Reshat Mati, 16, knows little of defeat. The world’s top-ranked boxer and kickboxer in his age group, Reshat also competes in six other disciplines. And many MMA types on the internet regard this high school junior from Staten Island as the best pound for pound 16-year-old fighter on the planet.

“I try not to get it stuck in my head,” he said.

Reshat’s father, Adrian, grew up in Albania.

“We had nothing else: fighting and soccer,” Adrian said. “It’s in our blood, actually.”

According to Mati family lore, Reshat threw his earliest jabs from inside a crib earning him his first nickname: “Baby Punch.”

“He was punching everything he sees,” Adrian said.

“Now they call me the Albanian Bear,” Reshat said.

His father added: “I hope he lives up to that.”

Adrian started training Reshat when his son turned 4. He has since relinquished his coaching role, deferring to a series of specialists. But Adrian admitted that he still expects his son to follow the guidelines he has set for him.

“Sometimes I can be too much,” Adrian said. “He wants time with his friends and I keep pushing him.”

Reshat also pushes himself toward the 2020 Olympics and beyond, hoping all the while that defeat remains a stranger.

“I want to go to the Olympics, hopefully win gold and then turn pro,” he said.

Originally published here:
http://www.myfoxny.com/story/28122396/meet-staten-islands-albanian-bear