The 141-pound open division is set to feature a pair of tremendously skilled and highly motivated boxers in the final round of competition. DaShaun Johns and Reshat Mati will square off on April 22 at Aviator Sports Center in Brooklyn to determine who will claim the ultimate prize of their division in the 90th annual Daily News Golden Gloves tournament. Each young pugilist will look to etch his mark in the history books when forces collide in the ring.
Johns is the older of the two and has a little bit more experience in the tournament, marking his fourth year of competition in the event compared to Mati’s two. The 26-year-old out of John’s Boxing Gym has made vast improvements each year and has gradually become more comfortable in the ring.
“I have improved immensely. I’ve learned how to turn my punches over a lot better and sit down on my punches. I’ve worked on being more accurate, using my hips a lot more with the cross, controlling my breathing and being much more composed,” Johns said. “I’m much more relaxed in there now from when I started.”
Last year, Johns faced 2016 Olympian and Golden Gloves champion Richardson Hitchins in the semifinals and lost a tough decision after dropping the highly touted boxer in the first round.
“The fight with him was really cool. I was able to knock him down in the first round of our fight. He ended up getting up from the knockdown and won the fight unanimously after making adjustments and adapting to me,” Johns said. “I learned this year how to use the ring a lot more and fight my fight instead of fighting the opponent’s fight. It has been working for me.”
Mati also fell short in last year’s semifinals, but in the 132 pound open division. He lost to Bruce Carrington but is looking to bounce back this year by capturing the gold.
“It was a close fight; I ended up losing a close split-decision. I set it behind me; I put a lot of effort into the tournament last year. This year, I moved up a weight class and I’m here to try to take over that 141 pound open division. I feel comfortable; I make the weight pretty easy, I’m happy about that.”
Mati, who is 18 years old and fights out of Atlas Cops & Kids, doesn’t mind that his opponent is older and has more experience in the tournament. His goal is to captivate the audience and put his name on the map when he enters the ring against Johns.
“He’s a lot older than me, but for me age doesn’t really matter. I’m just going to do my thing and hopefully put on a show for everybody. That is my number one thing, I always want to put on a show for the whole crowd and let everybody know who I am.”
Johns is aware that he is in for a tough test in the finals matchup, but he is ready to embrace the challenge and display the dedication that he’s been putting in at the gym. He wants to take on the best boxers out there and Mati has proven that he is one of the top competitors in the tournament.
“I am honored to be in the finals and competing with a top level guy. I am excited about it. All the hard work that I put in, I get to show it off in front of a huge crowd. If you want to be the best, you have to fight the best. I want to fight the best guys in my weight class,” Johns said.