Pain lifts boxer Michael Marshall in Golden Gloves title run

Michael Marshall — the Foster City 31-year-old who for the last seven years has yearned for a shot at a national Golden Gloves title — had felt pain in the boxing ring before.

But that pain didn’t compare to the emotional beating dealt to him four years ago by the deaths of those close to him.

“That was rough,” the fighter said, recalling the deaths of his father, high school best friend and grandmother.

All three died leading up to his very first California state Golden Gloves tournament in 2010. It was a tournament Marshall, then a 201-pound heavyweight, pulled out of a week prior when his coach Pat Ragan was hospitalized with a heart condition, the very thing that had claimed his father, Tony Atlas, and grandmother, Jeanne Tomasello.

“When coach was in the hospital with a heart thing, I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m gonna go be down 500 miles away,’” Marshall said. “Coach has been that big brother, mentor to me.”

But in March in Fresno, Marshall — an undersized super-heavyweight at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds — got his chance at state. Ragan was in his corner, and Marshall won it all.

Marshall won a decision against Burbank’s Smbat Bagdassarian to claim the California State Golden Gloves super-heavyweight title, punching his ticket to the Golden Gloves National Championship tourney in Las Vegas from May 12-17.

“I’m going out there to win it,” said Marshall, who will be one of about 30 fighters in his division vying for the title — something that will prove daunting against opponents generally 30-40 pounds heavier. “If I lose a fight, I want it to be like, ‘that dude was the hardest dude I ever fought.’”

But lose — like he did at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials in his very first bout — isn’t something Marshall does well.

“It’s not that I love winning — I could win, it feels good — but I effing hate losing,” he said. “I don’t ever want to lose because I could’ve done more. If I lose because I’m out-boxed, I could live with that. But if I lose because I didn’t give it my all, then I feel like I let myself down.”

But Marshall was down before boxing. Diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in his youth, Marshall was drifting aimlessly through manhood. And at the urging of his father to find something constructive, Marshall, at 23, wandered into a boxing gym.

“I was going nowhere,” said Marshall, who will turn pro after nationals. “Boxing has helped me grow as a person.”

But boxing and its inherit risks frightened Atlas, though never enough to keep him from watching his son in the ring.

“He passed pretty early on in my career. But he was there for my first fight,” Marshall said. “He was trying to help me find my path.”

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