Reading’s Maximillano Baez III is finding his way while on a journey to a career in boxing, and in more ways than one.
Having already found a positive outlet through the sport, Baez is looking to give back as he wants to use his platform to inspire others regardless of where his powerful punches land him in the future.
“I love boxing; I love boxing so much and I’ve been boxing for about eight years,” Baez said. “It’s kind of been my whole life, but inspiring others is what I want to do.
“A couple weeks ago, I had a reality check and I understood that I love boxing, but I feel like God put me on this earth to inspire others. So whether it’s me being a boxer and inspiring others, or whether it’s me being a coach, or me being a janitor, or me being whatever it is, my goal is to just inspire people.
“So boxing is a very important part of my life, but boxing is not the only thing in my life.”
A 19-year-old Muhlenberg grad who trains out of Star City Boxing, which is located at 470 Schuylkill Ave. in Reading and operated by his uncle Alex Betances, Baez recently qualified for next month’s 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for boxing, scheduled to take place Dec. 2-9 in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Baez qualified for the trials by making it to the championship bout of the 2023 USA Boxing Last Chance Qualifier. He defeated Hser Htoo by majority decision in the 112-pound Elite Male Bracket semifinals. After suffering an injury and missing the first three of the five Last Chance Qualifying tournaments, Baez made it to the end of the fifth and final tournament to make it to December’s trials.
“I wasn’t able to compete, (in the first and second Last Chance Qualifying tournaments) because I was hurt,” Baez said, “and then in the third tournament, I got hurt again, which was crazy because I’ve been in previous tournaments and had never gotten hurt like this.
“These tournaments were probably the most important parts of my career and I couldn’t compete.
“At the moment I was just so worried (about qualifying). Throughout that whole camp leading up to that tournament, honestly what was on my mind was continuing to do what God had planned for me and staying focused.
“I believe that He really got me through that fight (against Htoo) and he is most certainly getting me through this camp and what is upcoming.”
Baez already had found a transcendent home at Star City, one that had helped keep him off the streets and grow an extended community of local boxers looking for a positive outlet.
He competed in the 2022 National Junior Olympics alongside Eric Martinez, who also trains at Star City and is from Reading, as well as in the 2022 National Golden Gloves in the 112-pound adult division.
“I feel like I’ve grown so much mentally, physically and spiritually between Golden Gloves and now,” Baez said. “I think me and my team, our bond has grown so much and I’m excited for the future.”
Additionally, he was a key contributor in Penn State Berks’ “Storytelling for Social Justice” course that teamed with Star City Boxing to compile stories that tell of the impact the organization has made on youth in the Reading area.
The stories were shared at two events as part of the Berks4Peace National Youth Violence Prevention Week from April 25-30: one at Star City Boxing and the other at the “Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges” community event at Penn State Berks.
“At the end of the day, it’s not just a boxing gym to me … it’s a family,” Baez said. “For all the people who work and volunteer here, our goals are to help kids and get them off the street and bring a positive impact into their lives; just as it did my life.
“When I was young, my life wasn’t like this. I didn’t think like I do now and I wasn’t in the best of environments. Me coming to this gym at such a young age and just showing up changed my whole life by being around these guys.
“All these coaches and volunteers, they’re all positive. They know that you can do whatever you want as long as you stay positive and continue to work hard.”
Now, as both his inner circle and faith have grown through boxing, Baez has found another calling through a newfound devotion to his spirituality. He said he hopes that devotion will further him along his path regardless of where boxing takes him.
“I plan to turn pro soon, but I don’t plan to be a boxer forever,” Baez said. “I plan to accomplish as much I can as a boxer and be an inspiring figure in the sport. Later on in my life, I want to become a worship leader and become a pastor, too. That’s been on my mind for these last couple of years because it’s not just about boxing.”
Ultimately, his heightened faith has seemed to put Baez in an even more sound mindset is he tries to qualify for Team USA.
“It means a lot to me,” Baez said, “knowing that all those years of training and all the sacrifices, the early mornings and late nights that I made to get here, it’s all paying off. Of course there will always be more work in the future for me to always get better and to continue to work on, but right now, I know I’m blessed.
“I know I’m blessed in this moment right now and I’m embracing this moment. Everything that I do is in the glory of God. All of my motivation and inspiration is from God and I feel that I am here today because of God.”
Source: Berkshire mont