A TRIO of Bendigo boxers will be chasing gold at this week's Australian Under-19 Boxing Championships in Melbourne.
The Hit Factory's Sam Kay, Sebastian Collins and Harry Jackman will take on the country's best under-age fighters in a bid to become national champions.
For at least two of the Bendigo brigade, Kay and Collins, a spot on the Australian team to compete at the World Youth Championships in Spain in November beckons if they can emerge victorious.
The three-day championships, being held at the Whitehorse Club in East Burwood, start on Thursday.
The Golden Square-based Hit Factory has produced multiple national gold medallists, most recently in 2019 when Milli Woods captured the second of back-to-back titles.
Tully Scanlon also won back-to-back gold medals in 2016 and 2017.
READ MORE: Knock-out year for Milli Woods
Kay, who has been boxing for four years, is the only one of the three to have previously fought at the nationals.
The 16-year-old Girton Grammar student won a silver medal at the Australian titles in Queensland as an under-15 in 2019 and is stepping up to the youth 51kg division after missing his two under-17 years due to COVID.
His Hit Factory coach Burton is bullish about Kay's chances in Melbourne.
"Sam is very humble and quite a shy kid, but once he enters the ring he only knows one way and that's to come forward and apply lots of pressure on his opponent," he said.
"If he can control his nerves, he beats anyone in Australia."
With the past two national championships cancelled due to COVID, Kay is eager to make up for lost time and opportunities.
"It was pretty hard missing out, but I've stuck with it and done many training programs to get me back on my feet," he said.
"I've gained a lot more experience since the last time, so I feel ready."
Eighteen-year-old Collins, who will compete in the light heavyweight 80kg youth division, has been boxing for two-and-a-half years and enters the championships with a handy 6-4 record.
This will be his first appearance at the nationals.
A ruckman with Sandhurst's under-18 team, Collins has successfully balanced football and boxing and has progressed in leaps and bounds, according to his coach.
"I don't think he really knew how good he was and what opportunities boxing could bring him," Burton said.
"He played footy the day before his state title fight, but when he won that bout and I told him what could be next, he decided to put football on hold and concentrate on boxing.
"The past four weeks he has improved hugely.
"He has possibly the biggest tank I have seen and his commitment is second to none.
"He is inexperienced as far as bouts go, but he is tough and has the work rate and power in his gloves."
Collins, a second-year apprentice carpenter with Hilson Builders, said he was fully prepared for his toughest competition to date.
"I guess the nerves will kick in, but I'm going to just try and embrace the moment," he said.
"It's a new experience for me, I haven't fought any of these guys before, which is pretty exciting.
"I've been training twice a day for around four hours a day. I'll be aiming for gold and hopefully go through to Spain."
The youngest of the Hit Factory crew, Jackman, who has a 3-3 record, will compete in the under-15 schoolboy 57kg division.
With months between the state titles and the nationals, Burton said placing the 14-year-old in the best division had proven challenging.
"Harry had a growth spurt and looking at him he is built like a little Hercules," he said.
"Trying to guess what weight he would be (at nationals), he is entered in a division or two high in the end.
"But he is strong and fit and he will show up to fight.
"It's all about experience and Harry always with a smile will be in there focused on a gold."
Jackman, who has been training at the Hit Factory for the last 18 months, but took up boxing classes while in grade prep, is eagerly looking forward to stepping into the ring for his nationals debut.
"It's been a long time coming, so I'd love to win," he said.
"Boonie (coach Burton) has been amazing, he cares so much about us.
"He really cares about his boxers and the gym. It would be great to reward him."
A dual-code athlete, Jackman plays junior football with South Bendigo.
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