USA Boxing Converts Abandoned Department Store
Into National Training Gym
For Preparations For Olympic Games Tokyo 2020!
(January 21st) When the boxers of the USA Boxing Olympic Qualification Team arrived in Colorado Springs, Colorado. this week they walked into a new training facility with just over six months left until the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and even less time to their qualification tournaments.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, USA Boxing athletes have not been allowed to train in the national boxing gym at the United States Olympic and Paralympic Training Center (USOPTC) since March 2020 and have had to continue to make adjustments to their training plans, which included training at the French National Training Center in Paris in late 2020.
After being told they would not be allowed to begin 2021 at the USOPTC, the coaching and national office staff had to find a new home to begin the final preparations for the qualification tournaments taking place in May and June.
"After spending most of 2020 waiting to be allowed entry back into our national gym at the Colorado Springs OPTC, it was time that we took matters into our own hands and established a training space that can properly accommodate our team's training needs," said Matt Johnson, USA Boxing High Performance Director.
USA Boxing ended 2020 and the beginning of 2021 moving all equipment, which included four boxing rings, numerous heavy bags and strength and conditioning equipment, from their gym at the USOPTC to an abandoned department store in a mall in Colorado Springs to hold training camps, while housing the boxers and coaching staff at the nearby Hotel Eleganté.
"We are able to continue to move forward in this COVID environment by applying multi-layer protection protocols, pre-travel testing, mandatory mask wearing, social distancing, regular cleaning, regular rapid antigen testing, daily health surveys and follow up PRC pool testing, as well as provide a top notch training facility in our temporary facility, which we are greatly thankful for John Bushman, owner of Hotel Eleganté and the training facility, to help provide these opportunities to our boxers," stated Mike McAtee, USA Boxing Executive Director.
"The training facility and environment we have created has greatly reduced the risk to our boxers and coaches. USA Boxing strives to fulfill our stated mission to our boxers, '... (to) inspire the tireless pursuit of Olympic gold and enable our boxers and coaches to achieve sustained competitive excellence...' in the face of a worldwide pandemic."
The first training camp of 2021 began Jan. 14 and will run until Feb. 18, before the boxers head to Bulgaria and Spain for international competitions. USA Boxing will hold the final training camp before the America's Olympic Qualification Tournament at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center, in Chula Vista, Calif., in another makeshift boxing gym, which held the final training camp of 2020 in November.
San Diego Amateur Boxer Jonathan Mansour
Experienced Emotional Roller-Coaster Ride In 2020!
(January 7th) In 2019, Jonathan "Magic" Mansour finished fifth at the USA Olympic Trials as one of the youngest competitors in the field, and the now 21-year-old San Diego featherweight had planned to put on a magical performance at the 2020 USA Boxing National Championships this past December, at the Shreveport Convention Center in Shreveport, Louisiana.
In late October, Mansour was named as the USA Boxing Olympic Qualifying Team alternate in the featherweight division, replacing the original alternate, David Navarro, who recently turned pro. Brooklyn's Bruce Carrington is the USA Boxing Olympic Qualifying Team representative in the featherweight division, who needs to finish among the top six finishers at the Americas Qualification Tournament this May. The Last Chance Qualifier will be at the World Qualifier in June.
"Being the Olympic alternate keeps me faithful in God's process in making my Olympic dreams come true," Mansour said. "I am excited to perform with Team USA to fight for gold and obtain my number one spot. I am glad I stayed ready for this opportunity knowing my time will come."
As it turned out,the 2020 USA Boxing National Championships was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic until March 25-April 3, 2021 at the same venue.
Mansour started boxing at the age of eight, choosing to box because he always wanted to be different and loved to fight. He told his uncle that he wanted to go the boxing gym with him one day, instead of going to his grandmother's house to swim with his cousins, and the rest is history.
"After he took me to the gym," Mansour noted, "I've never missed a day since. I have sacrificed many friends, parties, my entire high school years, and more. Through all the tough times and especially during this pandemic, my coaches and I picked up my training even more. Being ranked number 4 in the USA still keeps me hungry for that number 1 spot, and I will make sure to fight for it until I've achieved it."
Mansour captured gold medals at the 2018 National Golden Gloves and Monkton International Boxing Cup, as well as the 2019 Last Chance Qualifier. Standing 5' 10", he is tall for a featherweight, and he effectively uses his range advantage to out-box his opponents, often switching effortlessly from southpaw to orthodox stances.
"I have realized that my style is very different and stands out much more," Mansour added. "It is the reason I got my nickname, 'Magic.' I fight smarter not harder and my coaches and I adjust to all styles, whether my opponent is coming forward or moving backwards.
Mansour joined the USA Boxing Olympic Qualifying Team on October 28th at the Multination Training Camp in Chula Vista, Calif. Each fighter needed to be quarantined for five days and then cleared after passing COVID testing. Nobody was allowed to leave his or her room other than to train or dine.
"We still trained during the quarantine," he explained, "but we didn't make contact until our test results came back negative. Being in the bubble was pretty boring, but it gave me a lot of time to focus on myself and my life. It was a great experience stepping into the ring with the Great Britain Olympic Team. I learned more and more everyday and studied all my test match footage. Camp was 16 days and USA had members of the Canadian Olympic Boxing Team there as well. Some days we trained two times a day and on the days we didn't I still did my night jogging to keep my legs fresh for the test matches."
2020 was an emotional roller-coaster ride for Mansour, who is now preparing to return to Colorado Springs from January 14th to February 19th with members of Team USA to train and prepare for upcoming tournaments. All the ups and downs, though, have been well worth it for Mansour.
"Being a 2021 Olympic Boxing Team alternate is a blessing," he concluded. "It is definitely a big opportunity that my team and I have been preparing for to make the best of it. I've always dreamed of becoming an Olympic gold medalist and hard work will get me there."
USA Boxing National Championships
Headed to Shreveport, La!
(December 16th) USA Boxing National Office announced the 2020 USA Boxing National Championships, scheduled for Dec. 5-12, will take place March 25-April 3 at the Shreveport Convention Center, Shreveport. La.
The Championships had initially been set for December 5 to 12 in Lake Charles in Louisiana, but the location had to be changed in September after Hurricane Laura struck.
The new dates, the tournament will add three extra days of competition. The added days will allow for a soft start giving boxers, coaches, officials, and staff an opportunity to adjust to the COVID-19 mitigation procedure. The tournament will have early check-in on the 25-26, with official check-in on the 27.
At this time, USA Boxing will continue to enforce a no-spectator policy for the event and will reevaluate the policy at a minimum of six weeks out from the event on Feb. 11.
USA Boxing Alumni's 1992 USA Trials
Virtual Reunion a Major KO!
(Olympian Raul Marquez on USA Boxing Alumni's 1992 US Trials virtual reunion)
(November 25th) USA Boxing and the USA Boxing Alumni Association recently held a virtual reunion via Zoom for competitors at the 1992 USA Boxing Trials, including a pair of 1992 USA Olympians, Raul Marquez and Montell Griffin.
The group was comprised of 19 fighters who competed at the 1992 USA Olympic Trials, plus a few administrators, who happily spoke non-stop for an hour and 45 minutes. They gleefully reminisced, shared personal updates from the past 22 years, remembered their most memorable experiences as amateur boxers, and even got emotional at times as they rebounded. Some have kept in touch through emails and social media, but visibly seeing each other on the Zoom call was eye-opening for these ring brothers.
"You all are part of USA Boxing," said call host Mike McAtee, Executive Director of USA Boxing. "Hector Colon and Raul Marquez got their brothers on this call. It was a natural fit. We have 13 kids getting ready to qualify in May for the Olympics. USA Boxing touches 36,000 kids every day. It changed our lives, and we can have an impact saving lives.
"It's an honor seeing you all. You are the backbone of USA Boxing. Boxing made us who we are, you have inspired boxers. This was long overdue, and we plan to have reunions with other Olympic Trials classes in the future."
"This is very cool to see everybody and I enjoy listening to you," added Chris Cugliari, USA Boxing Alumni Association Director. "You're all helping bring the spirit back to USA Boxing Alumni. Boxing people love being around boxing people, and that's what the USA Boxing Alumni Association is all about. We're bringing that spirit back. I love having you guys in our alumni program. This has been a blast!"
"I'm not much of a boxer, but I'm happy to be part of this boxing program," commented Barry Siff, USA Boxing volunteer marketing advisor. "I grew up in Detroit during the 1980's and hung out at Kronk (Gym). I'm happy to be on this call. We all need to help Mike and the team going forward. Don't wait until 2028 in Los Angeles. We have Tokyo next year and Paris in 2024. Kids can learn from you. I'm happy to be part of USA Boxing."
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.
(Robert Allen and Tarick Salmaci were also on the call but unable to speak due to technical problems)
HECTOR COLON: "I love you guys. It's been so long. I hope we can communicate like this more often. We need you all to support USA Boxing and USA Boxing Alumni. My first international fight was in Barbados and I knocked out my opponent in 26 seconds. I remember receiving the Adidas bag and shoes. It was such a special thing. I dreamed of making the Olympics and I should have, but I found God calling me away from the sport. I was proud watching you and I rooted for you.
"It's great to be back in USA Boxing and giving back to USA Boxing, because it helped me become the person I am today. I could have gone the wrong way. Let's do this again and keep giving back to our sports."
RAUL MARQUEZ: "I'm very excited to be here. I feel honored and I'm probably the only one here who fought most of the guys here. I have a lot of memories. I'm honored to be here with you, my boxing family. It's beautiful.
"Everybody here knows how hard it is to win a tournament. We know what it takes because we were all elite. We have to give back. I'm still involved in boxing."
ORLANDO HARRIS: "I had the greatest time in USA Boxing. I started late. I fought once before I went into the military. I got better and learned how to fight in the military. I had to because I had to do good or go back to my unit. In '04 I got into car accident. Everybody died but me. They say I'm disabled, but I'm not, I still coach boxing."
PAULIE AYALA: "The '92 Olympic Trials is my most memorable moment because I was there. In 1988, I lost in The Westerns in the semifinals and I left boxing. I wasn't focused. I watched you people excel and didn't fight again until 1992. I lost to Sergio (Reyes), who I had fought 16 times before that fight. I met a lot of you guys fighting in Russia. What's inspiring is listening to all of you."
MONTELL GRIFFIN: "I was late going to the rty, coming in 1991. I had two fights going into the Golden Gloves, but I lied and said I had 12 so I could fight in the opens. My first fight was in 1991. I had to fight the No. 1 guy, Jeremy Williams, to make the Olympic team. Those 1 ½ years as were the best of my life. I looked up to all of you guys and have respect for all."
ANTWUN ECHOLS: "I made it to Team USA, and I was an Olympic alternate. Raul (Marquez), he likes to talk, and I was excited to fight him. I learned a lot. I love being with all the guys. Larry Nicholson took me under his wing. He talked to me daily. I was a young kid, and my family life wasn't good. When I went to the '92 championships, these people were my family.
"I was raw off the streets of Davenport (Iowa) and Larry took care of me...thank you. If it wasn't for the people at the Olympic Center, I don't know where I'd be today."
DANNY RIOS: "In 1992, I lost in the semifinals of the US Championships. So, I had to win the Golden Gloves to go to the Olympics. At the Trials I won my first fight and lost my second. I later turned pro. I'm working security and helping to train fighters at a local gym. I hope to have my own gym. I'm glad to see you all after all these years.
SKIPPER KELP: "I'm in Vegas. I moved here when I was in the amateurs. The best thing was the camaraderie. We grew up together. Together, we came of age as teenagers and I met some of my best friends for life. We were all at the elite level, the best versus the best, and eventually we fought each other. I met a lot of guys in 1989 in Russia.
"I own Fight Capital Gym in Las Vegas. When you go to Vegas, call me and come to my gym. We have a brotherhood for life. Amateur boxing brings people together. To reconnect like this is awesome."
DANELL NICHOLSON: "My most memorable moment was representing USA Boxing at the 1992 Olympics, because I became an Olympian and met all these great athletes. Meeting you is really my most memorable. You can't beat boxing!"
RONALD SIMMS: "I was probably on the amateur team longer than anybody. I stayed on so long that I have a lot of memories. I was part of the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympic teams. I saw a lot of talent come through. I started in 1995; this sport is addictive and I'm still involved in amateur boxing. We still have the most talented kids in amateur boxing.
"My dream was to make the Olympic Team and I still haven't made it. My goal was to be No. 1 and I was in 1995. Then, I wanted to quit, but my coach said it wasn't the time. The lessons I learned from you guys and sharing with kids is what it's all about. I'm in India working as the chief coach, doing what I love."
PAUL VADEM: "I'm glad to see everyone. I have so many memories, the most memorable is seeing you, my boxing brothers. We trained together to make names for ourselves. We will always have this to go back on. I get emotional. It didn't matter where you came from, your economical values, and we competed against each other. But at the end of the day we respected each other.
"I'm a speaker and author today. What I had learned in boxing is why I'm able to do what I do. Thanks. This is beautiful. I'm thankful to see you all."
JAMES JOHNSON: "It's amazing to see some of these faces, It's great to see you, guys! I remember the Olympic Festival. Randall Crippen. He was talkative......I gave him a diploma at the end of the match.
"I broke my hand in competition and they wouldn't let me fight. I did and I drew a hometown kid in (Worcester) Massachusetts, Bobby Harris, and won. With one hand, I lost in the final. It's good to see you guys. I'm living in Flint, Michigan. I went on to get my college career and today I'm a network engineer."
DEAN FLETCHER: "I was an amateur a long time. I have many memories, but one is the years I was on the Board of Directors as an athlete representative. Kids today, the reason you can't fight twice a day is me.
"The traveling, I can't let that go. When things aren't going well, I think of my amateur days. Nothing but love for you guys."
LARRY NICHOLSON: "My most memorable things is being the 1993 Boxer of the Year. I accomplished a lot. I won silver at the 1993 and 1994 World Championships. Should have been gold. You were great fighters and role models. I had an opportunity to go to college - North Michigan University - and I have a degree.
"I'm still involved in boxing today as head coach of the Michigan Golden Gloves. I'm very happy where I am right now. I didn't go pro because I love amateur boxing, the discipline and life. I worked with three Olympic teams. We've done well as frat brothers."
MARK LANTON: "It's a pleasure to see everybody like this. My most memorable moment was winning the Western Trials. I was an Army soldier when I was an amateur fighter. In Iraq, sometimes, Frank Vassar kept in touch with me. I'm retired now from the military. I worked at the VA as a federal police officer. I'm totally retired. I coach kids at a local gym and I'm living the life in Orlando.
FRANK VASSAR: "Winning the US Olympic Sports Festival and National Golden Gloves in 1999 was my most memorable. I was in the Army, the National Guards, when I was boxing. I got commissioned in the Air Force. I did three combat tours and was injured. Crazy stuff. I'm glad I made it back. I always enjoyed going to tournaments and seeing you guys. I love all you guys."
RICHARD BONDS: In 1989, I remember fighting Jeremy Williams. He was the best and that put me on the map. The next four years I was going to Colorado and that was the best. I was a college student and got a criminal justice degree at the University of Memphis. I met Echols at dual. We'd come together three or four times a year, maybe more and when you saw somebody it was like yesterday.
"In 1992, I wanted to make the Olympic team. I lost my first fight in Worcester and didn't make it to the Olympics. There were only 12 weight classes and I was one of those guys. You are my frat brothers."
2020 USA Boxing National Championships
The 2020 USA Boxing National Championships will be held December 5-12 at Shreveport Convention Center in Shreveport, Louisiana.
The Late Johnny Tapia Remains Strong Influence
For Albuquerque Amateur Boxer Sharahya-Taina Moreu 2020 USA Boxing Nationals,
December 5-12, Shreveport, Louisiana!
(November 24th) The late, great Hall of Fame boxer Johnny Tapia played a significant role in the development of Albuquerque welterweight Sharahya-Taina Moreu, and the 3-division world champion remains a strong influence in her life.
During the COVID-19 pandemic she has been preparing to compete in the 2020 USA Boxing National Championships, December 5-12, at Shreveport Convention Center in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Tapia shown below with his tattooed back to Moreu, helped Sharahya-Taina overcome the life-changing tragedy of her mother's automobile accident. She was only eight at the time, laying on her mother after the accident, and the first out of the car and onto the highway asking for help.
"At first," she spoke about her relationship with Tapia, "I was regretful and angry, getting into fights and on a bad path. I got into boxing at 12, took anger management, and became motivated."
Tapia, who was a 2-time National Golden Gloves champion as an amateur, had a tremendous impact on Moreu's life, something that will never leave her heart and soul.
"We became like family," the 21-year-old explained. "At first, he (Johnny) didn't like girls boxing, so he worked me really hard. I was a good basketball player and he kept telling me to go play basketball. But he became a big person in my life, I think, because I had lost my mother at such a young age. He helped me in and out of the ring in so many ways. Johnny Tapia was the nicest, most humble man I've ever met. We became family until the gym fell apart. He only coached me for about eight months, but he taught me that boxing defines you as a person. I feel safe in the ring. I'm a better person because of Johnny and boxing."
Training with her father/coach Yoruba Moreu during the pandemic, although it was challenging to find good sparring, hasn't been as much of a problem as for others because her gym is in the backyard. She hasn't been in a fight since last December's Olympic Trials.
"I'm excited to get back in the ring because I've gone too long without competition," Moreu looked ahead to Shreveport. "It's definitely going to be different, because there are a bunch of new faces coming for the number one spot, which makes it fun and worthy to fight."
Proud to represent the United States in competition, Sharahya-Taina is proud of her Native American and Puerto Rican heritage, and she's taken up the cause fighting for women.
"I love to embrace both sides of my culture," she commented, "representing my Acoma side from my mother and Taino lineage from the Puerto Rican blood in me, and that's why my name is Sharahya-Taina. Every day is a fight for women. I'm just making it known and clear that we are here to stay. I'm not just fighting for myself. I'm also fighting for my family, ancestors and the next generation of females who choose to pick up a pair of gloves. The goal is not to be just a champ in the ring, but on the outside, too."
Moreu has been very successful in her development from youth to the elite division, winning the 2017 Youth National Championships and Western Regional Open, as well as the 2016 and 2017 Youth Open. She's also been runner-up at the 2018 Elite National Championships and Western Elite Qualifier, plus the 2015 National Junior Olympics.
Sharahya-Taina Moreu is a young woman on a mission. She hopes to compete in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, particularly with her younger brother if they both qualified to be, as she says, "an iconic brother/sister duo in Olympic boxing."
Taylor Abbott, Naomi Graham and Kamran Madani Receive Upgraded Medals From Pan American Games Lima 2019!
(November 20th) The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee today announced that Panam Sports has upgraded boxer Naomi Graham (on right) and karate athlete Kamran Madani to gold medals, and open water swimmer Taylor Abbott to the silver medal, for their performances at the Pan American Games Lima 2019. The medal reallocations are a result of
three athletes receiving disqualification rulings for doping offenses and having their medal wins revoked.
"I'm overjoyed to be upgraded to the gold medal and to be named the Pan American champion," said Graham. "Thank you to the United States Army for the continuous support so I am able to compete at such a high level while still serving my country. I would also like to thank the USOPC and Panam Sports for their commitment to clean and fair sport, and congratulations to Taylor [Abbott] and Kamran [Madani] on their sport success and upgraded Pan American medals as well."
With the medal reallocation, Graham becomes the women's middleweight champion at her first Pan American Games. A staff sergeant and U.S. Army World Class Athlete, Graham was named captain of the USA Boxing Team as she continues to prepare for the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Madani also becomes a Pan American champion, earning the upgrade to the gold medal in the men's-84 kg. kumite event, continuing a long tradition of American success since the sport's introduction to the Pan American Games in 1995. Abbott, who swam for the University of Tennessee in college, earns the silver medal in the men's 10-kilometer open water swim.
"On behalf of the USOPC, I congratulate these terrific athletes on their performances in Lima. While we regret it is not possible to give them back their celebratory moment at the Pan American Games, we are thrilled to honor them today," said USOPC President Susanne Lyons. "Doping has no place in the Olympic and Paralympic movements, and we will continue to work diligently until we can ensure athletes around the world are competing fairly. Today we are one step closer towards the equitable playing field our athletes - and all athletes - deserve."
"It's imperative that every athlete is competing in a clean and fair environment, and I'm proud of Panam Sports and the USOPC for standing strong in that commitment," said Panam Sports President Neven Ilic. "I send my sincere congratulations to Naomi [Graham], Kamran [Madani] and Taylor [Abbott] for their medals and thank them for their outstanding performances in Lima last year."
The medals will be presented to the athletes in a virtual medal ceremony on Nov. 18 hosted by USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland, Ilic, Lyons, and features National Governing Body representatives, coaches, teammates, family and friends.
"The Mason Brothers" Are Coming!
2020 USA Boxing Nationals,
December 5th-12th, Shreveport, Louisiana!
(November 16th) Cleveland light welterweight Abdullah Mason has a dream to establish himself and his four brothers in boxing.
Influenced by his older brothers and father/coach, Valiant Mason, Abdullah first got into boxing at the age of nine. His older brothers often gave him boxing tips and his father introduced him to boxing, asking his young son if he'd be interested in training at a local gym. Abdullah instantly fell in love with the sport and his passion for boxing has expanded as he develops his skills.
The 16-year-old Mason has been preparing to compete, despite being restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its shutdowns, in the upcoming 2020 USA Boxing National Championships, December 5-12, at the Shreveport Convention Center in Shreveport, Louisiana.
"I've managed to train privately with my younger brother and three older brothers," Abdullah explained. "We do our cardio, road work, and other workouts for my endurance and strength training, mostly at a private gym, partly at home."
Mason has collected numerous gold medals, taking top honors at the 2018 & 2019 Junior Open,
2017 & 2018 Eastern Regional Open, and 2017 National Junior Olympics.
But he is moving up from junior to youth division for these National Championships, in addition to switching from the lightweight to light welterweight division. He's been unable to evaluate any of his new light welterweight opponents but feels that boxers really don't really know their opponents until they've stepped into the ring.
"It'll be a great adjustment for me moving up from junior to youth," Mason admitted, "especially me fighting three instead of two-minute rounds. I will be able to display more of my skill set and use my intellect in the ring to my advantage, instead of having to squeeze everything into two-minute rounds.
"With this being my first fight or competition since National Championships last December, due to the pandemic, this is a very important tournament for me, if not the most crucial, coming off a year layoff. I need to be consistent in every fight with a great, if not better performance, each and every fight."
An intelligent fighter who can fight in the pocket when needed, Mason is just starting his boxing journey, which he hopes leads to an Olympic gold medal and world titles as a professional.
"My short-range goal is to gain experience, being the best and racking up as many wins as I can," Mason concluded. "I'll possibly be competing for an Olympic gold medal in the near future, if that's where my boxing career leads me. I want to establish my name in the sport along with my four brothers, together known as 'The Mason Brothers.' Hopefully, we'll all be able to fight and win world championships, earning our respect and recognition in boxing."
The Rock 'N Roll museum isn't the only reason to visit Cleveland, it's also the home of "The Mason Brothers," and they're coming rapidly on the scene.
Sa'Rai Brown-El: The Future of Women's Boxing
2020 USA Boxing Nationals
December 5-12, Shreveport, Louisiana!
(November 9th) The future of women's boxing, perhaps, is 15-year-old Sa'Rai Brown-El, who has already captured top honors in 11 national and regional tournaments.
Since she started boxing in 2015, Sa'Rai has collected gold medals at the 2019 Junior Open, 2019 National PAL, 2019 & 2017 National Junior Olympics, 2017 Western Regional Open, and Eastern Regional Open in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
"I stayed focused and hungry and, most importantly, humble," she spoke about her success in the junior division. "No matter how much you've accomplished or the number of accolades you've gotten, always stay hungry and always strive for more."
Boxing started for her when she was 10, training at Lugo Boxing and Fitness in Marietta, Georgia. Prior to that in her native Albany (NY), she went to her uncle's gym and found a pair of boxing gloves.
"I fell in love with boxing when I found that first pair of gloves," Brown-El explained. "I first started boxing because, at that time, my dad didn't agree with me. I saw a lot of people who didn't agree with females competing in a male dominated sport, so I wanted to prove those people wrong. I just love boxing because my whole family boxes."
The COVID-19 pandemic adversely effected most boxers, who were limited in terms of training and sparring, in addition to being shutout of tournaments. Brown-El, however, made the best of a bad situation, running miles with her siblings, cardio mitt work with her father, and much more.
Brown-El has her sights firmly set on the 2020 USA Boxing National Championships, December 5-12, at the Shreveport Convention Center in Shreveport, Louisiana.
"I am super excited and super focused on the National Championships," she added. "I am fighting to get on the USA High Performance Team for my second year. I really want this and I will be working hard every day. My goal for now is to be on Team USA for the second time. I want to fight internationally and be Number 1 in the world."
Brown-El has definitive long-range goals in boxing, starting with the Olympics and finishing as the face of women's boxing.
"If I win a gold medal at the 2024 Olympics, maybe a second time in 2028, after that I think that will open up great opportunities for me," the prodigy commented. "I think it'll especially help me in the pro ranks. Winning a gold medal is my biggest goal right now.
"I want to be the greatest female boxer in the world. I want to be known and I want to make a statement for all females. I really want to shock the world. I eat, sleep, and breath boxing. This is not just a sport for me, this is a lifestyle."
Sa'Rai Brown-El is on a golden path to stardom. She represents the future!
Giovanni Marquez Following
In Olympian and World Champion Father's Footsteps
2020 USA Boxing Nationals, Dec. 5-12, Shreveport, LA.!
(L-R - Giovanni & Raul Marquez)
(November 9th) Houston welterweight amateur boxer Giovanni Marquez is hoping for a little Deja-vu from his chief coach and grandfather,Arturo Marquez, who guided his son and Giovanni's father, Raul "El Diamante" Marquez, to a roster spot on the 1992 USA Boxing Olympic Boxing Team.
Raul, who was a 2-time US amateur champion in two different weight classes, welterweight, and junior middleweight, went on to become the International Boxing Federation (IBF) light middleweight World champion, retiring with a 41-4 (12 KOs) pro record.
Rather than turn pro this year, 19-year-old Giovanni remained in the amateur ranks, albeit with a series of goals, first and foremost, to capture a gold medal at the 2020 USA Boxing National Championships, December 5-12, at the Shreveport Convention Center in Shreveport, Louisiana.
"My goal this year is to win the U.S. Nationals and have outstanding performances throughout the tournament," Giovanni reported. "My long-term goal is to compete internationally and represent the United States at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
"The reason I returned for another year after missing in the Olympic Trials is because I still have a lot to prove on the amateur boxing scene. My team and I decided this was the best decision and I am still very young. My performances in every national tournament I've competed in have consistently improved every time. In my last national tournament - Last Chance Qualifier - I faced off with Delante Johnson, the 2020 US Olympic Qualification Team member, and I lost a split decision. Although I lost the fight, I proved that I could compete at the highest level with the top dogs. Now that I'm a little bit older, stronger, and physically and mentally more mature, I'm confident I have what it takes to become No. 1 in the division. This is why my team and I decided to stay an amateur instead of turning pro.
"I'm very excited about these Nationals, excited to show what I've been working on and critiquing everyday inside the gym. Winning the Nationals will mean the world to me, as I have put in so much time and effort into this sport. With my experience gained the past few years, hard work and maturity, I am confident a gold medal awaits me in Shreveport."
A boxer-puncher who makes the necessary adjustments needed to win, Giovanni has the ability to switch from his orthodox stance to southpaw, comfortably and effectively.
Being the son of a famous boxer, naturally, has its advantages and disadvantages. Giovanni is ready to break out on his own, at least to some extent, with his grandfather and grandmother (Yolanda Marquez) working his corner, while his dad sits in the stands watching the action.
"Coming from a boxing family," Giovanni remarked, "I was always in the gym messing around on the heavy bag while my father was training. The reason I started boxing was because it's something that was just part of my family's life. I had an interest to try it out myself and realized I was talented. I fell in love with the sport and haven't looked back since. My first official fight was when I was 12.
"There definitely are more eyes on the son of a famous boxer. This doesn't add pressure on me, it motivates me to prove that I am capable of accomplishing the same things my father did like winning national titles. To have a father with his experience and knowledge in boxing is truly a blessing."
Training during the COVID-19 pandemic hasn't really been a problem, largely because his grandfather and father are boxing gym owners. Giovanni did struggle, though, because he worried about his grandfather's health due to his advanced age and susceptibility to dangerous complications if infected. They've stayed healthy by practicing social distancing and properly sanitizing each and every day in the gym.
"Being cornered by my grandfather is a good feeling," Giovanni explained, "because I know everything he tells me is for my own good. I feel like my grandfather already created one Olympian in my dad, so he has all the right tools and knowledge to do the same with me.
"Not only is he my boxing coach, he's also a mentor who has groomed me into the young man I am today. My father and uncle also help to train me by working the mitts and helping out with strength and conditioning workouts. Ultimately, it is a good feeling to have my family in my corner, pushing me beyond my limits in order for me to be successful."
Giovanni Marquez is preparing to establish his own identity.
13 USA Boxing Alumni
International Boxing Hall of Fame Candidates Class of 2021!
(October 29th) Thirteen of 42 official candidates for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF), Class of 2021 (Modern participants), are USA Boxing alumni, including virtual locks Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Andre Ward.
Members of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and an international panel of boxing historians will vote (maximum of 5) for the Class of 2021, which will be announced in early December. The annual ceremony will be held in Canastota, New York, the home of the IBHOF museum, in June. The Class of 2020, because of the COVID-19, will be inducted along with the Class of 2021.
Some of the USA Boxing alumni group who are Class of 2021 candidates were amateur champions, others didn't excel until later during their boxing careers when they turned pro. Below is a closer look at the USA Boxing alumni, listed in alphabetical order, who are Class of 2021 IBHOF candidates:
Born: Fort Worth, Texas; Amateur: 270-30; Professional: 35-3 (12 KOs), World bantamweight champion, 1999 Fighter of the Year
TIMOTHY "Desert Storm" BRADLEY
Born: Palm Springs, California; Amateur: 125-20, 2-time National PAL and United States Under-19 champion; Professional: 33-2-1 (13 KOs), 5-time, 2-division (lightweight & welterweight) World champion
DIEGO "Chico" CORRALES
Born: Sacramento, California; Amateur: 105-12, US Amateur Championships silver medalist; Professional: 40-5 (33 KOs), 4-time, 2 division (super featherweight & lightweight) World champion
GENARO "Chicanito" HERNANDEZ
Born: East Los Angeles, California; Amateur: 38-3; Professional: 38-2-1 (17 KOs), 2-time World super featherweight champion
Born: Tacoma, Washington; Amateur: 210-8, 1977 National AAU champion; Professional: 44-9 (36 KOs), 2-time World super featherweight champion
FLOYD "Money" MAYWEATHER, JR.
Born: Grand Rapids, Michigan; Amateur: 84-8, 1996 Olympic bronze medalist, 3-time National AAU, 1995 National PAL, 1995 US Amateur, 1994 U.S. Junior Nationals champion; Professional: 50-0 (27 KOs), 11-time, 5 division (lightweight, light welterweight, welterweight and light middleweight) World champion
MICHAEL "Double M" MOORER
Born: Brooklyn, New York; Amateur: 48-16, 1986 US Amateur champion; Professional: 52-4-1 (40 KOs), 4-time, 2-division (light heavyweight & heavyweight) World champion
VINNY PAZ (aka Pazienza)
Born: Cranston, Rhode Island; Amateur: 100-12, 1982 National Sports Festival champion; Professional: 50-12 (30 KOs), 2-time, 2-division (welterweight & super welterweight) World champion
ANTONIO "Magic Man" TARVER
Born: Orlando, Florida; Amateur: 158-12, 1996 Olympic bronze medalist, 1996 World Championships, 1995 Pan-American Games, 1995 U.S. Nationals, 2-time U.S. Amateur and 1994 National Golden Gloves champion; Professional: 31-6-1 (22 KOs), 5-time World light heavyweight champion
MELDRICK "The Kid" TAYLOR
Born: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Amateur: 99-4, 1984 Olympic gold medalist, 1982 National Golden Gloves and National AAU champion; Professional: 38-8-1 (20 KOs), 2-time, 2-division (light welterweight & welterweight) World champion
JAMES "Lights Out" TONEY
Born: Grand Rapids, Illinois; Amateur: 33-2, 1987 Novice Golden Gloves champion; Professional: 77-10-3 (47 KOs), 3-time, 3-division (middleweight, super middleweight and cruiserweight) World champion
"Ferocious" FERNANDO VARGAS
Born: Oxnard, California; Amateur: 100-5, 1996 Olympian, 1993 Junior Olympics champion; Professional: 26-5 (22 KOs), 2-time super middleweight World champion
ANDRE "S.O.G." WARD
Born: San Francisco, California; Amateur: 115-5, 2004 Olympic gold medalist, 2-time US Nationals, National Under-19 and 3-time National Silver Gloves champion; Professional: 32-0 (16 KOs), 5-time 2-division (super middleweight & light heavyweight) World champion
"This year's IBHOF nomination class includes some of the most decorated USA Boxing Alumni careers we've ever seen," said Chris Cugliari, USA Boxing Alumni Association Director. "The greatness that these superstars achieved is a testament to their hard work and ability to sacrifice. It's inspiring to know that the foundation for this success began early in their amateur careers with USA Boxing."
Boxing a Family Affair
For Idaho Amateur Boxer Kendra Samargis!
(October 26th) Idaho middleweight boxer Kendra (Reeves) Samargis' decision four years ago to lose weight has led her onto a path to compete in the 2020 USA Boxing National Championships, December 5-12, at Shreveport Convention Center in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Boxing for the 26-year-old Samargis, who lives in Twin Falls, is a real family affair. She's trained by her husband, Jason, and their two sons, Skyler Bellus (11) and Riley Marovich (8), are in USA Boxing. Skyler, in fact, has competed in several tournaments in which his mother also fought.
"I got into boxing just as a form of weight loss," Kendra explained. "My husband had been a boxing coach for many years and he still had all of his equipment. We set it up in our garage and started training. At first, starting out was the worst thing I had ever done. The amount of stamina, endurance, and strength that I needed to have was unreal. Slowly over time I lost tremendous weight, 73-pounds to be exact, and I came to love the sport.
"I'm always asked what it's like to be trained by my husband. I always say I have a secret weapon, someone who is in my corner who wants me to succeed just as much as I do and supports me throughout. Also, in times we're at tournaments, I am never alone the night before a big fight and if I need a pep talk, he is right there. Now, my sons competing with me, well, that's a different story. Being on the outside of the ring while my boys are competing is by far harder than any fight I have ever had. My mom-side definitely kicks in. At the end of the day, though, I know how well trained they are, and I have to trust that. I don't work their corners because that's too close. I would throw in the towel every time. I have to be in the stands."
Kendra and both of her sons will be competing in Shreveport this year, despite having to train during the COVID-19 pandemic to prepare for the first national tournament of the year in the United States.
"Training during the pandemic has been a blessing for me," Kendra said. "We now own a gym in town. So, during the times we had to close our doors, my husband, kids and I were able to keep up with our training regimen. I learned so much during this time. We were actually able to slow things down and work on so many things that get overlooked. We are also very lucky to live in a small town, we only had to keep our gym closed for two months and we've been up and running since. I could only image how hard it must be for so many people during these times. We were very blessed to have a gym to get us through."
Currently ranked No. 10 at 152 pounds and No. 5 at 165, Kendra's highlights thus far are winning gold medals at the 2019 Eastern Elite Qualifier and 2018 National Golden Gloves Tournament.
An aggressive boxer who throws punches in bunches, Samargis believes she's made dramatic improvement in the past years. She admittedly changed many different parts of her game, focusing more on movement, foot and head placements.
Eventually, she wants to capture top honors at multiple national tournaments, starting with this year's Nationals Championship, and eventually turn pro to shoot for a world title. For now, though, she's all in for the Nationals.
"I am my biggest competition for this year's National Championships," she concluded. "Every day I want to be the best version of myself and every day I wake up to the haunting possibility I could fall back into the person that I used to be. I have to go to war everyday with myself to keep this person at bay. All of the hours of training, nutrition and mental preparation helps me accomplish this. Every day I can continue to be the best version of myself, focusing only on getting better, then who I compete against won't matter.
"I am beyond ready and excited for the National Championships this year. With the world coming to a halt this will be my first tournament of the year. I am ready to get back in the ring. Medaling will give me another national title under my belt and sharpen my resume for when I turn pro."
"Irish" Micky Ward One of Boxing's
Most Beloved Ring Warriors!
(photo by Emily Harney Photography)
(September 29th) Whenever "Irish" Micky Ward is announced at fights, he usually receives the largest ovation from his army of adoring fans.
Everybody in boxing - boxers, promoters, managers, trainers, media, etc. - respect the tough Irish American from Lowell, Massachusetts, for his guts, attitude, and dedication to his craft. Never has a negative comment come out of his mouth about an opponent of fellow boxer. He never trashed talked and showed nothing but the utmost respect for his "boxing brothers."
Ward simply wasn't made that way and that's why he is clearly one of boxing's most beloved warriors.
Ward's first boxing match was at the age of 7, when he was matched against Joey Roach, the brother of Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach. He doesn't remember the final result, but it signaled the start of his boxing career, as well as the intense passion he had that lasted until he retired from the ring in 2003. The memories he left are still watched over and over, particularly his epic trilogy with Arturo Gatti.
Many of Ward's friends and relatives, especially his brother Dicky Eklund, who later became his head trainer, turned Micky onto the "Sweet Science." Lowell has been the amateur boxing epicenter for the past 75-plus years. New England's Central Golden Gloves Tournament is annually held there, as well as the New England Tournament of Champions (open and novice finals of N.E. Golden Gloves competition).
Ward captured three N.E. Golden Gloves titles, amassed an approximate 62-10 amateur record, and trained in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1983 at the USA Nationals, where he met a young boxer there named Mike Tyson.
"We were taught respect," Ward spoke about his amateur boxing experiences. We learned the system and we were around a lot of teammates from different ethnic groups. We were family!"
To this day he is a boxing celebrity, consistently attending the N.E. Golden Gloves, in addition to other amateur and pro boxing shows in N.E. As a proud USA Boxing alumni member, he has attended and supported many of its events. He never turns down a request for an autograph or picture, and he has spoken at several alumni gatherings and events.
"Micky's name rings out throughout the boxing community due to the heart he displayed in the ring," said Chris Cugliari, USA Boxing Alumni Association Director. "But his character and bravery were established early in his amateur career, and it was his experiences as an amateur in Lowell that laid the foundation for a career that reached extraordinary heights."
Ward made his pro debut June 13, 1985, stopping David Morin in the opening round. He won his first 14 pro fights and then faced years of adversity, fighting bigger, more experienced opponents on a steady basis.
Throughout his 18-year pro career, he always fought as a junior welterweight, even at the end of his amazing career, which was the epic Gatti-Ward Trilogy. Along the way to his dramatic showdowns with Gatti, Ward defeated previously undefeated New Englander Louis Veader (twice), followed by his sensational come-from-behind knockout of 16-0 Alfonso Sanchez in a fight Micky was badly losing on national television, and his electrifying eighth-round stoppage of 22-0 Shea Neary for the World Boxing Union title. Multiple World title holder Zab Judah credits Ward as the toughest opponent of his career, not Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Zudah won a 12-round unanimous decision for the interim USBA crown.
Make no mistake, though, it was the Gatti trilogy that altered his career and life. In Gatti-Ward II, after Micky had upset Gatti in their first encounter, Ward became the first boxer with double-digit losses (11) to earn a $1-million purse.
Ward has had an acclaimed movie (The Fighter) made about him, in which fellow Bay Stater Mark Wahlberg played him, leading to Micky's appearance at the Academy Awards. He also has two books, two songs and a video game about him.
Why? Despite not being an Olympian or major World champion, Micky Ward was what he calls an "honest fighter" and one of boxing's most beloved ring warriors.
The One and Only
1956 Olympic Gold Medalist Pete Rademacher!
(August 27th) 1956 Olympic Gold Medalist Pete Rademacher is the only boxer to fight for a world title in his pro debut.
Rademacher, who died this past June at the age of 91 in Sandusky, Ohio, was a native of Tieton, Washington. He had a 72-7 amateur record, highlighted by his gold medal performance at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia.
Rademacher started boxing during his rehabilitation for Rheumatic Fever, which he contracted while attending Castle Heights Military Academy. The gifted heavyweight captured top honors at numerous national tournaments, including the 1951 & 1953 National AAU Championships, 1954 All-Army Championship and Service Championships, and Olympic Trials.
In Australia, he knocked out the three opponents he faced, in order, Josef Nemec (Czechoslovakia) in the quarterfinals, South African Daan Bekker in the semifinals, and the Soviet Union's Lev Mukhin in the opening round of the championship final for the gold medal.
Rademacher was so hot after the Olympics that he publicly proclaimed that he would be able to become world heavyweight champion in his pro debut. Soon after he became the only fighter to make his pro debut in a world title fight, when he challenged defending World heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson (32-1) on August 22, 1957 in Seattle. Rademacher floored Patterson in the second round, however, he was dropped six times before the fight, which was refereed by Hall of Famer Tommy Loughran, was halted at 2:57 of that round.
Rademacher, who was an offensive lineman on Washington State University's football team, didn't take many easy fights during his 5-year pro career (15-7-1, 8 KOs). His most notable pro victories were against World title challenger George Chuvalo (17-3-1) and future Hall of Famer and World middleweight champion Bobo Olson (87-12), both by way of 10-round unanimous decisions, as well as technical knockouts over LaMar Clark (42-1) and Norwegian Buddy Thurman (32-5-1), respectively, in the 10th and ninth rounds.
Rademacher's pro losses were to some of the best heavyweights in the world, such as Hall of Famer Archie Moore, along with world title challengers Karl Mildenberger (29-1), undefeated Doug Jones (17-0) and Zorro Foley (40-2-2), who had been Rademacher's arch-rival in the amateur ranks.
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 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."