All those hours training, all those fights, all that Olympic dreaming might finally be all worth it for Widefield senior Luis Joe Ybarra Jr.

In two weeks, he finally gets his chance.

Next week, he’ll compete in the 2019 Western Elite Qualifier and Regional Open Championships in Reno, Nev., with a chance to advance to the Olympic Trials. It’s all an effort to make a roster spot on the U.S. boxing team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“It’s a dream come true to start the process,” he said.

Ybarra Jr. started boxing just before age 8.

He turned 18 last February, making him eligible to compete for the Trials in June 2020. It’s a relief to get to this point, but the work just started. At 138 pounds, he literally has to fight for an Olympic spot in a 32-person field as the top boxers move on.

Ybarra Jr. approaches this qualifier as his one and only chance, though he has two more qualifiers available later this year — if he needs them.

“It’s do or die,” he said.

For years, Ybarra Jr. has been making his rounds around the national and international circuits. He’s a seven-time state Golden Glove winner and a Junior National Golden Gloves winner. He also recently captured silver at an international tournament in Dublin, Ireland.

He knows his work isn’t quite done. Soon enough, he’s going to compete with grown men in the boxing ring. When he’s not attending high school, he’s working out about four hours a day. Sometimes when the weather is cooperative, he’ll jog three to four miles before his first class at Widefield, where he boasts a 3.6 GPA.

“With all my experience traveling internationally, I’m finally able to put all that I know with the eight to 10 years of boxing into action,” Ybarra Jr. said. “This is the last step in the dream.”

He trains at his father’s gym, Ybarra’s Boxing Club, which is southeast of Colorado Springs. Before each workout, he does regular strength training with local trainer Will Lopez.

Through it all, his father, Luis Ybarra Sr., is right by his side. The elder Ybarra never boxed, but he studied the best boxers in history and has transferred that knowledge to the students who come through his gym. He has coached boxing for some 40 years.

Of course, he has a special interest in his son.

After all, the Ybarras are preparing for a lifelong dream: the Olympic Trials. And it’s not enough to just qualify.

“It’s now or never,” Ybarra Sr. said.

And if chasing the Olympic dream wasn’t enough motivation, the Ybarras met with Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers last week.

“He let me know the town is behind me,” Ybarra Jr. said.

Chhun Sun is a sports reporter with an emphasis in preps. He joined The Gazette in April 2015 and covered public safety for three years before joining @gazettepreps staff. The Thailand-born Cambodian-American has been in journalism for nearly two decades.

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