Local boxer Isaac Torres, 18, is the eighth-ranked bantamweight amateur boxer in the United States. This week, June 7-13, the 2012 Olympic-hopeful is competing at the National Championships in Denver.

Graduated last week from Veterans Memorial High School in Mission, Isaac is not your average teen-ager. While most young men his age are looking for a party, Isaac is hard at work studying or practicing his boxing at Pump gym, where his trainer, Johnny Garcia, and coach, Zeke Torres (who also happens to be his father), monitor his progress.

“There are offers all the time to turn Isaac pro,” Zeke Torres said, “but Isaac’s focus is to make the U.S. Olympic boxing team. He’ll have to remain classified as an amateur until he tries out for the team, so turning pro isn’t even a consideration.”

Discipline and perseverance are two things Isaac learned early in life. He was born into a family that embraces sports and competition. Isaac began learning martial arts from his older siblings when he was only 4 years old. Isaac’s older sister and three older brothers are all black belts in martial arts. At age 7, Isaac added kickboxing to his training, and within a year he had transitioned into boxing.

Isaac climbed to the national level at age 12 when he won his first state and regional tournament. Now, he is a 13-time national winner, has won the world championship four times, and holds a junior Olympic silver medal and national golden glove.

Those closest to Isaac believe he’s on his way to realizing his dream. Now that Isaac’s graduated from high school, he has accepted a Fulbright Scholarship at Northern Michigan University to box for their team in the 119-pound division. He plans to pursue a law degree in Michigan where he can also train at the Olympic camp located there.

“I still practice Taekwondo and am a black belt, but I like boxing more because the competition is a lot tougher,” Isaac said. “It’s tougher because you’re throwing punches only. In martial arts, you’re throwing kicks, too. When you kick someone in the head, the fight’s over real quick because it’s a five-point spread. With boxing you are ‘ranked’ according to your weight, and you fight full-out until someone gets the most points or wins the most rounds.”

With help from a third coach, Jaime Cavazos, a specialist in strength and conditioning, Isaac focuses solely on building endurance. He started early and doubled-up on his training to prepare for Denver’s mile-high altitude.

“Speed is everything,” Isaac explained, “but so is staying calm and focused. If my opponent has more endurance than I, then there’s no way I’ll be able to keep up. So I do a lot of stair-stepping, a lot of running outside, and, of course, I practice a lot of boxing. When I’m in the ring, I’m at a whole different level. I’m fighting, throwing as many punches as I can. I know if my lungs run out of air, that’s it. The competitor will put me to shame.”

Isaac admits that boxing wasn’t “his thing” at first. It took some time before he knew he was good at it.

“I didn’t like losing, and I didn’t like getting hit,” Isaac said. “I won my first two fights, lost my second and third, and then I went on a losing streak that began to push my self-confidence down.”

As always, Isaac’s support team stood behind him and was there to help him through the tough times. “My dad, my trainer and my brother began to encourage me and tell me it’s okay to lose some,” Isaac said. “One day it will turn around, they would tell me. Someday you’re going to start winning. They were right. After about 20 more fights, I broke through it and saw the change.”

The Torres family recognizes the owners of Pump 24 gym — Aaron and Marina Garza, and Mariana Carrasco — for helping Isaac with his training by allowing him to use their fitness center. “I can’t thank them enough,” Zeke Torres said. “We come here 24/7, and that’s made it just that much easier for us to concentrate on Isaac’s training.”

Pam Torres, Isaac’s mother, stands nearby during practice sessions. “I can’t go to the competitions, though,” she said, wringing her hands. “Isaac hits too hard, and I can’t stand to see him or anyone else get hurt.”

“Above all are God, family and education,” Zeke added. “Isaac makes me proud to be a dad. He makes us all proud.”

To find out how Isaac Torres is doing in the tournament so far and see ESPN and other station show times for the event, visit www.usaboxing.org