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CV's Villa vies for title overseas
Eddie Villa will represent USA, California and Central Valley High School when he travels to Baku, Azerbaijan to participate in the 2007 AIBA under-17 Cadet World Championships, Aug. 30-Sept. 9.

"I've surprised everybody," he said. "Not a lot of people thought I'd go international, including myself. I just thought I was going to be boxing locally."

The 16-year-old Bad to the Bonz Boxing Club member qualified for the prestigious event on the strength of his performance at the Junior Olympic National Championships on June 30 in Marquette, Michigan.

Villa captured the silver medal in the 114-pound weight class. The gold medalist should have been deemed ineligible for nationals because of his age, which was somehow overlooked. He didn't receive an invitation to the world championships.

"When they told me, I didn't believe them," said Eddie, who was notified by mail on July 17. "It's going to be a new experience. Nobody in my family has gone to a different country besides Mexico."

On Sunday, Villa boarded a plane at Modesto Airport and headed for Houston, Texas. Eddie will train for a week-and-half and watch the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team Trials at George R. Brown Convention Center before taking an 18-hour flight to Baku.

A grueling bootcamp style workout regimen helped Villa get into the best shape of his life this summer. Joey Garcia and Tony Avila, co-founders of the Bad to the Bonz Boxing Club, directed Eddie. The facility is located at 1307 Seventh Street in downtown Modesto.

"I'm pretty close to them," Villa said. "They help me out in everything. If I ask for advice, they give it to me."

Villa's morning workouts lasted three hours and consisted of running, speed and strength drills, and boxing. The past two weeks, he's stepped up his training by working an hour straight during each session.

"Every three-and-a-half minutes, he changes to a different routine," Avila said. "He doesn't stop. He even gets me tired."

Added Villa: "I get tired of it. But everyone else is doing it. I got to do more than they are."

Villa has already made history.

"Eddie will be the first boxer from the Central California area to participate in this tournament," said longtime USA Boxing member Melanie Ley. "The first Cadet World Championships were held in Bucharest, Romania in 2003."

Villa will look to improve on his 18-7 record.

"I want to finish in the top five," he said. "I'm in pretty good shape right now. I'm confident."

As for traveling overseas to Eurasia to compete, Eddie said he has no concerns.

Azerbaijan is bordered by Russia to the north, the Caspian Sea to the east, Iran to the south, and Georgia and Armenia to the west.

"One of the things I'm trying to convey to him is to watch what's going on around him," Garcia said. "He's going to a part of the country where the United States is not very well liked."

Said Villa: "I'm not too worried."

Eddie attended the first three days of high school at Central Valley last week. For the next three-and-a-half weeks, the junior will be on independent study.

Villa received his passport on Monday, July 13.

"I'm a little anxious," he said. "I just want to get there."

Added Garcia: "I'm confident he's going to do good. He's a really good listener and he's already in great shape. He's put in the hard work that needs to be done."