THREE-time state champion Jake May has marked a return to boxing by winning selection in the Victorian state team.
The 19-year-old from Bendigo had his first fight in nearly three years in Melbourne in February, acquitting himself superbly against his heavier, older and vastly more experienced opponent.
It was enough to earn May a call-up to the state squad, putting him on track to compete at the national championships in November this year.
The gifted youngster, who competes in the 54kg division, has been back in training under the guidance of Garry Austin at Fit Republic since late last year.
It followed a two-year hiatus from the sport to focus on his education and employment.
May said Austin had been pivotal in his decision to return to the ring.
"Gaz was very persistent. He's pretty close to our family and was always calling to see how I was," he said.
"From there I just had a bit of an itch to come back.
"Once I got back in the gym I realised how much I really love it and how much I missed what I was doing. I'm really enjoying it.
"Gaz has a fountain of knowledge about this sport. He lives it every single day and has for 40-plus years."
While his return to the ring ended with a split decision loss, May was rapt with his performance
"It was a great match, my first time doing three-by-threes in the elite over-19 category," he said.
"It was a much different fight to any other I have had, a real technical, chess match-type style of boxing. But that's only made me want more of it.
"My opponent was 35 and very solid. Gaz can remember him from 10 years ago, so he's been around in the sport and I could certainly feel that experience when I went in there.
"He knew exactly what he was doing."
May, who started boxing as a 13-year-old under the guidance of former Bendigonian Frank Pianto at his Kangaroo Flat gym, is hoping to emulate his success in the junior ranks.
He won his first state title at 14 in 2016 in the 46kg division and backed it up by defending his title at the same age nearly 12-months later.
His third state title came a few months shy of his 16th birthday in February of 2018.
May is viewing his state selection as hopefully the first step towards future title success.
"I was pretty rapt to get the message that I was in the team," he said.
"I'll be going hard - aiming high and seeing what happens.
"It's a great opportunity, so I need to snatch it."
"I was pretty rapt to get the message that I was in the team. I'll be going hard - aiming high and seeing what happens.- Jake May
Austin said May had come a long way in a short time in boxing and was proud with the way he had returned to the sport stronger and refocused.
"He won three state titles and has been to the Australian championships twice, but has only had 15 fights, which is pretty impressive," he said.
"He's been fighting guys with 60 and 80 fights under their belts.
"He's come back strong. He's not as fit as what he was, but that's not to say he's not fit. There's always room to improve and he will certainly get fitter as time goes on.
"He knows what he has got to do, he's done it before, " added Austin, who knows plenty about comebacks to boxing.
He won an Australian masters championship in 2017, aged 61.
It was his first official bout in 26 years.
May will have his next fight later this month, but with a dearth of 54kg division fighters in Victoria and other states, May is expected to pursue opponents in the 57kg division.
"There probably could be a rematch with the guy he fought at the (Commonwealth) Games selections. That was a split decision - I thought we won," Austin said.
"We could fight him again and then maybe the guy who beat him.
"But we would love to go to the Australian titles as a 54(kg). That way we would be super strong and hopefully with a few wins in the division above us."
Austin continues to be encouraged by the progress shown by Jake's younger brother, 15-year-old Tyler, who is coming off a win in Melbourne in February.
The powerfully built youngster also won his previous fight in Bendigo in March last year.
"He has the potential to be the best in his (junior) division in his age group in Victoria," Austin said.
"He'll be fighting in the state titles. We are just waiting on dates for that."
Austin's enthusiasm is shared by Tyler's older brother.
"For a kid that hasn't had that many fights or experience, he is killing it in the ring," Jake said of Tyler.
"He's been exceptional.
"It will really come down to him just how far he goes, and even though I give him a bit of shit, I'm proud of him."
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