Mentor's death inspires Grand Island fighter to step into ring at Buffalo Bill Brawl

Toby Juhl, left, fights against Roberto Coronado on Saturday at the first Buffalo Bill Brawl Amatuer Boxing Tournament in North Platte.

Nothing seemed different about Toby Juhl at first glance when he stepped in the ring to face Roberto Coronado in the 165-pound Elite Male Novice division. Then you notice his yellowish, neon-green boxing shoes and what appears to be something taped to them.

Upon closer inspection, a face is revealed. It’s a photo of Frank Rodriguez nestled comfortably on the back heel of one of Juhl’s shoes.

Juhl, a 30-year-old Grand Island native, has been boxing since he was 16. Rodriguez had been a mentor and a coach to him for the longest time before he passed away. That inspired Juhl, who took some time away from boxing, to get back into the sport.

“He’s with me all the time,” he said. “He goes in the ring with me.”

Juhl’s fight against Coronado at the first Buffalo Bill Brawl Amatuer Boxing Tournament on Saturday was his second fight in nearly six years. While he may have left the D&N Event Center with a win and advanced to a championship bout on Sunday, Juhl said his performance in the ring shows he still has a long way to go before he’s back in fighting shape.

“Both my offense and defense were really bad today,” he said. “My punches weren’t sharp. They were looping, they weren’t straight. As far as my performance, me grading it, it wasn’t to where I wanted to be. It felt sloppy.”

Juhl and Coronado traded blows throughout the fight, but a key moment that got Juhl the win was when he got two 8-counts on his opponent. That net him some points with the judges and ultimately helped get him the win.

Saturday’s competition also featured the first-ever boxing match for 12-year-old North Platte’s James Peters. He participated in the 101-pound Bantam Male Novice Championship division, where he faced off against Rocky Hernandez in a losing effort.

“(I think it went) pretty OK,” Peters said. “My opponent is just really good and got the best of me.”

Peters started training for the fight back in January after getting support from his friend and fellow North Platte boxer Crue Jarvis. Since then, he has been training as much as he can and maintaining the weight for his division.

Peters said his coaches told him to put more defense into the max and get more punches in.

“The important thing to improve is harder, faster punches and a better defense,” Peters said. “I just like getting out there and doing what I do.”

Eric Beruman plans on beginning his professional boxing career next month. COVID-19 prevented him from boxing for a couple of months, so he decided to travel to North Platte from Colorado to fight in the Buffalo Bill Brawl.

“This is the only place we could fight,” Beruman said. “Before I go pro, I could just come over here and get some work in.”

He matched up against Pablo Porraz in the 201-plus Elite Male Open. Both competitors were evenly matched in the first round, and the shift in momentum came in the second and third rounds.

Beruman said his coaches told him in between rounds to throw more punches, stay more active and go through the stomach. He said he started throwing more punches toward the stomach and noticed he was gaining the upper hand.

Even with the win, he said there are still areas of his boxing that he wants to improve on.

“I was trying to move along, he was doing the same,” Beruman said. “So I had to put a little more pressure into him.”

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