‘The Mexican Mustang’

Senior Angel Santander shares his boxing story

Angel Santander punches his opponent during a match. He later went on to win the match.

Charles Clark, Staff Writer

The word boxing brings up images of two grown men fighting for twelve rounds until one of them goes unconscious; on the other hand, amateur boxing consists of large headgear, sixteen ounce gloves and three rounds that are no more than three minutes long. But do not let the word amateur and the safety precautions fool you, the people who compete in amateur boxing are real boxers.
One of Gardner’s own who has had his name put out there is senior Angel Santander, or as he’s known in the ring, “The Mexican Mustang.” Santander is now a titled world champion, but it wasn’t always that way.
Every story starts somewhere, and Santander’s started when he was a child. His mother, Kat Santander, recalls that he had always had an interest in the sport even at a young age.
Santander just needed a little push to get started, and that came from his mother.
“We were out one day, and I saw this place that was offering lessons. I went in and asked them about it. I looked at Angel and said ‘Do you want to do this?’ and he said yes,” K. Santander said.
That’s where Santander first met his coach, Lucas S. Gorton, and that would be the beginning of Santander’s boxing career.
“Angel was almost a high school sophomore, 230 pounds, about the same height he is now, kind of slumped over, bad posture, pretty unassuming young kid, and I met him at a boxing gym here in Gardner where I was, at the time, coaching a youth boxing class,” Gorton said.
Although Gorton came from a mixed martial arts background, he knew the basics of boxing. In this class, Gorton saw many kids come and go, but Santander stood out from the rest to him.
“I probably thought ‘Well here’s another kid who will give it a shot for maybe 2-3 weeks and will probably go back to video games and pop-tarts,’ but what I learned real fast about Angel was he wasn’t like the rest of the majority of the kids that came through there,” Gorton said.
Santander’s dedication to the sport caught Gorton’s attention.
“He was an endless worker and the hardest working kid I had ever seen and I knew that in about two weeks that there was something different about him and his determination and his drive,” Gorton said.
Initially Santander and his trainer started in a larger gym, but they had to move to a place where they could take boxing to the next level. This is what led to the creation of Halo Training Center, also known as Halo TC.
“It’s about a 20 by 18 foot building, that we built out in the back of my yard. It all came from coaching that kids club,” Gorton said.
Eventually, Gorton and Santander left to pursue a more competitive aspect of the sport.
“I told Angel ‘I’m leaving in two weeks and you’re coming with me. He said ‘Okay, but where are we going train?’ I said ‘Good question, we’re gonna build a gym’ So that’s what we did,” Gorton said.
With a new gym, named Halo to match Santander’s first name, and a new nickname based on the fictional boxer Rocky Balboa’s nickname, “The Italian Stallion”, they got Santander into real competitions and matches. When Santander started fighting, he started winning.
“My first tournament was Ringside World Championship in 2015, I got second in that one. Then in 2016, at the same tournament, I got first. I also won Kansas Golden Gloves and I qualified for the Sugar Belt Title,” Santander said.
While Santander has been on a winning streak for a while, it is nothing without the overwhelming support of his trainer and his mother.
“I support it 120 percent. He’s good at it, he loves it, and I try to make every fight that he has,” K. Santander said.
Through all the progress Santander’s made and all the matches he has won, he will continue to box, and he will always have the support of his trainer.
“If Angel never fought again, or never won another fight, I’m always going to be proud of [him],” Gorton said.