Being on the road and winning a championship is no easy task. We have often witnessed what happens to athletes when they step into “foreign” territory. However, for four-time boxing champion Ritchy Montaño, that is all he knows.
Montaño has been boxing since he was a young child. Under the purview of his father, he boxed all over the world. His memories of being on the road with his father Richard Montaño as his coach are strong and by the tone of his voice priceless.
On Saturday, August 19 at the Mathis Auditorium in Valdosta, GA, Montaño won the heavyweight championship in the master’s division on the first round. While he is no stranger to the “champion” title, this is an extremely significant win as it completes the dream he has been pursuing for some time.
It all started back in 2013 when he fell short to winning a Masters’ world championship title. “I made it to the semifinals, but I couldn’t bring the title home,” he said. His defeat could’ve easily made him stay home; however, if you ask me, it seemed to only fuel his desire to keep trying. “It wasn’t easy and it took a lot of work,” he said. “But in 2014 I decided to go to the master championship and we won with me being at 185 lbs.”
When Montaño refers to “we”, he is talking about his head coach Myron Johnson. “Myron and I go back a while back. I believe we have both gotten a lot out of our relationship. I know I am where I am greatly because of him and I know he has said the same thing when it comes to me. Myron and I did a nine-month tour and brought back seven titles. I had fought everyone in Oregon I wanted to do something different. Show the kids that when you have a dream you can make it come true. I am small, 172 lbs, 165 lbs if needed. I had a dream and I wanted to prove that if you work hard, you will succeed. I failed three times but my daughter encouraged me a lot ‘Dad don’t give up. The day you win, you will feel good’, she was right, last night it happened at 195 lbs.”
You could say Montaño is Oregon’s very own Holyfield! “The guy I was fighting (Jimmy Capeles) was bigger, I knew I couldn’t just take him. I had to outbox him. I’m faster. I had to be smart about it. Hats off to him, he has great talent.”
Montaño’s win for sure has an amazing story behind. However, as he mentioned to OSN, this wasn’t easy at all. Not only did it take several trials and fails, but there were also some health and emotional barriers. His father (Richard Montaño) passed away in 2009. The loss of his father took a toll on his life. “For a while there after his passing I took the wrong path, drinking too much and such, but I found my way back”.
In addition to the passing of his father, Montaño suffered an accident and had to undergo Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) treatment for 13 ligament and muscle tears in place of surgery. “If I had gone through surgery I would’ve never been able to fight again.”
It goes without saying that Montaño’s love for boxing is beyond tangible. The man lives for boxing and you can see it in the way he fights and certainly talks about the sport not only for what it does for him, but for what it does for others.
Every time Montaño gets in the ring, not only is he fighting for a title, but also for a cause. “Everytime I fight I represent awareness.” He honors deceased Oregon boxer Carlos Perez by reminding people of the importance of wearing their seatbelt. He also fights in the name of those who have struggled with substance abuse issues. Recently one of his daughter’s wrestling team members passed and he has fought on her name as well.
Suicide awareness is a very personal cause for him. Montaño a suicide survivor understands it more than most can. “I am lucky I am here. I have beautiful children. I have boxing. When I was training for this fight I literally would tear up and Myron would ask me “How bad do you want it?” I wanted it for my daughter, my family, everyone.”
Montaño’s record is impressive. Not only does he have the love for the sport, but he has the heart to take it up another level. His boxing career is not an overnight thought, but more of a lifetime of commitment, trials, fails, comebacks and of course championships. His style is also important to highlight as you can easily spot Montaño at every fight wearing a custom mask designed by his daughter for each fight. “People always ask about them. In the last fight a kid wanted to know if he could wear it and I of course let him try it. I do this for the kids.”
When discussing his thoughts about boxing in Oregon, Montaño shared that he can’t wait to get back home this coming week. “There is a lot of talent in Oregon but one difference I did see is that we are seasonal. For example, here in Georgia, they are training year-round. Back home we train for nine months and they close up. Not here. I would like to see that in Oregon as well. For example, there are three tournaments in one week. We need to stay busy if they want to compete at a higher level. I plan to look into that when I get back home.”
To say that Montaño is a true icon of boxing in Oregon is not enough. There are several homegrown champions, but to be honest the ones that truly make an impact and difference are the ones that not only fight for the championship belt, but for the sport as a whole.
Montaño has done something only the great Holyfield has done before and if that does not merit a vow I am not sure what does! He fights for the kids, for his family, for his community and for his coach. He is thankful to be part of the boxing scene in Oregon and shares that he owes his accomplishments greatly in part to his faith. “We pray together as a team. We pray before and after each fight. We pray win or lose.”
It is not difficult to see that while Montaño sees himself as a boxer with a great support system in his coach, family, faith and boxing clubs (Beaverton Pal & Rip City Club) but the reality is that he is a solid foundation and support to them all, but especially to the Master Level Division of boxing here and across the world.