BJ Flores: Boxing's All-Purpose Guy!
(L-R - BJ Flores & Beibut Shumenov)
(July 24th) Multiple world title challenger and decorated amateur boxer BJ "El Peligroso" Flores never really had a chance. He was born into a boxing family and the now 41-year-old Flores has certainly made the most of it.
Flores is boxing's all-purpose guy: boxer, television color commentator, and trainer.
His father, Ralph Flores, was a military person who earned his "boxing coaching bones" through Kenny Adams, head coach of the 1988 USA Boxing Olympic Team and assistant coach four years earlier. The '88 USA Olympic Boxing Team included Roy Jones, Jr., Riddick Bowe, Ray Mercer, Andrew Maynard and Kennedy McKinney.
BJ started going to the gym with his father when he was four. His grandfather and older brother were also boxers. "My father wasn't a boxer, but he learned how to coach boxing from assisting Kenny Adams," BJ explained. "He fell in love with boxing while working with Kenny and learned his way to teach boxing. Kenny is still like a grandfather to me."
Flores also loved football and he was offered a full scholarship to attend Brigham Young University. He took two years off from BYU to serve a mission for The Church of Latter-day Saints in Mexico, where he lived in one of the poorest sections of Mexico in Culiacan. He began training there in the same gym where legendary Julio Cesar Chavez trained as a kid. Goodbye, football.
As an amateur boxer, Flores had a superlative 110-11 record, highlighted by gold-medal performances at the 1997 National Golden Gloves and 2000 Western Trials, in addition to the 2001 & 2002 US Championships as a heavyweight. He was the only American to win gold in 2002 at the 4 Nations Tournament in Alabama versus Germany, France and Australia.
Flores targeted a berth on the 2004 USA Boxing Olympic Boxing Team, and he was a top contender, however, he received an offer from Main Events to turn pro that BJ described as too lucrative to pass up.
"BJ's decorated career as an amateur boxer, professional boxer, and broadcaster place him in a top tier of well-rounded USA Boxing Alumni," said Chris Cugliari, USA Boxing Alumni Association Director. "His valuable experiences inside and outside the ring serve as great examples for the next generation of champions."
Flores fought professionally from 2003 to 2018, compiling a solid 34-4-1 (21 KOs) record, including three major World title challenges, both as a heavyweight and cruiserweight. He captured eight regional titles, as well as the IBA and WBF World super cruiserweight championships.
During his boxing career, network officials discovered that he was a gifted boxer, as well as well-spoken, handsome and knowledgeable with a smooth delivery. More than anything else, he could effectively break down fighters and fights and instead of only noting what had happened, he explained why and what was going to happen for fans watching.
Flores' break as an announcer came, according to BJ, after his 2008 fight against Darnell Wilson live on ESPN. "I was a 4-1 underdog against Wilson," Flores said. "He was coming off five straight knockout victories and we were fighting in his hometown (Dover, Delaware). He was ranked No. 2 and I was No. 15. He came into the ring carrying a pillow for me, but I beat him for 10 of 12 rounds.
"I was then brought into ESPN's studios to be interviewed. Boxing was my life! I worked with Brian Kenny and we immediately had chemistry. By the end of that year, I was an ESPN in-studio commentator every three weeks."
Flores ended up being hired as a ringside analyst in 2012 and he became part of the PBC (Premier Boxing Champions) broadcast team on NBC. He worked with giants in boxing and media industries such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Al Michaels and Marv Albert.
Although Flores didn't represent his country at the Olympic Games, he was a CBS Sports color commentator in 2012 and 2016. He is looking forward to calling Olympic boxing once again next year on CBS.
"Anytime you can represent the USA is a tremendous honor and great opportunity," Flores added. "I called the 2012 Olympics (United Kingdom) and in 2016 (Brazil). We called the action from a studio, but I'd love to call next year's Olympics from ringside in Japan. I love it. Nothing else in life matters to me versus the Olympics."
USA Boxing Alumni Association
Created to champion lifelong, mutually beneficial relationships between USA Boxing and its alumni, --boxers, officials, coaches and boxing fans -- The Alumni Association connects generations of champions, inspiring and giving back to USA Boxing's future boxing champions, in and out of the ring.
The USA Boxing Alumni Association is open to anyone who has a love for boxing and would like to stay connected with amateur boxing. Members are granted access to a wide variety of special events hosted by the Alumni Association, including its annual USA Boxing Alumni Association Hall of Fame reception.
To join the Alumni Association, simply register at firstname.lastname@example.org for a $40.00 per year membership fee. New members will receive a T-shirt, keychain and e-wallet.
ABOUT USA BOXING: The mission of USA Boxing shall be to enable United States' athletes and coaches to achieve sustained competitive excellence, develop character, support the sport of boxing, and promote and grow Olympic style boxing in the United States. The responsibility of USA Boxing is not only to produce Olympic gold, but also oversee and govern every aspect of amateur boxing in the United States.
USA Boxing Pays Tribute to the Memory
Of Iconic Trainer / Cut-Man Jimmy Glenn!
(June 12th) Last month, sadly, boxing lost one of its most popular, respected, and beloved individuals, iconic New York City trainer/cut-man Jimmy Glenn, who died at the age of 89 due to COVID-19 complications.
Glenn moved from his native South Carolina to New York City in the 1940s, where he became a 14-2 amateur boxer, beaten in the Golden Gloves by future world heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson.
As a coach, Glenn guided countless amateur boxers out of a PAL gym into the New York Golden Gloves Championships over the years. The revered Glenn later owned the famed Times Square Boxing Gym, where Muhammad Ali trained whenever "The Greatest" fought in New York City during the 1970s.
Despite his expertise as a trainer and cut-man, Glenn may be even better known for owning and operating Jimmy's Corner, the Times Square dive bar located on 44th Street, for the past 47 years. Beer and whiskey were cheap and boxing fans flocked there as sort of a mecca. Anybody who has attended fights at Madison Square Garden or Barclay Center for the past half-century has probably paid homage to Jimmy's Corner, admiring all the boxing memorabilia on the walls and, of course, talking boxing.
"Jimmy was an icon for the boxing community not just in New York City, but for boxing fans across the country," said Chris Cugliari, USA Boxing Alumni Association Director. "He showed the importance of being a part of something greater than oneself and fostered an environment that showcased the best of both boxing and humanity. The USA Boxing Alumni Association is extremely grateful for everything he has done for the sport."
Terrence Ali, Jameel McCline and Monte Barrett are three of his better known, most successful boxers who he trained in the pro ranks.
Nobody ever said a bad word about Jimmy Glenn. He is already missed by many, but he will always be remembered as a strong, gentle man, who considered and treated his many boxers as family.
Boxing Saved the Life of Two-Division World Champion
"El Gallo" Jose Antonio Rivera!
(June 5th) Like many boxers, two-division world champion "El Gallo" Jose Antonio Rivera credits boxing for saving his life.
"Absolutely," Rivera agreed. "After my mom passed away when I was 10 years old, I gave up on life and my decision-making reflected that: hanging around with the wrong crowd including gang members, consuming alcohol between the ages of 10 and 15. I was definitely going in the wrong direction.
"I never thought I had a future until I started boxing. It's hard to say what I'd be doing if I had never boxed, but by the way I was living, I'd probably be in jail or dead by now."
Born in Philadelphia, Rivera lived in Puerto Rico and Springfield, MA, prior to him moving to Worcester, MA, where he met a man who helped change his life, Carlos Garcia, who was in charge of a special boxing program at the Worcester Boys & Girls Club.
Rivera had started boxing at the age of 14 ½ in a basement with his friend, Felix Lopez. He had fallen in love with boxing after watching Roberto Duran upset "Sugar" Ray Leonard in their first fight. The young Puerto Rican-American specifically used his amateur boxing experience to prepare for the professional ranks. Garcia, who is in the National Golden Gloves Hall of Fame, put him in a novice match after only one amateur fight in order to put Rivera on the fast track, because he understood that Rivera dreamed of becoming a world champion as a professional. Rivera finished with a 35-15 amateur record, highlighted by a bronze medal performance at the PAL Nationals.
"I never had big amateur aspirations but, of course, I wanted to win every fight I competed in," Rivera said. "Once I didn't qualify for the Olympic Trials, my plan was to turn pro. I didn't know how much the amateurs would groom me to be a successful professional boxer. I'm glad I listened to my coaches, otherwise I would have turned pro earlier, because I would get frustrated with the politics of the amateurs. I hated losing, but I hated losing even more when I knew that I should have won. After three years together (with Garcia) in the amateurs and gaining a great wealth of experience traveling all over New England, the country and even fighting in Canada, I saw all types of styles and talented boxers that helped me as a pro. Carlos is like a father figure to me and during all of our training and travels, he was always in my head, building me up to become a good boxer, but also to help me become a better man."
On November 7, 1992, Rivera made his pro debut, knocking out Francisco Mercedes in the second round. He went on to win his first 23 pro bouts, including the Massachusetts State welterweight title in 1995. His first pro loss was to veteran Philadelphia fighter Willie Wise (20-3-4), who won a controversial 10-round split decision at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut. Rivera had proven that he was more than a prospect in his first loss, losing a close decision (98-95, 94-97, 94-96) to an opponent that upset Mexican icon Julio Cesar Chavez (102-3-2) only three years later.
Showing the same resiliency that stayed with Rivera his entire career, two fights later Rivera stopped Gilberto Flores in two rounds to capture the International Boxing Organization (IBO) world welterweight championship. Rivera extended his new win streak to seven, before losing back to back fights. Four fights later, though, Rivera registered his first statement victory in 2001, knocking out Frankie Randall (55-10-1) in the 10th round to retain his North American Boxing Association (NABA) crown in his first defense.
Now promoted by legendary Don King, Rivera traveled across the Atlantic Ocean in September 2003 to Germany, where few Americans were able to win. Rivera proved early that he meant business, dropping previously undefeated Michel Trabant in the second round en route to winning a 12-round majority decision for the vacant World Boxing Association (WBA). His reign, however, didn't last long. In his first defense, Rivera lost a 12-round split decision at home in Worcester to challenger Luis Collazo (24-1)
Rivera moved up one weight class for his next fight, showing the resiliency that was a staple during his career for his next fight, also at home, against WBA junior middleweight World champion Alexandro Garcia (25-1).
In his next fight and first defense of his third world title, Rivera was stopped for the first time in his pro career, by new champ Travis Simms (24-0), and then he was knocked out by Daniel Santos (24-0) in round eight of their WBA junior middleweight title eliminator.
Rivera retired in 2008 only to make a comeback in 2001, after which he retired again until returning for two fights in Worcester to complete his pro career with 50 fights, the last coming at the age of 46.
"Jose's USA Boxing experiences shaped him into the man of character he is today, both in and out of the ring," said Chris Cugliari, USA Boxing Alumni Director. "He took the road less traveled for a world champion, and in doing so he showcased his toughness and perseverance that made him a great example for today's USA Boxers."
Rivera was a true working world champion. Few world champions also had full-time jobs during their title reigns. Rivera used vacation time, as well as personal and sick days, when he went to training camp for some of his major fights.
"I always had a good work ethic growing up," he explained. "When I moved to Worcester at 16 years old, I lived by myself: school, work, and then to the Boys & Girls Club to train. I kept the same work ethic I had at 19 when I turned pro. I became a father at 20, so providing for my family was essential. Although it was hard, I knew boxing wasn't going to last forever, and I was lucky enough to find a good job working for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Trial Courts. It made for long days when I was training, especially when I was fighting for or defending my world championships. In the end, though, keeping my job was the best decision I could have made for me and my family."
Rivera. who was an Associate Court Officer for years and promoted last year to Assistant Chief Court Officer, is still involved in boxing. He and his oldest son, A.J. Rivera, own and operate a boxing promotional company, Rivera Promotions Entertainment, to give young fighters in his area opportunities to fight more often and at home. Jose occasionally drops by the Boys & Girls Club to visit his former coaches, Garcia and Rocky Gonzalez, to support their young talent. He also goes to his friend Kendrick Ball's gym, Camp Be Right, to give young fighters there a few tips and to keep in shape (not for another comeback).
Jose Antonio Rivera will be best known for his toughness and determination, which led him into a different life, including three world championships and a wonderful life he never would have enjoyed.
USA Boxing Pays Tribute
To True Patriot Robert Carmody,
1964 Olympic Bronze Medalist &Soldier Killed In Vietnam!
(May 21st) People all across the United States will rightfully pay respect to fallen military men and women during this Memorial Day weekend. One true American Patriot that USA Boxing will remember forever is 1964 Olympic bronze medalist Robert "Butterball" Carmody, who was killed in action three years later at the height of the Vietnam War.
Born in 1938, Carmody learned to fight on the streets of Brooklyn, where he lived before joining the U.S. Army in 1957, and where he took his first boxing lesson. A natural-born fighter, he was selected to represent the 11th Airborne Division, even after it was deployed to Germany, after he had earned his airborne wings, and Robert developed into a record 4-time All-Army flyweight champion.
Carmody also captured top honors at the 1962 International Military Sports Council and earned a bronze medal in 1963 at the prestigious Pan American Games. At the 1964 Olympic Boxing Trials, held at the famous New York's World's Fair, he upset flyweight favorite Melvin Miller to earn a spot on the 1964 USA Olympic Boxing Team.
At the Olympics, Carmody became a close friend of heavyweight Joe Frazier, the lone American to win an Olympic gold medal at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. The smallest and biggest men on the Olympic Team were buddies. Frazier, of course, went on to become a Hall of Fame heavyweight champion, who was inducted into the USA Boxing Alumni Association Hall of Fame this past December.
"He's the type of guy you really need," Frazier said in a 2006 ESPN.com interview. "I had some hard times, things was rough, but he was a guy that helped you out a lot. I loved him like a brother."
Hampered by a bruised hand, the 5' 2", 112-pound Carmody had a bye in the opening round, knocked out Nam Singh Thapa (Nepal) in his first fight, took a decision (4-1) versus Otto Babiasch (Germany), and lost in the semifinals by way of a questionable decision (1-4) to the eventual Olympic champion, Fernando Atzon (Italy).
Although he never publicly complained about the decision that may have cost him an Olympic gold medal, Carmody was visibly upset as he headed to the locker room, when General William Westmoreland hollered to him, "Good job, soldier!" Carmody, though, turned and reportedly yelled back, "You dumb son of a bitch!"
After the Olympics, Carmody retired from amateur boxing with a 128-12 record, returned home and rather than turn pro, he decided to stay in the U.S. Army, training a few teams at the International Military Sports Council, including the U.S. Army squad.
Strings were pulled for the 10-year military veteran, because of his imposing status as an Olympic bronze medalist, he didn't have to go with his 199th Light Infantry Brigade when it was deployed to Vietnam. But even though he wasn't combat trained, due to his training as a boxer, Carmody insisted on deploying with his unit on June of 1967, the day his son, Robert Carmody, Jr. was born.
A few weeks later, Staff Sergeant Carmody's unit. D Troop of the U.S. 17th Calvary Regiment was on a routine six-man foot patrol north of Saigon. They were ambushed by Viet Cong guerillas and five of the six U.S. soldiers were killed, including Carmody, who was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star for valor. He became the first Olympic boxing medalist to die in combat.
"Robert Carmody's selflessness and character extends far beyond our sport of Olympic-style amateur boxing," said Chris Cugliari, USA Boxing Alumni Director. "A warrior in the ring, a hero outside of the ring - he showed the world the very best of what USA Boxing has to offer, and the USA Boxing Alumni Association looks forward to keeping his legacy alive."
"On this Memorial Day, USA Boxing wants to recognize and honor our fallen heroes who have gave their lives in defense of our country, like Robert Carmody," stated USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee. "On this Memorial Day, I think it is important to also recognize all who have served in our military, which Billy Ray Cyrus stated, 'All gave some and some gave all.' Thank you for your service, we will never forget."
Olympic Bronze Medal winner to Bronze Star recipient, Robert Carmody was a fighter true and true, as well as a man of tremendous honor, and a legitimate hero.
Born to Box Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini!
(pictures courtesy of Getty Images)
By: Bob Trieger - Full Court Press
(April 27th) As the son of a prizefighter, International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee ("Class of 2015") Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini was born to box, and the Youngstown, Ohio fighter climbed to the top of the sport's mountain, capturing the World Boxing Association (WBA) lightweight title in 1982.
Mancini's father, the late Lenny "Boom Boom" Mancini, boxed professionally from 1937 to 1947, compiling a 46-12-3 (16 KOs) pro record. Lenny was the No. 1 ranked lightweight in the world in 1941 and considered a future world champion. However, his dream was sadly shattered when he was wounded during World War II. He returned to boxing after being discharged, but his physical issues due to the wound prevented him from fulfilling his once vast potential.
His son, Ray, took the mantle and ran with it to fame, glory and notoriety as a world champion. He started boxing young and had his first fight when he was 15 at the Junior Olympics in Cleveland. Ray had thought that he would have to wait until he turned 16, because that was the minimum age to compete in the Golden Gloves.
"When I heard that I could enter (the Junior Olympics)," Mancini remembered, "I pressured my father to let me go (to Cleveland). A very close family friend was training some guys in the next town over from us and he was taking some fighters to the Junior Olympics. He said he'd take me there. I won by first fight by first-round knockout and I wound up winning the regional title. I went on to the Mid-West Regional in Detroit and fought a local kid, Sammy Fuentes, to go to the Nationals. He beat me by decision, but I gained my first real lesson about boxing and life: experience is everything. It was my sixth amateur fight and I was told that Fuentes had more than 200. It did not deter me, in fact, it made me hungrier to succeed."
Succeed he did, despite his aggressive style that best suited the professional ranks much more than amateurs. He won 43 of 50 amateur matches, capturing top honors in the 1977 Youngstown Golden Gloves and Northeastern Ohio Golden Gloves. He also won the Northeast Ohio AAU Championship and reached the quarterfinals of the 1978 National AAU Tournament.
"I lost a close decision in the semifinals of the 1978 National Golden Gloves to two-time U.S. Olympian Davey Armstrong," Mancini said. "I lost a decision to Anthony Fletcher in the quarterfinals of the 1978 National AAU Championships and once again in the championship final of the Ohio State Fair. In my last amateur fight, I lost a bad decision to defending National Champion Melvin Paul at the 1979 National Golden Gloves Tournament. (After that) I knew I wasn't going to have another amateur fight and was going to turn pro.
"I had more of a pro style when I fought in the amateurs. Three rounds didn't benefit me. I never had a four-round fight (as a pro). I started with six-rounders because, for my style, a three-round amateur or a four-round pro fight were pretty much the same for me. Six-rounders were more beneficial to me and that was proven right away.
"I knew I wouldn't win any of the major amateur championships because of my style. Along the way, though, I beat some pretty good amateurs: Darryl Chambers, Memo Arreola, Tim Christianson and Mark Chieverini. My amateur career just made me even more hungry to win a World title as a pro."
His seek and destroy style made him an instant favorite as a professional. "I had to be aggressive, as a fighter or on the playing field when I played other sports, because of my natural instincts," Mancini explained. "I couldn't sit back and wait for things to happen; I had to try and make things happen. I follow that thinking in my business life as well, but much like the fight game, you have to known when to attack and when to sit back and counter."
Mancini, who some called a little Rocky Marciano because of the way he fought, turned pro October 18, 1979 in Struthers, Ohio, stopping Phil Bowen in the opening round. Ray fought 15 times in his first year as a pro and extended his winning streak to 19, before he challenged World Boxing Council (WBC) lightweight World champion Alexis Arguello (67-5), who won by way of a 14-round technical knockout, in a fight that was dead even after 10 rounds. After the match, then future Hall of Famer Arguello was quoted as saying: "I think my heart is special, but his (Mancini) is bigger than I have. Someday he will be champion."
Only seven months and three fights later, Mancini captured the World Boxing Association (WBA) lightweight World title way of a sensational first-round knockout of defending champion Arturo Frias (24-1). Ray dedicated that fight to his father, who was unable to become world champion, due to the wounds he suffered in World War II.
Mancini finished his pro career with a 29-5 (23 KOs), which included victories against world champions Bobby Chacon (523-5-1), Ernesto Espana (35-4), Frias and Jose Luis Ramirez (71-3), and all five of his losses were to world champions - Arguello, Hector Camacho, Greg Haughen and Livingstone Bramble (twice).
"Ray 'Boom Boom' Mancini demonstrated the heart of a champion throughout his career," said Chris Cugliari, USA Boxing Alumni Director. "Even though his in-ring success is primarily discussed at the professional level, the hunger to learn and grow as an amateur is something that inspires today's USA Boxing champions. He is another example of a USA Boxing alumnus who experienced tremendous success resulting from experiences and lessons from his amateur days."
Mancini is proud of his roots in Youngstown, which also produced world pro boxing champions such as Harry Arroyo, Jeff Lampkin, Greg Richardson and Kelly Pavlik.
"Growing up in Youngstown helped me tremendously as a fighter," Mancini talked about his hometown. "We all knew what a tough town it was and is and we knew the stories of all the fighters, amateur and pro, who had left a mark before us. Growing up there, football and boxing were the two sports everybody talked about. If you left a mark in either one, people still talked about you long after you're playing, or fight days were over. So, to succeed in a town like Youngstown, was a tremendous accomplishment in itself."
The ultra-popular Mancini is one of the few boxers to have had a movie ("Heart of a Champion: The Ray Mancini Story)"), song ("Boom Boom Mancini" by Warren Zevon) and book ("The Good Son: The Life of Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini by Mark Kriegel) about him.
Today, the 59-year-old Mancini still resides in Youngstown, and he remains involved in boxing as a color commentator for PBC on Fox. He's also been a member of the Ohio Boxing Commission for the last three years. "I'm involved (in boxing) as close as I want to be and can still be a fan," he admitted. "What I miss most about the fight game is challenging myself mentally and emotionally, and to be able to "get up" and challenge myself physically on a daily basis. To stand in front of another man before the fight, right in the center of the ring, and say to myself, 'Either you're getting carried out of here tonight or I am, but one of us is getting carried out of here tonight,' was my mentality. I miss that challenge!"
Looking back at his boxing career, Mancini maintains that he wouldn't change a thing. "I can't say I would do anything different, in retrospect, because I won the World title, successfully defended it four times, made good money and retired healthy," Mancini concluded. "People still remember and talk about my fights and I made it into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, the ultimate shrine for fighters. So, why would I want to have done anything differently?"
With legendary trainer Eddie Futch in his corner, Bowe became the first truly unified World heavyweight champion, winning the title belt for all four recognized major sanctioning bodies: WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO.
Bowe retired with an amazing 43-1 (33 KOs) pro record. He had a 5-1 (4 KOs) mark in world title fights, 7-1 (5 KOs) versus past world heavyweight champions such as Evander Holyfield (twice), Pinklon Thomas, Tony Tubbs, Bruce Seldon, Michael Dokes and Herbie Hyde.
Bowe later avenged his lone pro loss to Holyfield, winning two of three fights with the "Real Deal."
"I'm very happy with my pro career," Bowe added. "I beat Holyfield two times and I think it should have been three. I'm not a sore loser, but I was the World heavyweight champion. How did he win that fight? The challenger needs to take the belt from the champion, and he didn't do that. I thought I won by a point, at worst, maybe it should have been a draw, but I shouldn't have lost the fight. I did become the first to ever knockout Holyfield. My pro career wasn't too bad. I kept working hard and became two-time World heavyweight champion."
Now 51 and living in Maryland, Bowe has some advice for the American boxers trying to qualify for the 2020 Team USA Boxing Olympic Team.
"Just don't think about it," stressed Bowe, sounding like a Nike commercial. "Just do it! It worked for me. I showed up and didn't think about it. And always finish strong."
Riddick "Big Daddy" Bowe, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2015, left his mark in amateur and pro boxing. Nobody can ever take that away from the big guy from Brownsville.
Top USA Amateur Boxers Adjusting to Life
Without Fights & Waiting Another Year for Olympics Show!
(Arjan Iseni training during the pandemic)
(April 23rd) Amateur boxing, as in the professional ranks, has been shut-down worldwide due to the Coronavirus pandemic. USA Boxing members are adjusting to these challenging and trying times all across the country.
Gyms and schools are closed, tournaments suspended, and the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo have been postponed a year. Members of the Elite Qualification, Youth and Junior High Performance teams are home rather than in Colorado Springs training at the state-of-art United States Olympic and Paralympic Training Center.
How are some of the leading U.S. amateur boxers living during this period without fights?
ELITE OLYMPIC QUALIFICATION TEAM
Joseph Hicks (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 26-year-old middleweight, USA Ranking #2 Gold medal performances: 2019 National Golden Gloves; 2017 & 2018 Eastern Elite Qualifier; 3-time Eastern Elite Qualifier (2017-2019)
Hicks was within one qualifier victory of officially becoming a member of the 2020 Team USA Olympic Boxing Team. He is taking advantage of the break, though, spending quality time with his wife and young daughter.
"I personally feel that this has been a blessing in disguise, because I have more time to improve on the things the USA coaches have been telling me to work on. I live in an apartment in Lansing (MI), but I've been staying with my mom in Grand Rapids so I can comfortably train. It's weird in a way, but I miss getting punched at. I've been trying to adapt to the new normal, but I can't wait to be back at the training center (in Colorado Springs).
"I love that I can see my daughter every day to give her all my attention, but she misses the gym as much as me. My wife and mother have been very supportive. I believe waiting another year will only make me better by the time the Olympics are here."
Oshae Jones, (Toledo, Ohio), 22-year-old welterweight, USA Ranking #1 Gold Medal Performances: 2020 Olympic Team Trials, 3-time Elite National Championships (2016-2019), 2017 Eastern Elite Qualifier, 2016 Youth Open, 2014 National PAL. International: 2020 Strandja Tournament & 2019 Pan-American Games
Jones had been on a roll leading up to the since postponed Americas Qualifier to lock a roster spot on the 2020 Team USA Olympic Boxing Team. She has been training at her family's gym in Toledo, as well as getting more involved in community services and functions.
"I have not adapted to life without boxing, because boxing will never leave my life. My family / coaches have a gym connected to our house we live in. Boxing is not a sport, it's a lifestyle .
"My heart dropped when I first heard that the Olympics were postponed. Everything that I have been working toward for basically my whole life is on pause until next July. I do not know how I feel or how to express how I feel. The only thing I can do is try to stay motivated."
YOUTH HIGH PERFORMANCE TEAM
Arjan Iseni (Staten Island, New York), 17-year-old light heavyweight, USA Ranking #1 Gold Medal Performances: 2019 Youth National Championships, Eastern Regional Open & Youth Open
Iseni lives in the Coronavirus epicenter, Staten Island, NY. He and his father built a small ring in their backyard (see picture below) because he couldn't train in any gyms.
"It's very hard to know that I won't be able to represent Team USA this year in any international tournaments. This is my last year as a youth boxer, but I have been training very hard during quarantine, and I will be ready for whatever is next for me.
"It is hard knowing that I will not be fighting soon, but this gives me more time to perfect the little flaws in my game, and I'll comeback stronger when this all ends. Hopefully, everything goes back to normal soon, so I can get back to fighting actively and hopefully make Team USA as an Elite boxer."
Shera Mae Patricio (Waianae, Hawaii), 17-year-old flyweight, USA Ranking #1 Gold Medal Performances: 2019 Youth National Championships & Western Regional Open; 2018 Youth National Championships & Western Regionals Open; 2017 National Junior Olympics & National Golden Gloves
Patricio lives the furthest away from training camp and her teammates, but her family owns a boxing gym, and training/sparring isn't as a problem for her because she has eight siblings.
"We are in quarantine and I have adapted to life without fights by continuing to train at our personal gym with my siblings. Training hasn't been a problem for us because we have our own personal gym. We sanitize all the equipment and the gym before and after training. Since there are no fights coming soon, we have been sharpening up our skills and building more knowledge We've been gaining strength and keeping up our endurance. On weekends, my dad rides a bike while we run laps to get some sunlight, and sometimes we do sprint drills outside.
"Our family is a boxing family that started with my dad as he was a boxer. He started training me, only for defense, but it started to get serious in 2015 when I won my first tournament in Kansas. All of my other siblings are also boxers and they're also multiple-time champions. My siblings and I have been getting a ton of family time staying home together. This quarantine has made us even closer. Our bond makes us stronger individually and as one. I'm far away from training in Colorado Springs, but my teammates are only a phone call away. I'm able to stay in touch and that's very warming. Some of the coaches check on me to see how I've been doing. I looked forward to all the tournaments I planned to fight in and I'm disappointed they've been postponed, but I have more time to be even better prepared for my next fight."
JUNIOR HIGH PERFORMANCE TEAM
Steven Navarro (Los Angeles, California) 16-year-old flyweight, USA Ranking #1 Gold Medal Performances: 2019 Junior National Championships & National PAL; 2018 Junior National Championships; 2017 Prep Open & Western Regional Open
Navarro was training in Colorado Springs to prepare for international competition in Bulgaria, but the trip was cancelled two days before Navarro and his teammates were scheduled to depart.
"As a member of the USA Boxing Junior Team, I look forward to every fight / tournament, because it could be my last. So it was very heartbreaking when I was notified that our fights in Bulgaria and future international fights were cancelled due to this pandemic. I continue working as hard as I do on a regular basis: waking up at 5 in the morning, running 5-6 miles in nearby hills, of course wearing my mask. I come home to take my online classes from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., which gives me a 2-hour nap before heading to my private gym. I am the only person who trains at my gym every day at 4:30 p.m. Once I get to the gym, I begin stretching for 3 rounds (3-minute rounds), shadow box for 5-7 rounds, then I hit five varieties of punching bags (3 rounds each). Afterwards, I work mitts (5-8 rounds) where I focus on different movements and situations that could possibly happen in a fight. I often hit the double-end bag and speed bag for 3 rounds. I finish my boxing training with 15 min. of jump rope.
"I train on a daily basis for 2 hours with my father/coach Refugio Navarro. This pandemic is a bit of a gamble due to not having access to sparring. I do tend to 'move' with my father once every week, but the experience is different. Once finished, I head to my grandparents' house (only one block away from my home) to do my strength and conditioning. I do wear a mask and gloves when working out there. My grandfather is a bodybuilder and has his gym setup in his garage. I work-out with my grandfather for a good hour, constantly disinfecting all equipment, to wrap-up my day. I work with what I have, which is a blessing. Boxing isn't a season sport, you must stay ready all year for anything, and that's what I continue to do as I strive for greatness."
Fernanda Chavez (Dallas, Texas), 14-year-old bantamweight, USA Ranking #2 Gold Medal Performances: 2019 Junior Open; 2018 Prep Open & Eastern Regional
Chavez is a first-year member of the Junior High Performance Team and her inaugural training camp in Colorado Springs was pushed back.
"Adapting to this new lifestyle hasn't been the easiest. I'm thankful I have my family, as we've been going on daily runs and workouts at parks. My family understands the importance of my athleticism and staying fit, which is why we continue to motivate each other during this tough time. I'm not sure when our lives will return to normal, which is why I'm still prepared at all times.
"The things I'm looking forward to most at camp in Colorado Springs is meeting other junior females on the team, as well as learning the different styles they bring. I also look forward to creating bonds between my new teammates and coaches from across the nation."
A Remarkable Boxing Journey Like No Other
1972 Olympic Gold Medalist "Sugar" Ray Seales!
(Ray Seales is in the front row, second in from the left)
(April 9th) Imagine being the lone boxer from your country to capture an Olympic gold medal, only days after the infamous Munich massacre. Now imagine also having won a remarkable 338 of 350 amateur matches, having fought a trilogy as a professional with "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler, being declared legally blind in both eyes (having entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. pickup a six-figure medical bill), regaining sight in one eye, then working as a teacher of autistic students for 17 years.
"Sugar" Ray Seales has truly lived a surreal life, to say the least, and he's still involved in boxing at the age of 67, as a successful coach of amateur boxers in Indianapolis.
Born in Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Island as one of eight children in a family whose father was a boxer there as a member of the U.S. Army team, Seales started boxing at the age of nine. "I have three brothers and we always beat the crap out of each other," he spoke about his start in boxing. "Learning how to box, for me, was all about fighting to be the first to eat. I had gotten hit in my left eye playing dodgeball and my uncle, who was stationed at Ft. Lewis (in Tacoma, WA), told my mother there was a special doctor there who could help with my eye. My father was stationed all over and in 1964, when I was 12, my mother moved us to Tacoma, Washington.
"I had boxing in my system. I went with my brothers to the Downtown Tacoma Boys Club, which was only one block from our home, and my mother could watch me walk from our house to the gym and back. I was the first from there to win a Golden Gloves title. I wanted to be a winner and finished with 14 (champion) jackets. I couldn't speak English. I knew Spanish and spoke Spanish and English together. The first word I said in English was box. We used to fight three or four times a day and we built the Tacoma Boxing Club. I went on to have a 338-12 amateur record and I've been in boxing ever since."
Seales developed into a champion, taking top honors at the 1971 National AAU and 1972 National Golden Gloves championships. At the age of 19, Seales enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, but his mother made some calls so Ray would be able to compete in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany.
She succeeded and the rest, as they say, is history. And when he came home from the Olympics, he was told that there was no need for him to report to the U.S. Air Force, because he had done enough in terms of service as the only American boxer to win a gold medal.
The 1972 Olympics, however, was overshadowed by the killing of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches, as well as a West German police officer at the Olympic Village by terrorists on Black September.
"I had just turned 20," Seales remembered. "Boxing was heavy when we went there. Some of my family, my coach from Tacoma, and Tacoma teammate (and 2-time U.S. Olympian) Davey Armstrong were in Germany. I didn't know anything at first. I had to get the attention of my parents to let them know not to go there, because there were terrorists with sub-machine guns in the Olympic Village. I was the only American boxer left to fight."
Seales defeated Bulgarian Angjei Anghhelov, 5-0, in the light welterweight championship to capture an Olympic gold medal, the only member of the U.S. team to do so. His teammates included Armstrong, Duane Bobick, and Olympic bronze medalists Jesse Valdez, Marvin Johnson and Ricardo Carreras.
Sugar Ray Seales's dedication to USA Boxing is second to none," said Chris Cugliari, USA Boxing Alumni Director. "His pride, patriotism, and devotion to helping our next generation of champions is what makes him such an inspiring figure."
Seales turned pro in 1973, winning an 8-round unanimous decision over Gonzalo Rodriguez in Tacoma. "Sugarman" won his first 21 pro fights, until he lost a 10-round decision to 14-0 middleweight prospect and future Hall of Famer Marvin Hagler. Two fights later, Seales fought Hagler in Tacoma to a 10-round draw (99-99, 99-99, 98-96).
"Everybody wanted a shot at the Olympic gold medalist," Seales explained." I went to Boston and we fought in a TV studio (WNAC). It was freezing in there. I was shivering when I went into the ring, Marvin came out dripping sweat. I knew I was losing after seeing that, but I hung with him and went the distance (10 rounds). I was having management problems and three months later I fought Hagler again, only this time at home in Tacoma. I beat him but it ended in a 10-round draw. He knows I beat him!"
Seales completed his trilogy with Hagler, but it was five years later, when Hagler was 42-2-1 and avoided by most of the world's top middleweights. "I was the USBA (United States Boxing Association) and North American Boxing Federation (NABF) middleweight champion and Hagler needed to win a title to get a world title shot," Seales noted. "I lost our third fight in the first round, but that's the only thing shown on television in our three fights. We were two left-handers, but he switched to right-handed, and he caught me with a hook. I got paid and they bought him a world title fight."
Seales has coached two different amateur teams in Indianapolis during the past 11 years, winning 10 Golden Gloves team championships, and he's still in charge in Indy of Team IBG.
After he retired in 1984 after suffering detached retinas in both eyes, Seales was introduced in Las Vegas to Sammy Davis, Jr. (pictured below), who paid Seales' $100,000 medical bill for his damaged eyes. Davis had lost his left eye in a 1952 car accident
"I'm a teacher," Seales concluded. "I see the way that so many boxers want to fight like Floyd Mayweather. Their head is tilted, they can't throw a jab. I teach them to have the right foot behind the left (for a right-handed boxer), and to walk in straight, not tilted or peaking. Heel toe, heel toe every time you pivot is your stance.
"My advice for the boxers who hope to compete in the 2020 Olympics is to focus on what you're doing and listen to how to get it done. What I really want to do is to coach the USA Olympic Boxing Team 2024."
South Central LA to Gold
1984 Olympic Heavyweight Champion Henry Tillman!
(April 2nd) Capturing an Olympic gold medal is special but overcoming tremendous odds and winning it at home, never mind meeting your future wife, made it extraordinarily special for 1984 Olympic heavyweight champion Henry Tillman.
And beating Mike Tyson to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team, not once but twice at the 1984 U.S. Olympic Trials and 1984 U.S. Olympic Box-Offs, along with overcoming his background makes Tillman's life more than worthy of being shown on the silver screen.
Tillman was born and raised in the infamous South Central section of Los Angeles. The 1984 Olympic Summer Games were held in LA and Tillman could ride his bike from his home to where he later captured his gold medal at a University of Southern California arena.
"USA Boxing helped me grow up," Tillman explained. "I learned that no matter what you still have to practice. I think amateur boxing is harder than in the pros. Where you fight every two or three months as a pro, amateur boxers fight as much as five times in tournaments. I was also able to travel the world as an amateur boxer and see the world differently than the general public. I found that the world is different than LA; it's a big old world out there.
"Amateur boxing also made me a more open person. It opened my world educationally, geographically, and generally interacting with people. I had to communicate with people who didn't speak the same language. We didn't have translator Apps like they do today."
The 1984 USA Olympic Boxing Team was, in a single word, loaded, arguably the best ever. Tillman was one of nine American gold-medal winners - Paul Gonzales, Steve McCrory, Meldrick Taylor, Pernell Whitaker, Jerry Page, Mark Breland, Frank Tate and Tyrell Biggs. Two future International Boxing Hall of Famers, silver medalist Virgil Hill and bronze-medal winner Evander Holyfield, were also on the 1984 U.S. Olympic squad.
"Records speak for itself, as amateurs and pros" Tillman agreed that the '84 team is the best of all-time. "People say the Cubans had the best, but they were getting paid, and a lot older than our Olympic boxers. It's one thing to get hit with a left hook for a trophy, another to help pay the mortgage."
Tillman is one of the few boxers to fight Tyson as an amateur and pro, defeating "Iron Mike" twice in the aforementioned amateur matches, and getting stopped by Tyson as a pro in 1990.
"Mike was a beast, period," Tillman spoke about fighting Tyson as an amateur and pro. "He could fight at an early age. Some guys are great amateurs but didn't do well as pros. It all depends on their styles and Mike's was more suited for the pros.
Despite fighting at home, Tillman went into the championship final an underdog against his Canadian opponent, Willie de Wit, the No. 1 rated heavyweight in the world at that time.
"He was a colorful guy out of Canada who was favored to win," Tillman noted. "We became good friends. He's a successful criminal attorney today in Canada. He was a good athlete, played football as well, and had a tough mentality. He didn't have to box. His parents owned the third largest gravel company in Canada. All he had to do was stay alive and takeover the business. But he was a warrior!" In 1990, de Witt won a rematch as a pro against Tillman by way of a 10-round decision.
Tillman also met his bride-to-be, Gina Hemphill, at the 1984 Olympics. The granddaughter of legendary athlete Jesse Owens, she carried the torch into the Los Angeles Coliseum during the opening ceremonies. They were married in 1987 among some of his Olympic teammates, family and friends.
"Winning the Olympic gold medal at home made was so special," Tillman remembered. "My mother and father were there with a lot of my South Central friends. That really made it over the top special. I was the most unlikely to make it, but my mother and father kept me grounded."
"Henry was not only a top-notch fighter, but he's an extremely well-rounded individual who has so much to offer even during a short conversation," said Chris Cugliari, USA Boxing Alumni Association Director. "He's the quintessential USA Boxing Alumnus for our current generation of champions to learn from, and we're proud of everything he has done for USA Boxing."
One of the Best All-Time....
1988 Olympic Silver Medalist Riddick "Big Daddy" Bowe!
(Riddick Bowe to far left, Lennox Lewis in center picture by Getty Images)
(March 9th) By any standards, U.S. Olympian and former unified World heavyweight champion Riddick "Big Daddy" Bowe is inarguably one of the all-time greatest boxers, amateur and professional.
Born and raised in the infamous Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York, which also produced fellow World heavyweight champions Mike Tyson and Shannon Briggs, Bowe started boxing at 13 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant Boxing Association Gym.
"I wanted to do everything Muhammad Ali did," Bowe explained why he got into boxing. "He was my idol. I wanted to join the Marines, but I fell in love with boxing and stayed with it. I forgot about the Marines."
Bowe developed his craft and became an outstanding boxer, compiling a 104-18 amateur record, highlighted by his controversial silver-medal winning performance at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.
A four-time New York Golden Gloves champion, Bowe also captured top honors at the 1986 Junior World Championships, along with a bronze medal at the 1987 Pan American Games, despite fighting in his final match with a fractured hand he hid from his coaches.
Bowe had a rivalry with Robert Salters, with whom he split four matches, but he defeated Salters, 3-2, in the U.S. Box-Offs to qualify for the 1988 USA Boxing Olympic Team. His Olympic teammates included Roy Jones, Jr., Ray Mercer, Kennedy McKinney and Andrew Maynard.
Controversary surrounded his Olympic championship fight against future World heavyweight champion, Canadian super heavyweight Lennox Lewis, who returned home with the Olympic gold medal. During his fight with Lewis, Bowe was deducted a point for a "ghost" head butt that never happened, and the referee gave Bowe a pair of disputed standing-eight counts, the last of which resulted in the stoppage of the fight in Lewis' favor.
"That fight never should have been stopped," Bowe commented. "I'm still happy about winning a silver medal. I still have it. And then I turned pro. My mother had 13 kids and I wanted to make my mother happy. I wanted to buy her a house. That's what inspired me to box."
"Bowe's success as an amateur and professional has made him a household name amongst USA Boxing Alumni," said Chris Cugliari, USA Boxing Alumni Association Director. "His combination of power and skill, along with his legendary battles with other USA Boxing Alumni at the pro ranks, establishes him as one of the greatest fighters that USA Boxing has ever produced."
Houston Heavyweight Boxer Darius Fulghum
Puts Nursing Career on Hold to Pursue Olympic Dream!
(February 27th) Amateur boxers often take different routes on their personal journeys and Houston heavyweight Darius Fulghum has put his career outside the ring on hold to pursue his boxing dreams.
Fulghum was a wrestler in high school back in Killeen, Texas. He started boxing in 2015 and quickly developed a passion for the "Sweet Science," largely because of it being a one-person sport. He didn't need to rely on teammates, preferring to win or lose on his own accord. Although he was talented enough to be a collegiate wrestler, it would have been too much of a financial strain on his family.
"I had that competitive itch and was pretty good when I first started boxing," Dariuis said. "I knew that I could do anything I put my mind to. I want to redefine boxing. I'm not a typical boxer who grew up on the streets. I don't even like fighting; I'm passive and have never had a street fight."
The 23-year-old Fulghum currently has his sights firmly set on representing his country in Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Pro boxing will follow but, for now, he's training hard to qualify to compete in the Olympics by placing among the top three finishers at the America's Qualification Tournament, March 26-April 3, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. There will also be another "Last Chance" opportunity, if needed, at the World Qualifier, May 13-14, in Paris, where the top three there will also qualify for the Olympics.
"It's so hard to not think about the Olympics all the time," he admits. "I try to not think about it too much, but it is on my mind because I've dreamed of being an Olympian and I'm so close right now. I've made the sacrifices to be an Olympian and then I'll be an Olympian the rest of my life.
"I listen to my coaches. In the heat of the moment, when things are most stressful, I feel like the underdog and I perform up to the absolute moment. It was do-or-die at Olympic Trials. I just refuse to lose."
Fulghum certainly responded to the pressure of the trials in a positive fashion, upsetting pre-trials favorite Adrian Tillman in the opening round, and then rolling through opponents until he secured the title.
"People didn't know me," Fulghum explained. "I was the underdog because I didn't compete in many tournaments because I was in (nursing) school. My finals were always in December (same time as USA Nationals). I did have a break in my schedule in 2018, when I won a gold medal at the National Golden Gloves Tournament. It's just the way my schedule worked out. So, I hadn't fought in many tournaments, but I was able to sneak in when it mattered most."
Fulghum recently competed in his first international tournament at the prestigious Strandja Tournament in Bulgaria, winning one of two matches. The experience, though, was priceless, possibly career changing in terms of preparing for the Olympics.
"Not only was it my first international tournament," he noted, "it was the first time I had boxed without headgear (as will be the case in the Olympics), and I fought guys from foreign countries with different styles. It was a great experience because now I won't be going blind into the Olympic Qualifier."
Members of the USA Boxing Olympic Qualification Team, like Fulghum, are on break before returning for training with his teammates at the United States Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
"I reported there for the first time this past January 2nd and I love it," Fulghum noted. "Every athlete dreams of training with top athletes where there are no distractions and top coaches. I wake up, eat, sleep, train and do that all over again the next day. That's my schedule."
Fulghum earned his nursing degree last May, but right now and for the immediate future he's fully concentrating on boxing.
"I put education first and got my degree," Fulghum concluded. "I'll always have nursing after boxing. But I dreamed of going to the Olympics all through school. I put boxing on hold and now I've put nursing to the side so I can put my all into boxing. I didn't want to juggle nursing and boxing. I couldn't be the best at either that way.
"I do plan to turn pro because I love boxing so much. I need to box when I'm young. I'll go as far as I can go in boxing and I'll always having nursing."
Darius Fulghum has taken a circuitous route in life from nursing to boxing. It'll be worth it, though, if he makes it to Tokyo as part of Team USA for the 2020 Olympics.
From East LA to Team USA
Flyweight Boxer Anthony Herrera Is Living the Dream!
(February 20th) From the mean streets of East Los Angeles to a berth on Team USA is a remarkable achievement for 19-year-old flyweight Anthony Herrera, who recently was selected to be a member of the 2020 Olympic Games Tokyo Boxing Qualification Team.
"Since I was very young," Herrera spoke about growing up in East LA, "my parents always kept me in sports. Being so occupied with sports was actually a distraction from what was going on around the city. So, I never had time to get into trouble and my parents kept me away from a bad lifestyle. Once I started boxing, I took it seriously, staying focused and setting goals. I was a little older at that time and whether or not I wanted to partake in boxing or wanted to make a career out of it was all up to me, and I always had my parents full support. Boxing has been a big part of my life. I'm always looking forward to the next workout or anything boxing related. It's part of my image at this point."
For now, though, Herrera is preparing with his teammates at the United States Olympics and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for the America's Qualification Tournament, March 26-April 3, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Herrera will qualify to represent his country at the Olympics by finishing among the top five in Buenos Aires, or first six placers at the World Qualifier, May 13-14, in Paris, France.
"I thrive under pressure," Herrera said. "I don't let pressure get to me mentally so much that it negatively impacts my performance. It makes me perform better when I'm in the ring. I've been under pressure my whole boxing career. Not only has it made me a better fighter in certain situations that are intimidating, but also a stronger person overall. Going to Argentina is no different, the nerves are still there, but so is my determination to get to Tokyo."
A 2018 National PAL and 2019 Western Elite Qualifier champion, Herrera recently finished second at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials and third at the 2020 Strandja Tournament in Bulgaria.
"The amateur boxing accomplishment I'm most proud of is making the United States Qualification Team as a flyweight," he noted. "It was tough to make it here and knowing that I overcame the obstacles I faced on this long journey to where I'm at now makes me very happy. I can truly say I earned it.
"My first International boxing match (Strandja) was a little different from what I'm used to. The equipment we used and fighting without headgear created more risk when fighting, but I had fun in my first international fight. I already have the feel for that environment and am more comfortable now.
"I really enjoy training in Colorado Springs with my teammates, because it's a great experience that only the best athletes get. I love training at home as well, but there are less distractions in Colorado Springs. I get to focus 100-percent on my craft and get to travel more."
Herrera, who describes his style as a "swarmer", applying pressure and breaking down his opponent, is living the dream.
"Fighting in the Olympics was always big for me, but getting a gold medal is my dream," he added. "I've always wanted it because no one can ever take that away from me, and the story and work that is put behind a gold medal is priceless. In my opinion it is harder than winning a world title in professional boxing. Being this close to the Olympics, I'm proud of myself but not satisfied. I know that I still have work to do and I'm taking one step at a time. The next step for me is to qualify for the Olympics at the Olympic Qualifier."
Herrera attributes some of his success to learning from former and contemporary boxers, implementing any techniques that they use into his style, including, for example, the footwork and head movement of Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., and Mike Tyson's set-ups from the body to head.
Tokyo is a long way from East LA for Anthony Herrera.
1988 Olympic Gold Medalist"Merciless" Ray Mercer
Looks Back at His Olympic Experience!
(February 11th) Thirty-two years after he captured an Olympic gold medal, "Merciless" Ray Mercer fondly remembers his Olympic experience like it was last month. Mercer, who is the only American heavyweight champion to knock out all of his Olympic opponents, went on to become world heavyweight champion as a professional for our "heavyweight double."
For Mercer, it all started in Germany, where his U.S. Army unit was based. Offered a chance to avoid a 30-day field exercise, Mercer accepted an offer to serve as a sparring partner for the post's heavyweight boxing champion. Despite never having put on a pair of gloves before, Mercer was a quick learner who was naturally strong, and he rapidly developed into the 1985 U.S. Army and Inter-service heavyweight champion.
The World Class Athlete Program (WCAP), in which qualified athletes have an opportunity to train fulltime for the Olympics, didn't exist back then, nor the Olympic qualifier rules of today. Mercer defeated future world heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison in the opening round of the 1988 Olympic Trials and another future world heavyweight titlist, Michael Bentt (5-0) in the championship final. At the 1988 USA Olympic Box-offs at famed Caesars Pala
ce in Las Vegas, Mercer won a split decision (3-2) over Bentt, but Mercer had already qualified to fight in the Olympic Games by being the U.S. Armed Forces champion.
"When I was in the Army, I had to win in the service, maintain things, and go to the next step," Mercer remembered. "I had to beat some good fighters on my way to the Olympics, and I was in the best shape of my life. There was more discipline in the amateurs than the professional ranks. The final year before the Olympics, I left my home unit, traveled a lot to fight, and stayed in my trainer's house instead of living in the barracks.
Mercer made history at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, when he became and remains the only Olympic heavyweight champion from the United States to knockout all four of his opponents: Rudolf Gavenciak (Czechoslovakia - RSC3), Luigi Gaudiano (Italy - KO1), Arnond Vasnderlyde (Netherlands - RSC2) and Baik Hyun-Man (South Korean - KO1).
"I knew I had to knockout the South Korean in the final," Mercer admitted. "I just wanted to do what I could to be the Olympic gold medalist. I don't think I used a jab.
"Winning the Olympic gold medal resulted in some big-time changes for me. I became a celebrity, a household name, and it allowed me to make money as a professional. The best thing that ever happened to me was winning the Olympic gold medal, even more than winning the world title as a pro. Nothing compared to becoming an Olympic gold medalist. I accomplished my dream. I had never dreamed of going pro, until after I won the gold medal.
"It was really important to win that gold medal. I fought with my heart; no money was involved, celebrated so hard that night (after winning the gold medal) that I lost my medal for a few hours. My dream had come true, my hands were shaking, and I lost my medal. What a night!"
Mercer offers members of the 2020 USA Boxing Olympic Qualification Team one bit of advice, "Keep fighting, follow your dream and take that last step."
Mercer, who was born in Jacksonville, Florida, made his much-anticipated pro debut in 1989, stopping Jesse McGhee in the third round of their fight in Atlantic City. "Merciless" won his first 18 pro fights, including a ninth-round knockout of Francisco Damiani, followed by a successful defense against Morrison, who was stopped in the fifth round.
During his 19-year pro career, Mercer compiled a 36-7-1 (26 KOs) record, defeating four world champions in Damiani, Morrison, Tim Witherspoon and Ossie Ocasio. Five of his eight career losses were to world champions: Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko, Larry Holmes, Evander Holyfield and Shannon Briggs.
"Ray represents everything that makes USA Boxing proud," said Chris Cugliari, USA Boxing Alumni Association Director. "As an Army veteran, Olympic gold medalist, and heavyweight champion of the world, he has demonstrated excellence and professionalism that reflects the best of what USA Boxing has to offer."
Mercer's outstanding amateur boxing career also included a classic match-up against Cuban great and three-time Olympic gold medalist, Felix Savon, at USA vs. Cuba dual match, in which Mercer twice staggered Savon, who survived without suffering additional damage only because the Cuban referee made a questionable intervention that gave his fellow countryman time to recover and a controversial 2-1 victory.
"And he gave me a standing eight-count for no reason," Mercer added. "I beat that guy and he knows it. We're still in touch even though he doesn't speak English. He has a friend translate and we're in touch on Facebook. We like each other."
Today, Mercer is founding a charity at home in North Carolina, which will include free boxing clinics, but, more importantly, give back to the community and teach youths, especially those who are bullied, the skills they'll need to go out into the real world.
Ray Mercer has reached the zenith twice in boxing as an Olympic gold medalist and world heavyweight champion as a professional. Not too shabby for somebody who never really wanted to box.
"Boxing saved my life," Mercer concluded. "I can't imagine my life without boxing, it certainly wouldn't be the same.
USA Boxing Featherweight Andrea Medina
Closing In On 2020 Olympic Spot In Tokyo!
(February 11th) Coming off consecutive runner-up finishes in major tournaments, USA Boxing featherweight Andrea Medina is within one tournament of representing her country in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
In December, the 20-year-old Medina lost a split decision to Lupe Gutierrez at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Boxing, and 4-1 to Iulia Tsyplakova (Ukraine) last month at the Strandja Tournament in Bulgaria. The Chula Vista, California boxer was recently named to USA Boxing's Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Boxing Qualification Team.
"Placing second at the trials only made me more eager to get that Olympic Qualification spot," Medina said. "I just wanted to show USA Boxing that I was the one to represent at 57 kilograms. I am only going to get better and I cannot wait to show the world everything that I got.
"For it (Strandja) being my first ever international tournament, I was very proud of how far I got in the tournament and getting that silver medal. I was very happy with all my performances and I am excited to get back to work on things I need to improve on. Aside from all that, going to a different country was awesome and I can't wait to travel more doing what I love the most."
Medina and her Team USA stablemates are currently training in Colorado Springs at the state-of-the-art United States Olympic and Paralympic Training Center. To qualify for participation in this year's Olympic Games, Medina needs to finish among the top three in the 57-kilogram (125 lbs.) division at the America's Qualification Tournament, March 26-April 3, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. One final opportunity at the World Qualifier in Paris, France, in which she could qualify for the Olympics by placing among the top five.
"It means the world to me to be on the USA Boxing Olympic Qualification Team," Medina added. "It is everything I have been working for since I started competing at eight years old and I cannot believe the Olympic Games are only in a few months. Making history in San Diego by being the first person to make the Olympic Team for boxing is a big deal for my family, my city and myself. I cannot express how excited I am to have come this far, but there is still so much to do, and I am ready.
"I feel that I work better under pressure and I truly believe that I will qualify for Tokyo, whether it be in Argentina or France, but my main goal, right now, is to train hard to get that gold in Argentina."
Medina believes her major strength inside the ring is her ability to adjust during a fight. She prefers fighting on the outside, but she can brawl if needed, because she enjoys throwing a lot of power punches.
Medina also realizes that she's in a prime place regarding the rising popularity of female boxing, following in the USA Boxing footsteps of two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields and Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza, along with past USA Olympians such as Queen Underwood and Mikaela Mayer.
"Female boxing is only going to get bigger," Medina predicted. "Being a female fighter today means a lot to me, because I have been doing this for 15 years now, and seeing it grow year after year only shows how strong females are and what we can accomplish. I predict that, in the future, boxing will not be seen as a man's sport, but will be neutral for both men and women."
Competing at the Olympics has been a life-long dream for Medina, but she also has plans for her immediate future.
"Reaching the Olympics has been my main goal throughout my boxing career," Andrea remarked, "so now that it is so close makes me want to work even harder. Other goals of mine are to graduate from college and get my own condominium, which I will do after all this is over.
"I plan on turning pro after the Olympics, most likely at the beginning or middle of 2021, so I can finish school and give my body some rest and recovery."
Andrea Medina is so close to being an Olympian and everything associated with that accomplishment that she can practically reach out and feel it. Just one more step, whether in Buenos Aires or Paris, and it'll be mission accomplished for her.
ABOUT USA BOXING: To promote and grow Olympic-style amateur boxing in the United States and to inspire the tireless pursuit of Olympic gold and enable athletes and coaches to achieve sustained competitive excellence. Additionally, USA Boxing endeavors to teach all participants the character, confidence and focus they need to become resilient and diverse champions, both in and out of the ring. USA Boxing is one team, one nation, going for gold!
USA Boxing Announces
2020 Tokyo Olympic Games Qualification Team!
(January 30th) USA Boxing announced today the 13 boxers who will represent Team USA at the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games Tokyo Boxing Qualification Events, as well as the 13 alternates. A full list can be seen below.
The team was announced following the two-stage qualification process that began in December at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Boxing in Lake Charles and concluded at the recent 2020 Strandja Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria. To see the full athlete selection procedure (click here).
"First of all, this was a very difficult decision," stated USA Boxing Head Coach Billy Walsh. "Some of these boxers were neck and neck between training camp and the 2020 Standja Tournament."
"We feel the 13 boxers that earned their place on the Olympic Qualification Team will be the best team to represent Team USA at the upcoming qualifiers, as well as have the best opportunity to qualify a full team to the 2020 Olympic Games Tokyo."
All 13 boxers will have two chances to punch their ticket to Tokyo. The first will take place at the America's Qualification tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 26 - April 3. Boxers who do not qualify in Argentina will have one final opportunity at the World Qualifier in Paris, France, May 13-24. (Click here) for more information on how boxers qualify.
The boxers, as well as several training partners, will return to the United States Olympics and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. on Feb. 5 for their next training camp.
USA Boxing Olympic Qualification Team
51 kg: Virginia Fuchs, Houston, Texas
52 kg: Anthony Herrera, Los Angeles, Calif.
57 kg: Andrea Medina, San Diego, Calif.
57 kg: Bruce Carrington, Brooklyn, N.Y.
60 kg: Rashida Ellis, Lynn, Mass.
63 kg: Keyshawn Davis, Norfolk, Va.
69 kg: Oshae Jones, Toledo, Ohio
69 kg: Delante Johnson, Cleveland, Ohio
75 kg: Naomi Graham, Fayetteville, N.C.
75 kg: Joseph Hicks, Grand Rapids, Mich.
81 kg: Rahim Gonzales, Las Vegas, Nev.
91 kg: Darius Fulghum, Houston, Texas
91+ kg: Richard Torrez Jr., Tulare, Calf.
USA Boxing Olympic Qualification Team Alternates
51 kg: Christina Cruz, Hell's Kitchen, N.Y.
52 kg: Abraham Perez, Albuquerque, N.M.
57 kg: Lupe Gutierrez, Sacramento, Calif.
57 kg: David Navarro, Los Angeles, Calif.
60 kg: Amelia Moore, Alexandria, Va.
63 kg: Ernesto Mercado, Pomona, Calif.
69 kg: Briana Che, Madison, Wisc.
69 kg: Freudis Rojas Jr., Dallas, Texas
75 kg: Morelle McCane, Cleveland, Ohio
75 kg: Javier Martinez, Milwaukee, Wisc.
81 kg: Atif Oberlton, Philadelphia, Pa.
91 kg: Jamar Talley, Camden, N.J.
91+ kg: Antonio Mireles, Des Moines, Iowa
USA Boxing Alumni Association
Hall of Fame Reception Another KO!
(December 19th) The Class of 2019 was inducted into the USA Boxing Alumni Association Hall of Fame this past Friday night at Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
The HOF reception was held in conjunction with the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Boxing and 2019 National Championships. Hall of Fame broadcaster Al Bernstein from Showtime Sports served once again as the event's emcee.
Olympic gold-medalists Mark Breland and "Smokin'" Joe Frazier along with decorated coach Al Mitchell and famed cut-man Ray Rodgers, were inducted during the 3rd annual USA Boxing Alumni Association HOF reception.
Sen. John McCain was posthumously presented a special Lifetime Achievement Award. His daughter, Megan McCain, sent an acceptance video on behalf of her family that was played for the audience.
"We are extremely thankful for the hundreds of USA Boxing Alumni who showed up to support this year's Hall of Fame class and enjoy an incredible evening of reflection, camaraderie, and joy," said USA Boxing Alumni Association Director Chris Cugliari. "Unfortunately, George Foreman was unable to attend the event, so we will be sure to honor him at a later date. However, the legacies of Ray Rodgers, Al Mitchell, Joe Frazier, Mark Breland, and Senator John McCain were celebrated with passion and gratitude. It was an evening to remember, and we look forward to a strong 2020 for the USA Boxing Alumni Association."
The ceremony was well attended, with over 200 traveling to Lake Charles in celebration of this year's class. 1988 Eastern Olympic Qualifier Champion John "Iceman" Scully, 1972 Olympic gold medalist Sugar Ray Seales, 1984 Olympic gold medalist Frank Tate, former middleweight and light heavyweight champion "Sweet" Reggie Johnson, and 1992 Olympian Raul Marquez celebrated amongst peers from their amateur days.
To watch the entire ceremony, go HERE
Below are quotes from the inductees, or those representing inductees, with pictures:
CLASS OF 2019
Mark Breland: "I enjoy boxing, it's a lot of fun. I'm glad to be here because I've seen a lot of fighters I grew up with in the amateurs. I enjoy boxing because it kept me off the streets. I wasn't a street guy., My father would have beaten me up if I had gotten into trouble in the streets. Boxing kept me off the streets, kept me in the gym. I guess I was good at it. I had a fight with a bully when I was 14 and I beat him up. I went to the gym the same day and my coach asked me what happened. My knuckles were shredded with blood. I told him I had a fight in the street. He said you can't fight in the street. Then I realized boxing and street fighting are two different things.
Shelly Finkel (his manager), when he came into my life, changed a lot of things. Things changed a lot. I focused more on boxing, focused on the Olympic Games, and won championships. Every tournament I went into, I won, but it was a lot of fun. I wanted to inspire youths. I hope I can inspire some amateurs coming up. To keep going, stay off the streets, and do something that can change your life in a good way., Eddie Futch for life!"
Marvis Frazier(Joe's son, pictured): "It is so good today to speak about my father, what he meant to me, and Joe Frazier always said to me, 'There's no right way to do wrong, no wrong way to do right.' He said, if you don't do right, you're going to smell this, putting his left fist right to my nose. When it was time for me to do bad, it wasn't me, wasn't Marvis Frazier. So, today, I'm still smelling it even if he's not here.
"I just love to talk boxing. As an amateur I was 46-1 and then when I turned pro, I beat the guy who had knocked me out. I love my father. He was a good guy and a champion. I know everybody know Muhammad Ali and I know everybody know 'Smokin' Joe Frazier."
Al Mitchell: "I got rid of anybody over 16 who didn't want to go to school. I've been doing this the longest time and I want to thank the coaches. I had three or four who didn't care about boxing, but they wanted their kids to get an education. Izzy Acosta is one. I got a perfect record at Marquette High, they've all graduated. I have four kids with master's degrees, I've got 14 who have degrees, and four guys who are policemen and no way they should be policemen. I'm blessed.
"Old coaches would tell one you're only as good as your memories. It's crazy with kids 14, 14, 15. I had a kid named Vernon Forrest, a four-time world champion., It's not just about boxing. It's getting an education and after ten years they have a good life. I want to thank you all for putting me in the Hall of Fame."
Michael Rodgers (Ray's son, pictured): "First, I want to apologize for my father for not being here. He hurt his back over the weekend working a boxing match, believe it or not, and he apologizes for not being here.
"I want to thank USA Boxing and the Alumni Association for recognizing my father for this award. And when he heard about this, he said he didn't do any of these things during the 72 years he's been in the sport for awards. He just did what he did for the love this sport and he did what needed to be done."
USA BOXING ALUMNI ASSOCIATION
Mike McAtee, Executive Director, USA Boxing (pictured): "On behalf of the Board of Directors, President Tyson Lee, I can only say thank you, thank you, and thank you. Tonight, is a culmination of work between our members, our alumni association, but I have to recognize a couple of people. This great event wouldn't be done without Chris Cugliari, Al Valenti and Nicole Anderson, our Alumni Association Coordinator.
"I have the honor of talking about boxing and obviously we have passion. When Marvis Frazier said this was a brotherhood, a sisterhood, and none of us, quite frankly, who've stepped in the ring - I include myself in that - we're not right. Takes a special person to climb in the ropes. You all can give yourselves a hand for not being right.
"USA Boxing is proud of our history, but more proud of our future, and I can tell you the young men and women battling at the elite levels, we started at 104 and that will be taken down to 13 by Sunday evening. But, more importantly, we're going to be breeding the next generation of champions, because this is closing the chapter of 2020, but starting the chapter of 2024, and ultimately, when the Olympic Games comeback here in 2028. This is a special time."
Chris Cugliari, Executive Director, USA Boxing Alumni Association: "Three years ago a group of us sat around a table in Kansas City at the National Championships and this idea was hatched: John Brown, Al Valenti, John Scully, Christy Halbert, Mike McAtee and a few others. So, it's something I'm very proud of and an organization I'm proud to lead with the support of all of you.
"A quick update of the Alumni Association, we're at about 1200 members right now and this is our third year. We had events across the country the past year, honoring Micky Ward and Vinny Pazianza in the New England area. We gathered in Chicago. We honored Izzy Acosta at the Junior Olympics in Wisconsin, as well as Buster Douglas and coach Mike Stafford at the Ohio Legends celebration, and here we are today honoring our third Hall of Fame class. We've come a long way. Our theme in 2020 is two missions: First, we want to take this down to the grassroots level, second is supporting our athletes and their families as they travel to the 2020 Olympic Games."
Al Valenti, Special Projects Consultant for USA Boxing: "USA Boxing is the one fundamental difference that makes a difference in a young person's life. The path to self-confidence, the path to self-respect, discipline, victory, and how to accept defeat all comes through amateur boxing.
"Tonight, the story will be told. Tonight, we will take you on a path, of amateur boxing in the United States that rivals no other nation. Gold medalists, silver medalists, coaches, officials, doctors...they're all here. It's like Woodstock for boxing; everybody's here!"
Al Bernstein, Master of Ceremonies: "I'm delighted to be back here for my third year at USA Boxing's Alumni Association Hall of Fame. I hosted a lot of events, MC'd a lot of events, and this is the final event because it's in the end of December. It's definitely my favorite."
HOW TO BECOME A MEMBER OF THE USA BOXING ALUMNI ASSOCIATION
Created to champion a lifelong, mutually beneficial relations between USA Boxing and its alumni, --boxers, officials, coaches and boxing fans -- The Alumni Association connects generations of champions, inspiring and giving back to USA Boxing's future boxing champions, in and out of the ring.
The USA Boxing Alumni Association is open to anyone who has a love for boxing and would like to stay connected with amateur boxing. Members are granted access to a wide variety of special events host by the Alumni Association, including the USA Boxing Alumni Association Hall of Fame reception.
To join the Alumni Association, simply register at email@example.com for a $40.00 per year membership fee. New members will receive a T-shirt, keychain and e-wallet.
CLASS OF 2017: The charter class was headed by Muhammad Ali and Evander Holyfield, in addition to veteran coaches Roosevelt Sanders and Tom Coulter.
CLASS OF 2018: U.S. Olympic Team medalists and world (professional) champions Roy Jones, Jr., Andre Ward and Claressa Shields, as well as former USA Boxing National Director of Coaching Emanuel Steward and veteran USA Boxing official Tom Cleary.