Justin Rolfe has earned a nickname. So many of the opponents Rolfe has faced in the boxing ring are taller and heavier than him. Yet here he is, winner of five consecutive fights, including a win in the New England novice championships over a fighter who had 6 inches and 80 pounds on Rolfe.

“We call him Justin the Giant Slayer,” said his mother, Angela Rolfe.

Rolfe, 23, is a giant slayer, all right, in more ways than one. Since doing three months in Somerset County jail, Rolfe has dedicated himself to turning his life around, and boxing is a big part of his physical, mental and emotional transformation.

Rolfe said he went to jail for selling marijuana. According to Morning Sentinel archives, Rolfe was sentenced to 30 days in April 2012 for unlawful trafficking in scheduled drugs. In July 2012, Rolfe was charged with a pair of burglaries in Skowhegan and Norridgewock.

Rolfe knew he was heading down a bad path. He carried 300 pounds on his 5-foot-11 body.

“I decided I wanted to change my life,” said Rolfe, a Fairfield resident. “A lot of people only see violence in boxing. It strengthens your mind. You learn self control.”

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On Feb. 20, Rolfe won the New England novice superheavyweight (201+ pounds) title in Lowell, Mass., but not the way he expected or wanted. After defeating Peter Campbell of Quincy, Mass., via unanimous decision in the semifinals on Feb. 12, Rolfe was set to take on Tim Sullivan of Dorchester, Mass., in the finals. Sullivan dropped out, however, with a hand injury, giving Rolfe the championship.

“(Rolfe’s) done real well,” said Glenn Cugno, Rolfe’s trainer. “He’s just starting to come into his own. He’s turning his life around. He’s hanging out with good people.”

Rolfe fought in the New England tournament at 215 pounds. Boxing evolved from a part of his weight loss plan into a passion. Rolfe will get in a four-mile run in the morning, then train with Cugno two or three hours in the late afternoon. Rolfe embraces the newfound discipline.

As a student at Carrabec High School in North Anson, Rolfe was a member of the power lifting team. When he was 15, Rolfe set records in his age group for powerlifting at the national championship in Kalamazoo, Mich. Rolfe set records in the bench press (325 pounds), deadlift (479 pounds) and overall score, which combines bench press, power lift and squat (1,329 pounds).

Now, that strength is one of Rolfe’s greatest assets in the ring. In the superheavyweight class, Rolfe is one of the smaller fighters. Campbell, for instance, goes 6-6, 290 pounds. It’s not likely Rolfe is going to get a knockout, but he can mitigate the size difference by getting in close and firing punch after punch.

“I put my head on his chest and ripped up the middle,” Rolfe said of fighting Campbell.

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Added Cugno: “Justin’s more of a slugger. He likes to get in and mix it up. He makes them try and get away from him, and he doesn’t let them. He’s relentless, non-stop.”

Rolfe trained with Cugno for two months before he had his first fight. Rolfe lost his first three fights, breaking his nose in his debut. He’s won his last five.

“I’ve always thrived off a challenge,” Rolfe said. “I’m just as quick now as I’ve ever been.”

Next up for Rolfe is a step up in competition. With three more fights, Rolfe is no longer eligible for the novice class. He’ll move up to the open class, where he’ll see more experienced boxers.

“He’s getting in with the big boys,” said Cugno, who had five fighters win Northern New England titles last month at the Golden Gloves in Burlington, Vt.

Cugno plans on having Rolfe fight again in May in Lewiston, in a show Cugno is organizing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Muhammad Ali-Sonny Liston fight held in Lewiston in 1965. Rolfe plans on working on building decks and steps in the spring.

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Boxing will continue to be a piece of Rolfe’s larger picture.

“I hit some rough spots in the road,” Rolfe said. “These 10 months, I haven’t even thought of picking up a beer. I’m not going to stop now.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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