LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Getting in fights and getting sent to alternative school was a way of life for middle schooler Demontaze Duncan of Louisville.
Growing up in the Beecher Terrace public housing, life had delivered a lot of blows. His mother died when he was five. His dad was behind bars. But Demontaze’s brother got him into a boxing gym, where he took out his aggression and found a purpose.
Now at the age of 17, Demontaze sports an incredible amateur boxing record of 64-7. He’s already one of the top fighters in the country in his 152-pound weight class.
And Demontaze gives all the credit to his Louisville Select Boxing coach, Nicholas Bareis.
“If it weren’t for coach, I’d be locked up or dead,” says Demontaze. Coach Bareis not only trained Demontaze, he’s become his guardian. Demontaze calls him uncle.
“He’s an honor roll student,” says Bareis, referring to Demontaze’s success at Waggener High School. Occasionally he makes a couple of Cs. He’s had perfect attendance for several years now. He’s self motivated.”
The success is just as great in the ring. Demontaze is only a couple months too young to box in the 2020 Olympics in Japan, but he will train with the USA fighters. Instead of waiting four more years to go for the gold, Demontaze will turn pro in the near future.
And as he trains every day in the gym at 10th and Main, Demontaze sees the mural of the Greatest on the wall: Muhammad Ali.
“That’s a big inspiration for me right there,” said Demontaze, who often hears remarks that he looks like The Champ. “First, I love his quotes: ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Foreman can’t hit what his eyes can’t see.'”
Demontaze loves studying Ali’s fights. “I like how he throws his jab. You know they say the jab is the best thing in boxing.”
Coach Bareis ran track at U of L. He had never boxed in his life, but he wanted to help get kids off the streets. So he also turned to Ali for inspiration, studying Ali’s book on how to train to become a champion. Now dozens of kids workout at his gym, including Demontaze — someone with the tools to possibly become a champion in his own right.
“Well he’s got power, and that’s something coaches can’t teach,” says Bareis. “That power will serve him well in the pros, where you get more credit for hard punches than the number of punches.”
Demontaze already has a victory over the top ranked 152-pound amateur in the country, Daniel Jones of Toledo. But in his rematch against Jones in Louisville last week, Jones won in a split decision. The two hugged in the dressing room after the bout.
Demontaze admired Jones so much, he wanted Jones beside him for an interview. “He came out fighting a totally different style than the first time. This dude here worked for it. He earned it. He got my respect.”
Jones had similar praise for Demontaze. “He’s a great fighter. He learns fast.”
Demontaze says he will keep learning as he studies all the great fighters, watching bout after bout. He has watched all the best college wrestlers, and learned fast on the mat too. Trying wrestling last winter for the first time ever at Waggener, he made it to State.
It’s that kind of drive that could make Demontaze a pro boxing champ, just like Ali. But his coach has a bigger goal in mind.
“I want to see him escape an impoverished mindset and an impoverished lifestyle and be able to provide for himself and provide for his family — that would be the paramount goal,” Bareis said. “Inside boxing, he’s been fantastic, but I’m more proud of the person that he’s become.”