Last summer, NewsWorks brought you the story of James “Too Sharp” Barnett, then a 13-year-old aspiring boxer from Germantown with dreams of adding his name to the list of legendary Philadelphia fighters.
At the time, Barnett had 10 fights on his record — already steeped in a boxer’s confidence, he shrugged off his first-bout loss as ring robbery — and was slated for upcoming fights in Allentown and at an Ohio state fair.
“Can’t wait to see what’s next,” his trainer, the locally renowned Del “Bozy” Ennis, said at the time.
Last Friday afternoon, we caught back up with Barnett to find out what, exactly, was next. The short answer: A lot, with much more to come.
What he’s been up to
As Barnett ran laps around the track at William Penn Charter School with Ennis’ youngest son Jaron (aka “Boots,” seen wearing green shorts in the video below), Barnett’s trainer and parents Uvaunka and Desmond talked about victories at the Golden Gloves in Chester; at regional tournaments; traveling to Atlanta, Las Vegas, the Junior Olympics in Hawaii and other locales.
Rarely, said Desmond, does James fight someone of the same height (in fact, foes are generally eye-level with the adults).
“He fought five times in Vegas in May. The youngest guy he fought might’ve been 19,” said Desmond Trail. “That’s not normal.”
Always, said Bozy, will James fight when opportunities arise locally and/or nationally.
“Every week. Every week in Philly, he fights,” Bozy said. “When opponents see him, they sleep on him. He doesn’t run his mouth; he lets his hands speak. He’s a quiet assassin.”
Never, despite the time demands of training and fighting (not to mention of moving around from home to home because of unforseen financial issues), said Uvaunka, does her son let his standing high atop the honor roll at New Media Technology Charter School waver.
To her, that — along with the fact that he seems to embrace proving people wrong who said “Meatball” would never cut the excess weight on his young frame — is what inspires James to work so hard in, and out, of the ring.
“I’m so proud of him,” she said.
With Bozy’s Dungeon currently closed at E. Penn St. and Belfield Ave. for emergency repairs and renovations, Team Barnett finds itself working out of Badland Boxing Club (2207 N. American St.), which means a more than four-mile run across the city from Germantown before he steps in the ring.
Taking a break from running laps, and before some work with the gloves, Barnett was asked about what keeps him interested in boxing. After all, many kids his age bounce from hobby to hobby quicker than he can throw a combo.
“It’s the feeling of winning. That pretty much sums it up,” he said. “I’m more confident now than last year, too.”
The 14-year-old will take that confidence west with him later this month. On July 28, he’ll fight in a 6,000-seat arena at the 14th Annual Ringside World Championships just outside St. Louis, Mo.
From there, the move from youth in the direction of professional could include a move up to boxing’s “open class” where foes will have much more than Barnett in regards to age and number of bouts fought. Talk is that they’ll consider that jump once he turns 16 years old.
“He’s right where he’s supposed to be at this point, as long as we keep on ‘im,” said Bozy, who’s taking Jaron and a handful of local police officers in the Spanish American Law Enforcement Association to a boxing tournament in Puerto Rico next week. “He just has to believe in himself.”