Jeremy McCleary's professional boxing debut was a successful one, as the White River High product fought his way to a unanimous decision in a four-round bout.
McCleary, 19, was on the undercard for the Nov. 2 Battle of the Boat 93, staged at Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma.
While he has just the one pro bout under his belt, McCleary is no stranger to the ring. Before fighting for a paycheck, McCleary built an amateur record of 50-19, was a three-time Junior Golden Gloves champion on the local level and once fought his way to an eighth-place showing on the national scene.
Having been in the sport for seven years, McCleary had been eyeing a transition into the professional ranks.
He primarily trains out of the Prime Fitness gym in Bonney Lake where his manager, Brent Mounts, runs the show. Mounts is a veteran of the boxing game and was a member of Greg Haugen’s corner for 10 years as Haugen made an impressive run through the lightweight ranks.
“Jeremy has what it takes,” Mounts said. “He’s only 19 years old, but fights like a 25-year-old pro.”
When asked how he got into the boxing game, McCleary explains it was a family favorite – even though his father didn't take to the idea of his son stepping into the ring.
“Boxing has always been a family thing," McCleary said. "We would all go over to my uncle’s house to watch the fights. My dad never wanted me to get into boxing, but I went to the gym one day and have been doing it ever since.”
Like all boxing prospects, McCleary was given what was hoped to be a soft opener – paired against an opponent it appeared he could beat. On Nov. 2, he stepped in against Manuel Ortega, who launched his career with a split-decision victory before losing five consecutive bouts.
Fighting at 132 pounds, McCleary had some shaky moments but was the winner in the eyes of all three judges.
According to a ringside reporter, McCleary was the cleaner boxer during the first two rounds, using his quickness to double up with his jab and follow it with his right. Ortega landed a sharp left to McCleary's jaw and the conclusion of the second round, but couldn't take advantage in the third. Jabbing and moving, McCleary eventually opened a cut above Ortega's right eye. During the fourth and final round, Ortega had success early, but McCleary's quickness kept his opponent off balance.
At the end of four rounds, two judges scored the fight 39-37 while the third judge scored things 40-36, all in McCleary's favor.
"The most impressive aspect of (McCleary's) performance was the poise that he showed in the ring," reported fight publicist Anthony Woods. "In the scheduled four round fight, McCleary also showed that his conditioning was on point as he never slowed up throughout any part of the bout while he fired precise shots with a flash of power. He had good movement, avoiding a majority of the punches being thrown his way."
Woods said McCleary is not slated to appear on the next Battle at the Boat fight card, but there's still a chance he could be added to the Jan. 11 event.