Deptford's Carto, 17, savors his Golden Gloves title

Christian Carto, 17, of Deptford, NJ won the national Golden Gloves title at 108 pounds on May 17 in Las Vegas. The St. Augustine Prep student is shown training at Rosati's Gym in South Philadelphia with Mickey Rosati, left, on May 27, 2014. (Charles Fox/Staff Photographer)

It didn't bother Christian Carto that his opponent, Leroy Davila of New Brunswick, N.J., was nine years his elder and already had two USA Boxing national titles in the 108-pound division.

The 17-year-old from Deptford displayed poise from the start of the national Golden Gloves championship bout on May 17 at the Las Vegas Hotel, beginning the first round with a hard left hand to Davila's stomach.

"He let him know right off the bat," said Mickey Rosati, Carto's trainer. "It just set the tone: 'I'm not afraid of you. You're [nearly] 26. I don't care who you are. I'm here to fight.' "

Rosati said Carto continued to control the fight and clearly won the first two rounds before a strong final round by Davila put the result in doubt. But it wasn't enough. Carto won a 3-2 split-decision victory to capture the light-flyweight title.

Even when the result was announced, the junior at St. Augustine Prep maintained the composure that has led Rosati to call him "The Iceman." Carto did not have the joyous reaction typical for a teenager who just pulled off a major upset in his first Golden Gloves tournament.

"I just raised my hand and smiled," Carto said.

"He probably hates losing more than he likes winning," said Frankie Carto, his older brother.

Carto and his brother have been training at Rosati's Gym on Chadwick Street since September. Carto, who makes the commute to South Philadelphia after school, works with Rosati six days a week. Before switching to Rosati's Gym, he trained at Grays Ferry Boxing and Fitness Club, which is also in Philadelphia.

Rosati's Gym is a close-knit community in which members refer to one another as family. Other members of the gym have seen success on the regional level of the Golden Gloves competition, but Carto is the first to win the national championship.

"He's working hard," said Joe Zimbello, a regular at Rosati's Gym, "so it makes everyone else want to work hard in everything they do. Not just boxing - work, everything."

Carto has been boxing since he was 8 years old, but he placed an increased focus on the sport once he stopped playing hockey in 2012.

When he graduates from St. Augustine, he plans to take a year off from school to focus solely on boxing and see where it takes him. His amateur record is 26-4.

Two days after winning the Golden Gloves title, Carto was back in the gym training. Rosati expects that Carto's win over Davila - the top-ranked 108-pounder in USA Boxing elite men's rankings - will catapult him to the top. Carto was not among the top seven fighters in the rankings before the fight.

Rosati said he plans to enter Carto in the Lehigh Valley SportsFest in Allentown next month. The tournament is sponsored by Pennsylvania Golden Gloves and will feature boxers from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, setting up a possible rematch with Davila.

But Carto's Golden Gloves title is just the beginning.

An American flag hangs from the ceiling of Rosati's, one of many decorations that adorn the gym. It looms over the edge of the ring where Carto spars, serving as a subtle reminder that he's training for a chance at something even greater than the title he won in Las Vegas: a chance to represent the United States in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.