Ralph Clemente is an affable and humble young man with an avid passion for boxing. Born and raised in Ronkonkoma, Clemente is a Connetquot High School grad standing 5 feet, 11 inches and weighing in at 165 pounds in the middleweight class.
Twenty-year-old Clemente recently returned from the USA Boxing Nationals in Shreveport, La., and put up his dukes going on a long run in the tournament finishing to be the second to last man standing as the runner-up. Clemente is training to represent the USA in Tokyo for the Summer Olympics. He currently trains at Ludus Magnus on Route 112 in Patchogue.
Q: Growing up, who were your biggest supporters and influences?
A: You know, a lot when I was younger, I would look towards more people training around me. It wasn’t too much looking at the people who made it and the all-time greats. It was more me getting pushed by the people around me. Seeing Joe Smith Jr. just won a World Championship, I was in the gym alongside him. A lot of pros that come up and have pretty decent careers, just looking at them and their work ethic.
Q: Who from around here on Long Island helped inspire you regarding pro boxers from Long Island?
A: Joe Smith Jr. winning a World Championship. Personal people I know I trained with LeShawn Rodriguez and he’s 11-0 right now, with, I think, nine knockouts. Just seeing guys like that.
Q: How long have you been boxing for and what got you into the sport?
A: I started boxing when I was 12 years old. I wanted to box for a while before that. I wanted to start boxing when I was around 8, but my parents kept pushing it off. You know , they kind of were worried about me starting to box and when I was 12 years old, kids were picking on me in school and I started getting into fights out of school a little bit, and so I was like I might as well know what I’m doing and the second I started boxing, I fell in love with it.
Q.: What sports did you play at Connetquot?
A: I played a lot of sports. I played football, I wrestled, I played baseball, I played basketball around the street a lot. I loved every sport and I was always really involved with everything; it’s just that when I started boxing, I kind of had less and less time for other sports until this was the only thing I was doing.
Q: Do you have a favorite tournament or a favorite memory from a tournament that you’ve participated in your life?
A: I remember my first nationals that I won; it was six months after the first nationals I ever fought in and I ended up getting second. I lost to Diego Pacheco, who is 10-0 as a pro right now, and in the nationals that I won. I rematched him six months later and then I beat him in the semifinals. I actually broke his jaw. And then in the finals, I faced Darrelle Valsaint, who at the time I think was 50 something and 0, and I gave him his first loss and became the best boxer in America for the first time!
Q: Tell me about the experience in competing in the USA Boxing Nationals in which you recently returned from.
A: It was really different with COVID and all the regulations, but it’s always the same once you step in the ring. I’ve been going for a long time due to COVID and not being able to fight, so my last fight before that was a year and a half ago, but once I got back in there it felt like I never left and it was just awesome to be fighting again.
Q: I know you train every day. How many hours do you usually train for each night?
A: I get here around 5 or 6 and I leave around 9. So, three or four hours each night.
Q: Tell me what it’s like training for the Olympics.
A: You just have to make it a part of your life – which if you really love it, it shouldn’t be a hard thing. I never feel like if I’m not here [or] it’s a day off. No, I feel like I want to be in here every second. They kind of have to rip me out of here just for me to take a break for a week. (Laughs)
Q: Lastly, anything else you have to say about training for the Olympics and the USA Nationals? Any other final thoughts on that?
A: Yeah, it’s just a great experience. It makes your life feel like a movie sometimes and just to be working towards such a high goal, you just feel like a power pushing you. I just had my daughter 10 months ago and that feels like a whole other thing to keep pushing me to keep going strong and training more than I ever have now. So, it’s a great feeling, just feeling you’re working towards something, putting your print in the legacy books.