As Chaise Nelson bobbed and weaved, his “Old Glory” headgear looked like an American flag flapping in the breeze.

His hands moved almost as fast as a tropical storm.

Watching him spar with 22-year old Nick Stevens in the Friendly House Boxing Center, it’s hard to believe Nelson was  giving up nearly eight years to his opponent.

The Ontario ninth-grader just turned 15, but his ring resume reads like that of someone much older: three national
championship belts, four Arnold Classic titles, a USA Boxing world team tryout on the immediate horizon.

“He’s ring-savvy, a really smart fighter who sets a lot of traps,” said Billy Salser, who coaches
the boxers at Friendly House with Nelson’s father, Mike. “He’s the most athletic kid you’ll ever
see.”

Nelson is already picturing himself at 19. His focus is squarely on 2016 and making the U.S.
Olympic team.

That’s what made his latest title in Toledo last month so big in his eyes. He won the 125-pound
class in the 13-14 age group at the Police Athletic League nationals. The PAL tournament was an
Olympic qualifier.

In his three bouts, all consisting of three 90-second rounds, Nelson beat Noah Villareal of
Lubbock, Texas 10-3, Freddie Williams of Mays Landing, N.J. 17-5 and Sebastian Fondora of
Tampa Fla, 9-8, despite giving up nine inches to the 6-foot-3 Fondora in their title match.

The championship earned Nelson an invite to Reno, Nev., in January for the world team tryouts
and the chance to compete internationally as USA Boxing begins grooming kids Nelson’s age for
the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

If Nelson makes the 2013 travel team, the first competition will be in the Ukraine, home to six
boxing medalists at the London Olympics.

“That’s my primary goal,” he said of the Olympics. “Ever since I started boxing, that’s what I
wanted to do. Every tournament is a step toward my dream — the 2016 Olympics.”

Nelson’s PAL title came on the heels of a national championship at the Ohio State Fair. He was
3-0 in that tournament, as well, including a TKO in his second bout.

“He’s real fast, hand-wise, but now he has the power coming as he gets older,” Salser said. “It’s
hard to get knockouts at this amateur level because of the head gear and big gloves. It’s safety
first.”

Competing at the Ohio State Fair required a quick turnaround from Nelson. He had just returned
a few days earlier from the National Junior Golden Gloves Championships in Mesquite, Nev.,
where he finished third after winning that tournament in 2010.

That rare loss in the Golden Gloves semis simply made him more determined to win the two
national tournaments that followed.

“It taught me to keep going forward instead of backing up,” Nelson said. “Basically, I went back
in the gym and just worked hard.”

Nelson trains four nights a week at the Friendly House. On this particular rainy night he was
joined by 15 other kids, most of whom took a break from working on the bags to watch Nelson’s
sparring session.

“Our goal is for everyone else to see what someone like Chaise is doing, so everybody else can jump on the bandwagon,” said Salser, commending the METRICH Enforcement Unit for donating the new $8,000 ring used at the Friendly House. “We’re on the right path. It’s a good feeling taking Chaise to a tournament knowing he’s going to win.”

Winning is easy. Finding someone to spar with is harder. Stevens’ heavy hands make him a good
test. Nelson also mixes it up with Aaron Neighbors, a local MMA fighter with All-Out Assault.

“It’s hard to get sparring at his age and size,” Mike Nelson said. “He’s always fighting men. He’s
always fighting uphill.”

One of his role models is Marc Salser, Billy’s younger brother and the unbeaten International
Boxing Association super lightweight title holder.

“That shows that anybody from anywhere can do anything if you work at it,” Nelson said.
That response brought a smile to Billy Salser’s face. He competed himself until a couple of years
ago and was trained by such local icons as former world light heavyweight champ “Prince”
Charles Williams and ex-national kickboxing champ Mickey Scodova, now Mark Salser’s
manager and trainer.

“I adopted Charles’ style,” Billy Salser said. “He’s had a big influence on me. With him the jab
is key. The jab is first. Mickey was cool and had a calm demeanor, which is important because
fights are not decided on one punch.”

With Chaise Nelson, the punches usually come in flurries.

“His hand speed is his biggest asset,” Mike Nelson said. “As he’s gotten older, his speed has
turned into power. He’ll set someone up with a jab and then put 16 to 18 punches together.
Nobody puts together combinations like that. It creates a lot of scoring.

“What it really does is overwhelm his opponent.”

Originally published in the News Journal on November 5, 2012.