Sac State student boxer fights for a chance at 2020 Olympics

Kevin Montano qualifies for Team USA trials

Boxing for Team USA and having an opportunity to compete in the 2020 Olympics may seem like a dream for some, but for Sacramento State student Kevin Montano, this dream may become a reality.

Dedication, hard work and focus are what led Montano to box for Team USA. In his amateur career, he boxed in over 100 matches and finished with a record of 90-20. 

Montano is also ranked No. 5 in the 125-pound weight class for Elite Men on Team USA.

This experience not only provided Montano with the chance to do what he loves at a high level, but also allows him to see parts of the world that he could only imagine before while doing it.

“I’ve never had the money or resources to travel the world, except (to) Mexico because I’m Mexican,” Montano said. “Knowing that all my hard work finally paid off and (Team USA) took me on an all-expenses-paid (trip) all over the world to Germany, London, Kazakhstan and Poland, it was crazy.” 

“It was really a dream come true and it motivated me more, it put me in the spotlight, it really put me on the map,” Montano said. “It showed me that the 2020 Olympics were possibly an option. It became a reality more than just a dream.” 

Montano said traveling to different parts of the world and seeing different fighting styles and moves from other boxers has given him insight on how he can improve his own game.

Being a student athlete and kinesiology major is another challenge for Montano.

However, the many hurdles have not stopped him from doing what he needs to when it comes to boxing and school. According to Montano, a “good” night of sleep for him is five hours, max.

“Sparring three or four times a week takes a toll on your body and (keeping) your motivation to go home and still work another three or four hours is really tough,” Montano said. “There’s a lot of times where I just want to say ‘I’m not doing my homework, I’m not turning in my assignments, I’m just going to go to sleep.’ (But) I know at the end of the day it’s all going to pay off.”

Anthony Shorter
Sac State student-boxer Kevin Montano hits the punching bag after sparring at Midtown Fitness and Boxing. Montano is currently training to have a spot at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Montano and his sparring partner, Dorrel Fore, spar for six rounds that are three minutes each on Tuesday nights. They use this time to initiate live contact with someone who is hitting back instead of just hitting the punching bag or mitts. Montano and Fore have been training and sparring together for years. 

Fore has seen major growth in Montano and said he admires how far he has come in this past year. Fore is currently on the same athletic path and uses Montano as inspiration throughout his journey to get where he wants to be.

“Kevin’s one of the reasons I had success in boxing. His confidence, it’s his heart,” Fore said. “My first national tournament (was) when I met Kev (and) he basically told me to fight every fight like it’s your last. If you look at Kev and how he fights, he shows it and that pushed me through and gave me a little confidence to actually win the tournament.”

Story continues below photo.

Anthony Shorter
Sac State student-boxer Kevin Montano punches his sparring partner Dorrel Fore at Midtown Fitness and Boxing. Montano and Fore sparred for six rounds that were three minutes each.

Boxing is a sport known for fighters suffering from head and brain trauma. When it comes to improving his game, Montano said he has improved his IQ and ring smarts the most. He knows the importance and potential risks when it comes to the head and brain and has been working to improve protecting himself.

“I want to go into the game with a sharp mind and leave with a sharp mind,” Montano said. “I’ve been practicing on hitting and not getting hit, keeping my hands up higher, tightening the defense and really just fighting smarter. Focusing on giving damage and taking the least possible damage.”

RELATED: Sac State student-boxer punches his way to Team USA

Montano is very proud to represent his roots and heritage when he steps in the ring. Montano said he fights for his dad, who came to the United States with just $100 in his pocket and managed to provide for his family. Montano said he is also fighting for the Mexican people, which he referred to as his “entire family.”

Montano’s motto is “Puro Mexicano,” or “Pure Mexican.” He incorporates Mexican boxing techniques in his bouts.

“Mexican Style, that’s what I live by,” Montano said.

Anthony Shorter
Sac State student-boxer Kevin Montano (right) and his sparring partner Dorrel Fore spar each other at Midtown Boxing and Fitness. Montano said he likes sparring because it helps him better prepare for his next fight.

Montano attributes a lot of his success to his sponsor, ProTrain. Montano said there have been many times when he couldn’t afford to eat and ProTrain stepped in to provide him with meals. The company has been fueling him for the past month and will be providing for him up until the Olympic Trials.

The next step for Montano is the 2020 Olympic Trials in Lake Charles, Louisiana on December 7. He took home the silver medal in the western qualifiers in Reno, Nevada in March. The Olympic Trials are one step away from competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“I’m just trying to make it out and give my family a chance, short term that’s the next best step,” Montano said. “Long term, I plan to become a World Champion.”

You can stay up to date with Kevin’s journey on his Instagram @Kev1nMontano.