked me if I wanted to come down, and I was all for it. When I first came here, I was about 200 pounds, and I just wanted to lose weight. I got down to a good weight and started sparring with some of the other local pros and good amateurs. I was getting good, so I thought I might as well fight.”
Kido, who has trained roughly five times a week in advance of Saturday's bout and weighs in at about 155 pounds, said the fight in November really helped him prepare for Saturday's fight.
“I've sparred a lot, but once you get in the ring, it is an even higher speed,” he said.
“Everything is way faster.”
Kido was knocked down in the first round of his November fight, but he was able to rebound.
“Craig is definitely ready to roll,” said Gionta, a former Golden Gloves boxer who attended Robert Morris University after high school.
“He's always in shape. He's very self-motivated. He does his road work and then comes to the gym and puts rounds in, whether it's in the ring or on the bag. He's always prepared.”
Hefner has worked for two years at Boyce Gym with famed local trainer Andy Vitulla.
The process got started when Hefner found himself on crutches after a bike accident and wasn't able to try out for a winter basketball league.
Looking for an alternative athletic activity, Hefner and his father found Boyce Gym.
“My dad and I always liked to watch boxing on TV, and we found out about Boyce and got introduced to all of it,” Hefner said. “The rest is history.”
Hefner said there is a mixture of excitement and nerves heading into his fight debut on Saturday.
“Being my first fight, I don't know what it's going to be like, but I feel like I'm ready to get in the ring and do it,” he said.
Hefner knows he couldn't have gotten to the cusp of his first fight without the help of Vitulla.
“Andy is a great trainer,” Hefner said. “I couldn't ask for anyone better. He has pushed me hard, especially in these last couple weeks coming up to the fight. It's been a long road, but he's helped me a lot.”
Hefner, who trains three days a week for about two hours each day, said he will be comforted by the support of family and friends, as well as having Vitulla in his corner.
Vitulla said he's excited to see what Hefner can do in the ring.
“He spars a lot with the big guys,” Vitulla said.
“He can handle himself in the ring. There may be some first-fight jitters, but I think he can handle himself. He's just turned 15, and he's been training hard for two years. He has a busy schedule, and his school work is more important, but he's been working his training in. I think he's ready to go.”
Doors at 3 Lakes on Saturday open at 6:30 p.m. and bell time is at 7. For more information or tickets, call 412-298-7373.
Saturday's Golden Gloves fights begin a schedule that runs through April 20.
There will be Golden Gloves cards at the Ramada Inn in Greensburg on March 9 and at Royal Place Restaurant in Pittsburgh on March 16.
The Western PA finals will be April 13, with the state finals on April 20 at Royal Place Restaurant.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.