Sweat slides down the side of your face. Arms weak, too heavy to lift and getting up feels impossible. Facedown on the ground all you can hear is the buzzing of your body. When the lights seem too bright and you’re on the floor, do you stand up or is this the end? Boxing is all about the decision to stand up and continue or stay down by the count of 10. Life is very similar—we are faced with challenges to stand up or stay down. For Jacob Morton life has knocked him on the canvas and he seeks to get up by the count of 10.
For life, we wonder what it means to truly fight and get up off the floor. This life question seeks to be answered by Jacob Morton, a local boxer born and raised in Pleasanton. He’s been put down in life since he was three years old. Morton’s parents divorced when he was three years old, setting up one of the many fights he would face before stepping in the ring. Growing up with divorced parents had Morton bouncing back and forth. However, that would come to an end as at the age of three it would just be his mom and him. With his dad, absent from his life, Morton struggled to find peace in why he was chosen to have a torn family. His single mother would have him be alone most days and only see him a few hours after her work.
“It was a lot of bouncing back and forth between family members and having babysitters around,” he said. Morton’s upbringing took a large toll on who he would become growing up and influence his life later. It woke up his fighting spirit, preparing him for what was ahead.
Morton moved on from one fight to another when he entered Granada High School. In high school, he believed his first passion was football, not boxing. Football was his life. It was everything in high school. For Morton, football was everything he longed for, from attending elite camps to winning the big game on Friday night. His future and life rode on the back of his football career. But soon other influences would become his life.
Morton said, “ When I got into high school, I got addicted to drugs, and I was falling.”.Morton, who was the star quarterback for Granada at the time, felt that he was in a box, stuck with no progression.
“I wanted to get away from where I was in life… I wanted to stop doing drugs and pull off the scabs of who I was,” he said. A young man whose future seemed bright became overrun with drugs and mental illness. This was his life in high school and even moving forward when he left school.
Morton started to slip up in classes and found himself deeper in drugs, too deep to climb out. He didn’t graduate from Granada as he had to attend a continuation school due to his off-the-field issues. He said that his drug use got so bad that it would start to affect his mental health.
“When you’re addicted to drugs, you don’t even have the mental health capabilities you need,” he said, opening up about how his addiction and depression would take such a toll on him after high school.
Each day, his goal of getting clean became his new count off the floor. Morton, who would find himself sinking further and further down the drain, became frustrated with the struggle of drugs. “ I felt like I was suffocating, and I wanted to push everyone away,” he said. As the days dragged on, he lost motivation to work or to do anything that would make his life meaningful.
During this time, Morton fought to find a purpose after being blinded by his own addictions and depression. Morton fought day in and day out to get his mind right. He was 19 years old and out of school. And the challenges didn’t stop for Morton as his mental health would continue to decline when he was diagnosed with -bipolar disorder. Although his life had been a series of challenges, Morton still relentlessly worked to become a better man and to get clean. “ My mom would tell me I was acting like my dad and doing what he did,” he said. This was the wake-up call he needed to change. In this time of need, Morton looked to someone who would be responsible for him getting off the floor.
An old friend, the man Morton needed the most. A close friend, Octavius Morales was whom Morton turned to for advice. His good friend would lead him. He turned him to a gym in Antioch. Double Trouble boxing would become Morton’s safe haven. From the moment he touched that hanging bag, Morton felt his purpose and spark come back to him. This was his first step to moving up off the canvas that life put him on. Morton’s training became everything he ever needed.
“There’s a special feeling about what I’m doing and training for,” said Morton. He normally spends about 40 hours each week training his body and mind. Biking and running with a sauna suit became Morton’s breakfast. Pad work and hitting the heavy bag became his lunch. Everything he does become something worth fighting for.
He’s been in the gym for nine months, working his hardest and going from 210 pounds to 155 pounds. His journey to lose weight and gain an amateur bout has been his short-term goal. With this short-term goal, Morton is clearly focused on standing up to the count. Each day he evolves and wakes up for the better. He trains as he may never see tomorrow.
“Boxing is a selfish sport, and it’s helping my mind, and it betters myself,” he said. His trainer, Dario Castillo Jr., takes the time to develop Morton and show him what the right path is. Morton said Castillo Jr. has shaped him into the fighter he is and the man he’s becoming. “He actually believes in me and my skill. He’s not in it for the money,” he said.
Stepping into the ring sparks a feeling—the feeling of everything that matters is put behind you. The moment Morton took his first step into that ring in Double Trouble, who he used to be faded away. Every punch he threw, he became a new man. The rounds he would endure during sparring took away his guilt, his addictions and his problems. At the end of it, all emerged a new fighter born and raised through hard work and discipline.
Morton’s improvement in the gym is on a different level. Castillo Jr. has high praise for the young fighter, “ He is something special, and it’s serious.” It was a pivotal moment in Morton’s life because he was told he was worth something more than anyone thought.
From being knocked down at the age of three by life and never knowing if he was strong enough to keep going, Morton found his first strides of getting off the floor with boxing. He now trains to become an amateur boxer and eventually wants to turn pro and turn his life around. His intentions to unify his life have come one step closer, and he wants to show people he’s one step closer towards greatness. As of now Morton is still heavily training to search for his first amateur bout. Although many people endure some fight, for Morton the fight has been his life.
C.j Flores is a staff writer for The Express. Follow him @Cj_mcanfores.