Erik Rogers thought he had blown his opportunity.
The Burgard graduate and former University at Buffalo football player had just come out on the short end of a split decision in the New York State Golden Gloves super heavyweight open championship bout April 13. In a fight that could have gone either way, he lost to Drew Graziadei of Niagara Falls. Graziadei supporters that night in the Statler Golden Ballroom were chanting "Grazi, Grazi."
But the opportunity to fight in the Golden Gloves National Tournament of Champions has once again presented itself to Rogers.
With Graziadei sidelined by a torn hamstring, Rogers has been summoned to represent New York in the six-day tournament, which begins Monday at the Casablanca Resort in Mesquite, Nev.
The injury is a tough break for Graziadei. Rogers, 26, feels bad for him, but at the same time the 2011 state novice Golden Gloves champ is embracing his second chance.
"I feel like I've been blessed to have another opportunity to go on to nationals," Rogers said Thursday. "[My goal] is the same as everyone else [at nationals], to come out on top."
The tournament features 30 champions from various Golden Gloves franchises in the country. New York State has two championship slots at nationals as the New York City area is considered its own Golden Gloves franchise.
The only other Buffalo boxer to earn a trip to nationals is Emanuel Colon, a 141-pounder with more than 80 amateur fights to his credit.
Rogers was a defensive end at UB until suffering a torn pectoral muscle as a freshman in 2005. He picked up the sport of boxing late in 2009 after going to a local gym where a patron, Paul Barlog, asked if he had ever tried the sport. Rogers gave it a shot, hitting pads and working out at Terrie's on Hertel Avenue for a month or so before deciding to become more serious with training. At that point, he had heard of trainer Don Patterson from other people and sought him out.
Two years and four months later, Rogers is preparing for the biggest fight of his amateur career.
He heads to nationals relatively inexperienced with just an 8-2 record, but will rely on other intangibles in his quest to make a name for himself.
"He's a highly competitive [athlete]," said Patterson, who is also the president of New York State Golden Gloves. "He's got great conditioning. He's got a great jab. He always listens. He's a very coachable young man.
"He's a 225-pound, well-conditioned athlete and he has some punching power. Those are his attributes. What he lacks in experience he's going to have to make up in heart and desire to win."
Colon has a chance to go deep in the tournament, according to Patterson. Colon may have scored an easy knockout in the state final over Dante Palmer, but he did need to beat a past national Golden Gloves participant, Will Madera, in a preliminary bout in order to get to this point.
"We're looking for him to do well," Patterson said.