Boxing coach uses Hispanic heritage to share Army stories
October 9, 2013
- Army.mil: Hispanic Americans in the U.S. Army
- STAND-TO!: National Hispanic Heritage Month - "Hispanics: Serving and Leading Our Nation with Pride and Honor"
- 2013 National Hispanic Heritage Month tri-signed lettern (PDF)
- Army.mil: Human Interest News
- STAND-TO!: U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program
- U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program
- U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program on Facebook
- Army News Service
- Flickr set of photos of MTV does WCAP for National Hispanic Heritage Month
SAN ANTONIO (Oct. 9, 2013) -- Staff Sgt. Alexis Ramos used National Hispanic Heritage Month to share stories about his boxing family, the U.S Army World Class Athlete Program and Army Installation Management Command.
Ramos, 30, a three-time All-Army and Armed Forces boxing champion, is an assistant coach for the World Class Athlete Program, or WCAP, boxing team at Fort Carson, Colo. MTV visited their "House of Pain" boxing facility in late August to shoot a Hispanic heritage segment on Ramos and his father, Rafael, a retired Army first sergeant and member of the Puerto Rico Boxing Hall of Fame.
Alexis appeared in early September on segments of Telemundo's "Un Nuevo Dia," filmed at NBCUniversal Studios in Hialeah, Fla., where he shared his Army story with international viewers of the American Spanish-language broadcast television network.
Bright television lights are nothing new to Rafael, who has refereed or judged boxing on ABC, CBS, NBC, HBO, ESPN, Showtime, Telemundo, Telefutura and "all the Spanish networks." His careers in the Army and the ring have landed him 23 times in Japan, along with trips to Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Germany, France, Italy, Panama, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico and his native Puerto Rico.
Alexis, on the other hand, is accustomed to being on the other side of the camera as a military journalist who shot videos of fellow Soldiers while deployed in Afghanistan. He also has written his share of Army newspaper articles.
Both father and son got started in the direction of bright lights and big cities through hard work, sweat and hustle in boxing rings around San Antonio and the U.S. Army.
Rafael served 21 years as a Soldier, six of which he boxed as a 119-pounder, including an All-Army trial camp appearance in 1979. Early on, he was a communications specialist at Fort Sam Houston, where two decades later he bypassed one last permanent-change-of-station opportunity to retire as a sergeant major. He instead did "the family thing" and ended his Army career at Fort Sam Houston so his daughter, Marelyn Ramos, could finish high school in "The Alamo City."
Along the way, Alexis was born in 1983 at Fort Benning. From there, the Ramos family moved to Fort Bragg, N.C., where Rafael competed 1985 through '87 in taekwondo. During that period, he began his career as a boxing referee and judge.
He originally declined an offer to referee, but later accepted what would become one of his greatest opportunities.
"I told the guy: 'I like to get hit and hit people,' and I said, 'No,'" recalled Rafael, who in 1985 made his referee debut at a "smoker" at Fort Bragg, and in 1986, competed in the North Carolina Taekwondo Championships. Later that year, he refereed an All-Army versus All-Navy boxing card in Norfolk, Va., where he was approached about refereeing professional boxing.
"Amazing. Crazy," Alexis said while listening to a play-by-play recollection of his father's career in the Army and the ring, capped by a 2012 induction into the Puerto Rico Boxing Hall of Fame.
The Ramos' success story is built upon several chapters of Alexis emulating Rafael, who initially protected his son from the dangers of boxing.
"Very typical dad: definitely didn't want me to box," explained Alexis, who wanted to begin boxing much younger than he actually did. "He was very protective -- over protective, at times."
"Because I'd been through all that," Rafael chimed in. "I knew how hard it is to train and I did not want him to get hurt."
At age 16, Alexis played host to "backyard championship fights" at the Ramos' house -- until his father came home early one day and stopped the bouts.
"He was like, 'OK, you know what? Enough -- I'm going to get one of my friends to teach you,'" recalled Alexis, who immediately began training and boxed his first bout at age 17.
After only three fights, Alexis went to live with his father's family in Puerto Rico and trained for a shot at the Olympics. Two years later, he followed his boxing coach to Miami. Neither of those plans panned out.
"It was tough living in Miami," Ramos recalled. "It was difficult to find a job and I went three months without a fight. I thought about turning pro at that time."
Instead, he returned to Texas and attended San Antonio College for one year before joining the Army, and climbing back into the ring at age 22.
Alexis boxed in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program from 2007 through 2009, and beyond as a member of the All-Army boxing team. He is a three-time All-Army and Armed Forces champion at 125 pounds.
After attending Defense Information School in 2010 at Fort Meade, Md., he served as a non-commissioned officer in charge of units in Colorado, South Korea and Afghanistan. He returned to WCAP in 2013, as an assistant boxing coach.
"I think I've found my calling," Alexis said. "I think the Army World Class Athlete Program gave me a great opportunity to fulfill my passion. Now that I'm doing it, I can't see doing anything else."
While in Miami for the television shoot, Ramos also made high school and college students aware of energetic, non-traditional military opportunities they previously thought unfathomable. He went on recruiting visits to North Miami Senior High, Miami Senior High and Florida International University.
Ramos enjoys Total Army Involved Recruiting, or TAIR, missions because it provides an opportunity to show schoolchildren "what right looks like."
Throughout his journey, Ramos has persistently worked on his education. He is about nine classes shy of attaining a bachelor's degree in organizational leadership to complement about 80 bouts in the school of hard knocks.
"I have always been very proud of Alexis," Rafael said. "He has a lot of integrity and he's a really smart guy. I'm really proud of him for becoming an assistant coach for the Army, and that he's only a few courses shy of his bachelor's degree."
The military has taken Alexis to Germany, Korea, India and Afghanistan. Although he has no desire to match his father's travel resume, he plans to continue coaching boxing as long as the Army allows.
The MTV spot will air 31 times on MTV2 and 21 times on MTVU. Network officials estimate it will be viewed by millions, including more than one million viewers in the Army's target audience of 18- to 24-year-old men.