Still, that didn't stop Derby from bringing home the championship belt from Punta Gorda, Florida, two weeks ago.
“I would tell anybody that if they're going to fight my son, to pack a lunch,” David said. “You better be in shape, 'cause he's going to be in shape. So, them giving one-minute rounds made it anybody's game. Anyone that trained half-ass can go (for a minute). So, it really bummed me out and I was really concerned about it.”
With the shortened rounds, Jeremiah had to change up his strategy. His opponents came at him harder and faster than they would have in a normal bout, forcing him to adapt.
“Those guys were really pressing me hard,” Jeremiah said. “They were coming forward so hard that some of the punches weren’t really that clean, they were kind of jammed up because we were so close. So I would back up, cut that angle and get some space so I could throw my combos, and they could be clean enough that everybody would see them. That was really the focus.”
Jeremiah, representing his school with the UNC logo on his chest, fought back to win his first match in a split decision. The next day, he won his second bout unanimously to cap off a successful weekend.
Watching the fight, David knew his son was doing the things he needed to do to win. In a shortened match, everyone’s tough for a minute. But Jeremiah still tired his opponents out by the third round.
“For him to overcome that,” David said. “... I just knew he wanted it.”
The short rounds weren’t the only hurdles the Derbys cleared that weekend.
Jeremiah had to use his stepmother’s address in Florida, get a special waiver from USA Boxing and turn in multiple negative COVID tests just to enter the tournament — one that Josh Sokal, his Carolina Boxing coach, didn’t even know he was entering.
“Officially, we’re not competing this semester,” Sokal said. “But I was glad to hear he did. It sounded like a great opportunity for him. They’re allowed 10 bouts per season outside of college, so his eligibility is not in danger.”
Even with those obstacles, Jeremiah sought to make the best of an unexpected year.
“2020 is what you make of it,” he said in a video after his second win. “See it as an opportunity, as a year for growth and change. That’s what’s happening right now in this country. We’re just growing, we’re just changing, but it’s really uncomfortable. That’s what God uses. God uses the hard stuff in our life to shape us and mold us.”
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