Whatever the situation, Justice Love always believes he has a fighting chance.
Such is the boxer’s mentality.
Love, one of the top high school running backs in the Fort Worth area, is also a successful boxer. In fact, he’s spent much more time in the ring than he has on a football field, having first put on gloves at the age of 4.
“My dad’s done it ever since he was little. He used to sneak out of his parents’ house and go box,” said Love, a Granbury High School senior. “He introduced me to it at an early age because it’s always meant so much to him.”
Boxing is a staple in the Love family. Justice, his 12-year-old brother Sabian, and their mom also enjoy the sport.
“In Minnesota we lived next door to an arena at a hotel, and we were all scheduled to box on the same day,” said Love.
That was shortly before Love and his family moved to Granbury five years ago. Once here he found a new boxing home with One More Round and coach Dan Trumble.
“Between that and football I have always felt I fit right in,” said Love. “The biggest thing I’ve felt is support from the community.”
Love doesn’t box during football season, but both he and Granbury coach Scotty Pugh believe his skills in the ring have helped become a better football player.
“His footwork and his toughness are a result of his boxing abilities,” said Pugh. “I was just ecstatic when I heard the kid was a boxer, because you just know he’s going to be tough – and he is.
“The overall physical strength it takes to do that sport (boxing) is something else.”
Love said boxing has also helped his mental toughness and patience. He was the starting quarterback for the opening game of the 2011 season, his first full season on the varsity. Then, after one game he was moved to running back.
Thing was, the Pirates had record-setter Brandon Davis at that position. Love saw ample playing time, but Davis was the star.
Davis is now at Louisiana Tech, and it is Love’s turn to grab the spotlight. Entering last night’s game against Aledo at Pirate Stadium, he was among the Metroplex leaders in rushing yards (733, tied for 19th) and scoring (96 points, tied for ninth).
He’s also caught 19 passes for 261 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The 19 catches are second on the team.
“In boxing you have to pace yourself and wait for your opportunity,” said Love. “Not all fights are going to be knockouts. You have to have the stamina to go the distance, and you also have to have patience. If a fight goes the distance and you don’t do everything right, you won’t win.”
Pugh said the move to running back was a “more natural fit” for Love — and for the team. However, both he and Love are ready for him to play quarterback again if the situation arises.
“We didn’t move him because he wasn’t playing well. Justice would have been a fine quarterback,” said Pugh. “But it was almost like a missing piece of the puzzle. Everybody knew his natural position is running back and slot receiver.
“And he never complained about the move. He’s is a high character kid, as good as we have in the program. He is a team player, no doubt.”
Boxing, Love said, has taught him to accept challenges head-on. Love, boxing in the 178-pound division last February at the Golden Gloves in Fort Worth, fought a 22-year-old ex-Marine. He lost the fight, but won the respect of his opponent in the process.
“He looked like Mike Tyson,” Love said with a grin. “He told me he thought I won, but he beat me on points.
“It’s hard to find fights for my age, but the people in charge knew I had talent, so they let me box up (against older competition).”
Love said he patterns his boxing style after several, including Roy Jones Jr., Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and Larry Holmes, whom he calls the greatest boxer of all time.
“I know most people will say Muhammed Ali, but I think Holmes had it all,” said Love. “I think even though he was a great champion, he was underrated and never appreciated enough.”
Love plans to immediately return to boxing once football season is over – but he’s hoping that will be a little while. The Pirates have already clinched a playoff berth, and there’s speculation they could advance past bidistrict for the first time since 1967.
In 2010 Love saw some time on the varsity when the team broke a drought of 33 years and played a bidistrict game. This is their third straight year to reach postseason, and Love has been a part of all three.
“It has been great playing football here. The community loves this team,” said Love.
Love hopes to play football in college, though he has yet to commit to a school. He also plans to continue boxing.
“I would box forever if I could, as long as I can move,” he said. “I’m going to teach my kids just like my dad taught me. It’s been great for me just like it was great for him.”
He’d also like to see boxing someday become a high school and/or college sport so his children can compete and represent their school.
“People say it’s too brutal, but less people get hurt in this than a lot of other sports,” Love said. “I’m not talking about sending kids in there without some protection. I’m not talking professional fights.”
In the meantime, Love, now boxing in the 190-pound division, would like another crack at that ex-Marine.
“Sure, I hope to see him again,” said Love. “I’ll be bigger and stronger this time.
“It was a great fight last time, and I think it’d be an even greater fight this time.”
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