By Thomas Gerbasi
Wednesday night, Michael Dutchover was in a remarkably good mood. He was less than 24 hours away from having to make weight for his Friday night fight on ShoBox, he was awaiting an opponent, but the Texan appeared to not have a care in the world.
“I had no trouble making weight, so I’m just happy to fight Friday night on a nationally televised card,” said Dutchover, who did ultimately get Rosekie Cristobal (15-3, 11 KOs) to step in on short notice for the bout at Omega Products International in Corona, California.
Hey, some say making weight is the first fight, and with that done, the 21-year-old can have some fun. And that’s what he’s been doing thus far in racing out to a perfect 12-0 record that includes nine stops.
“I’m exactly where I need to be,” he said. “Within 12 fights I’m fighting on TV, so I believe I’m super blessed with the team that I have. My manager, Danny Zamora, he’s also my coach, and I feel God put people in my path for a reason. I’m chasing my dream and nothing’s stopping me.”
It’s the fearlessness and confidence of youth, but in Dutchover’s case, he appears to have the talent to go with it. And having moved from Texas to California to train, the “West Texas Warrior” is obviously willing to make the sacrifices necessary to succeed in his third sport.
Third? Well, he is from Texas.
“Football was my first passion growing up and I was a bad little dude,” said Dutchover of the Lone Star State’s favorite game. “I used to play all positions – offense / defense – and it’s funny, but whenever I was playing flag football, the coaches used to tell me to stop juking the kids because I was making them look silly. (Laughs) But the thing is, football always has an off-season. I was getting older and I needed to stay in shape for the next football season. My older brother was boxing at the time at Midtown Soldiers Boxing Club in Midland, Texas and my parents have always supported anything I wanted to do, so I told them I want to skip the off-season and do boxing to stay in shape. I went to a boxing gym and I never saw another football season again. I fell in love with boxing and it just took off from there.”
Dutchover had a solid 130-17 amateur record that included several tournament wins and a bronze medal at the U.S. Olympic trials in 2015.
But what was the second sport between football and boxing? Well, Dutchover was a heck of a cross country runner, clocking in a PR of 16:10 in the three-mile distance.
“I wasn’t even our top runner,” said Dutchover. “Our top runner, Bryce Hoppel, ran a 14:58. He’s my friend and he runs for Kansas right now. He’s gonna be in the Olympics.”
The Midland High School Bulldogs were one of the top cross country teams, though, helping to put the sport on the map in Texas.
“Ever since I was a freshman I was on the varsity team, and for four years, we were the bad dudes in West Texas,” he said. “Cross country was never a big thing in Midland. We had some of the top guys in the nation that are running in college right now that I ran with. We just had an awesome team. We made it to regionals two straight years, something that was never done before. I love running and I was good at it.”
And it’s still a major part of his life, obviously for training purposes, but Dutchover also plans on running his first half-marathon in June.
“My father was very happy about that,” said Dutchover, whose dad is a marathoner.
Yet despite his affection for football and running, boxing had his heart from the time he put the gloves on. And that love hasn’t wavered in the slightest. And why would it, considering his success thus far? But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been tested, whether in sparring by the likes of Danny Roman, Mick Conlan, Oscar Valdez and Jessie Magdaleno, or in the ring when the fights count.
“I believe my promoter has tested me and I’ve passed every test,” said Dutchover. “Friday’s the next test. They want to see improvement and I am improving. Since I moved over here and made the sacrifice to train in Southern California, I’ve sparred world champions, contenders and top prospects, so no matter who I’m fighting on Friday, it doesn’t matter. I can adapt in the ring and that’s something I’ve worked on. I can fight a lefty, a righty, and I’m prepared for whatever.”
You believe him too, and Dutchover has remarkable poise for someone so young. He credits his brother Junior with that.
“He’s always embedded that confidence in me that you’re gonna be a world champion, you’re gonna be on TV,” said Dutchover. “He’s a big role model to me, and he’s flying in right now to see my fight. I haven’t seen him since December. I’m over here working, away from my family, but he knows the reason I’m over here.”
That’s to win, do it impressively, and to one day get a shiny belt that he can bring back to Texas. In the meantime, Dutchover explains that while football and running are cool, there’s nothing like a fistfight.
“It’s a one on one sport,” he said. “Mano a mano, me against the guy in front of me. It doesn’t matter what coach he has, where he’s at, where he’s living, where he’s training. And that’s my mentality. I’m always learning every day I’m in the gym, I believe I have the best coach in the boxing game in Danny Zamora, and I believe it’s shown in me in how much I’ve improved. I’m confident in my team, and when I step into the ring, there’s two guys in there and whoever can break the other’s will first is gonna win. And I’ve always broken the will of my opponent.”