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Ginno Montoya: An Underdog Story


The underdog ­– champion of the people and nightmare of the champion. Their tales go back as far as The Bible and as recent as last year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.


But all these stories were told after the thud or the final whistle.


Featherweight boxer Ginno Montoya’s potential underdog story does not have a final chapter. It has just begun.


Montoya was born May 22, 1994, in Santa Ana, California. When Montoya was 10 years old, he and his family moved to Lincoln upon recommendation from his aunt and uncle Johnny and Lupe Montoya.


They said to come because of the nice weather.


“They first got here in the summer when it was all green,” Ginno said chuckling. “We came here in November when there was like two feet high of snow and was like ‘where’s all the good weather at?”


Growing up, Montoya was subject to seeing arguments and fights between family members. The constant aggression angered Montoya. Not wanting to hurt his family members, Montoya kept his emotions in check and rolled along with it.


At school, Montoya could not find solace. Being a featherweight fighter, Montoya did not grow up with a physically big frame. Montoya was on the receiving end of taunts by his classmates and bullies. Combined with the frustrations in his family life, Montoya’s anger reached a boiling point.


“Both ways it was going to be bad,” Montoya said. “It built anger in me, it wasn’t that I couldn’t fight them (bullies) I just didn’t want to get in trouble so I built up more anger.”


With not many outlets for his frustration, he looked to his friend and boxer Roberto Torres.


Montoya was welcomed to the boxing world by Torres – a bigger but younger fighter than Montoya. Torres had been introduced to boxing a few years earlier by his sister as a 16-year old.


“I would go over to his house and talk all about it and how good I was doing,” Torres said. “We would work out…I would show him the things they were teaching me.”


Montoya took on to the sport. He became a student of the game, watching every fight he could. His favorite fighter was Oscar De La Hoya.


“Me having Mexican pride, I always wanted Oscar De La Hoya to win but sometimes he got his a** beat,” Montoya said.


Montoya liked the violence of boxing. It gave him a chance to release his anger in the purest way possible – hitting another man in the face.


“I just like the feeling,” Montoya said. “When I punch him (his opponent) and put him in a dangerous zone, it made my self-esteem go higher.”


In 2017 Montoya gained another reason to fight. He became the father to his daughter Leya.


“I want my daughter to be proud of me,” Montoya said. “When she grows older I want her to be able to say ‘my dad did something great in this world…if he could do something good in this world then I could something good too.”


On October 10 a little after 8 pm, Montoya walks into Prairie Life Fitness just off P St. in Lincoln. This is not his usual gym. He does most of his workouts at South Side boxing gym and T.J. Sokol Boxing gym in Crete.


His trainer, Nate Walenta could not make it to the training session.


“He’s a motivated, strong headed and ambitious,” Walenta said. “I think he could be the next golden gloves champion in Nebraska.”


Montoya arrives at the gym wearing a green Subway shirt. He is fresh off working one of his two jobs (the other being construction). After changing, Montoya does a quick warm up and starts his workout on a heavy bag, throwing combinations.


He has a fight coming up on Saturday in Omaha. It will be his thirteenth fight, as his record stands at 10-2 with four knockouts.


Montoya does not know the name of his opponent, but he has faced him before. In the first round, Montoya knocked his opponent out. His hopes were high for the rematch.


“When I step in the ring, I feel like David and my opponent is like Goliath because I have God’s strength in me and I feel untouchable,” Montoya said.

Montoya fell short of claiming the eleventh win, but the story of this underdog is far from over.