Anthony Smith was known as a warrior on the basketball court when he played for Kennett High School.
He was a member of the Blue Demons' squad that captured the Pennsylvania Class AAA state championship in 2001-02. Smith has shifted his focus toward a different sport, though, since graduating nearly two years ago.
Now instead of shutting down the other team's top offensive player on the hardwood, he is knocking people out in the ring.
Smith is currently in the midst of an improbable run through the Pennsylvania Golden Gloves tournament. On Saturday night, he'll look to continue it in the finals when he goes for the 178-pound state title (Novice Class) at the Odyssey Fitness Center in Wilkes-Barre.
It's already been a somewhat unlikely journey for Smith, considering he has only four career fights under his belt, the first of which came just last October.
"I'm a little surprised I've made it this far, but every fight I've ever went into I thought I could win," said Smith, who has already captured both the Philadelphia and Central Pennsylvania championships during his 3-0 run through the tournament. "I know this is a big deal on Saturday, but I'm just going to take it as another fight. I'm going there to win, and I'm going to fight hard. The same way I played basketball."
Smith's home gym is the Kennett Boxing Club in Anson B. Nixon Park, where he has been working out four or five days a week since last July. His trainer is two-time Golden Gloves champion Troy Stevenson, who won the state heavyweight title (Novice Class) twice in the early 1990s before later going on to turn pro.
"It was real special when I won it, and this is even better because I'm on a different side now," said Stevenson. "This is definitely a Cinderella story what Anthony has done. The first time I fought in the Golden Gloves I lost, so I'm very impressed by what he's done so far.
"I think he's got a heck of a shot on Saturday night. If he does what he's supposed to do he should win easily. There's so many guys that fight in the Golden Gloves and they never make it this far. This opportunity doesn't come along every day, and we're going to make the best of it."
Stevenson has pushed Smith.
"I've put him through a boot camp, and he's still here every day. You can't ask for anything more than that," Stevenson said. "He's worked very hard. He runs three miles every day, and he comes in here and spars eight to ten rounds a day. All the guys that come to fight Anthony better be in good shape, because if you're not -- good night.
"The one thing that makes Anthony standout is he's here everyday. Plus he's very disciplined and he wants to learn. He's a boxing puncher and he has speed. That's how he's one most of his fights."
Smith says he's benefited tremendously from having Stevenson as a trainer.
"You have to listen to him, because he knows what he's talking about," said Smith. "When he tells me to do something I'll try it, and it always seems to work.
"Troy makes me smarter in the ring. When I fight him I have trouble, but when I fight other guys I see things that I don't see against Troy."
In his first three Golden Gloves bouts, Smith has a knockout and a pair of victories by decision.
His most recent triumph came almost four week's ago in the Philadelphia championship.
"Last fight, I felt like nobody thought I could win except Troy and my other trainers (Mike Bass and Enrique Garcia)," said Smith. "I like the one-on-one aspect in boxing, just man-against-man.
"I thought I fought sloppy my last fight. I could've done better. I want to improve on Saturday night. It's a fight I really want to win bad."
Stevenson trains roughly 20 guys for free at the Kennett Boxing Club -- the building is owned by the Kennett Square Borough -- and has run the place since longtime trainer Earl Atley passed away last summer.
"[Earl] would definitely be proud of Anthony," said Stevenson. "I'm sure right now he is up there jumping up and down. It would be real special if Anthony won this on Saturday night. We're like a family in here, and this would be for all of us. When one wins, we all win."