Seventeen-year-old Jacob Marrero, of Bridgeport, is quick on his feet and even faster with his hands.
"I feel like, if you don't have pain while you're training, you're not gaining anything," Marrero said. "It keeps me out of trouble because where I live at, you're surrounded by trouble."
After seeing her son always fighting in the streets, Marrero's mom pushed him into boxing seven years ago.
The push opened a new path for Marrero as an Olympic hopeful. He now has a long list of accomplishments and wins under his belt, including becoming a Region One Junior Olympic Champion.
"One day you will see me in the Olympics getting gold for the USA," Marrero said.
It's a story and a journey shared by many at USA Boxing-certified gyms, not just in Hartford but also across the country.
Thirteen-year-old Isaiah Deas, of Hartford, has been boxing for two years and calls it the hardest sport he knows.
"I live in a bad neighborhood, and a lot of stuff in my neighborhood is bad. It helps me not be in the streets," Deas said. "I want to become the best boxer in the world."
Deas, a Northeast Regional Champion, fell in love with boxing watching Floyd Mayweather.
Fifteen-year-old Nathan Loura, of Wethersfield, is a Northeast Regional Champion too and hopes to win the national tournament this year. He decided boxing was his sport after watching the movie "Rocky."
"Everybody thought I wouldn't take it serious in the beginning, but I wanted to try to prove people wrong," Loura said.
Learning to box is about a lot more than what happens in the ring.
"Our goal is not to turn kids pro, but to turn kids into champions in the ring and champions of life," said Johnny Callas, Connecticut USA Boxing Junior Olympic Chairman.
USA Boxing is the governing body for all amateur boxing in the United States and puts together the Olympic and international teams.
Callas said boxing teaches discipline, self-esteem and humility.
He said it also shows kids how to handle the ups and the downs, the wins and the losses.
Those who are part of a USA Boxing-certified gym must also be tutored and mentored and participate in drug and gang prevention programs, he said.
"Taking one day off is taking three days off," Loura said. "I try to stay with it every day, so every day is pushing yourself."
"As far as we're concerned, the Olympic gold medal is the end all. Olympic boxing is the purest form of the sport," Callas said.
And Olympic boxing inspires many kids. They take what they see in Rio, find role models and push forward.
"When I'm watching the Olympics, I study it," Deas said.
It takes dedication and determination and these athletes said you better pay close attention because soon enough, you'll see them on the world stage.
"Of course I want to be an Olympian. That's my dream," Deas said.
"I want to be there someday hopefully, and if I work hard enough and train hard enough, I'll be there too," Loura said.
"It would be a dream come true. Coming from where I come from, a lot of people don't make it. It would be a dream come true. I feel like if I make it, my whole city makes it," Marrero said.
For those interested in learning more about boxing, you can head to the USA Boxing website here.