Fighting bigger, older opponents did little for his record but it had much to do with the shaping of young Nathan Kim into a champion boxer.
The Kent teen recently came away with a Junior Golden Gloves national championship belt in his third trip to the big ring. Kim, who had lost five of six previous bouts, came ready to beat Idaho’s Praxton Wight to the punch for the 138-pound title in the 13-14 age division showdown at Mesquite, Nev., on July 22.
“I just went all out against him. Fought as hard as I could,” Kim said of his matchup against Wight.
Kim, 13, is a big kid who is still growing into his size-13 shoes. And while he matures in the gym as a boxer, he continues to excel in the classroom as a standout student who enters the eighth grade in the International Baccalaureate program at Totem Middle School, on Kent’s West Hill, but part of the Federal Way School District.
Dad keeps a good eye on his son. Mike Kim, a volunteer coach, was a former mixed martial artist who trained at the Tacoma Boxing Club. Young Nathan tagged along to the gym and soon got hooked on boxing.
“He’s been working hard and steadily improving and growing and learning … he’s a tough kid,” Mike Kim said of his prodigy. “I didn’t know if he was going to stick with it, but he has stuck with it this far.”
Since he began boxing at age 8, Nathan Kim has had about 20 amateur fights, most of them ending up on the losing end since it was often difficult to find kids his size at his age to challenge.
So he fought older, stronger opponents. He learned the hard way and became a quick study.
After losing to champion fighters in each of the previous two trips to nationals, a well prepared Kim found an opponent he could beat. He came into the fight confident, having trained by design against a 16-year-old sparring partner.
“Nate handled him well,” said his coach, Tom Mustin, of the Tacoma Boxing Club. “The 16 year old was throwing big shots at him, but it helped him use his jabs and his sidesteps. … That’s one of the things that really helped him to win the nationals … he fought a kid that was pretty much the same size as the boy he had been sparring.”
Mustin sees a boxer who will continue to blossom with skill and time.
“Nate’s going to be a big kid, a heavyweight. … What’s going to help him when he gets that big is he’s boxed as a youngster and he’s going to know all the moves and stuff.”
Nathan Kim likes to take his opponents head on, with a good right-hand delivery. His style continues to evolve. There are bigger fights on the horizon, including this year’s Silver Gloves state card.
Kim was one of four Tacoma Boxing Club national champions for the Tacoma Boxing Club. Others included 9-year-old Joseph Nieto (65 pounds, most outstanding boxer in his division); 10-year-old America Hernandez (125 pounds, female division) and 12-year-old Malachi Jenkins (125 pounds).
“I like hanging out with the team and traveling,” Kim said. “I just like the rush when you get into the ring.”