Soldier's Second Olympic Boxing Bid Could be Last Hurrah in Ring
August 21, 2007
By Tim Hipps
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Army News Service, Aug. 21, 2007) - U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program Spc. Mahlon Kerwick has dedicated his Olympic dream to his Family.
Spc. Kerwick is the most-experienced boxer among 12 Soldier-athletes competing this week at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team Trials in Houston.
Spc. Kerwick's father, Ray, has been refereeing and judging bouts since Mahlon made his debut in the ring as a 9-year-old. His mother, Peggy, has been a boxing timekeeper for more than a decade.
"She realized early on that if she didn't get involved in the sport that she would never see us," Ray quipped.
Now Kerwick's wife, Samantha, attends his workouts with 10-month-old son Killian in tow.
"It's funny - I don't have to watch him in the gym anymore because his wife comes and sits with him and she's rougher on him than I am," All-Army boxing coach Basheer Abdullah said. "I think that's his greatest inspiration. She inspires the heck out of him. I love having her in the gym.
"I'm actually doing this for my Family right now," said Spc. Kerwick, 26, who took nearly a three-year hiatus from boxing but managed to finish second in the 152-pound division at the 2007 U.S. National Championships in Colorado Springs, Colo., in June. "My father, mother, wife, son and the whole WCAP program is one big family for me."
A five-year Army veteran, Spc. Kerwick boxed in the World Class Athlete Program from 2001 until 2004. He re-entered the program as a boxer in October.
"Coach Abdullah wanted a second chance with me and he's really been working with me to make the Olympic team," Spc. Kerwick said. "I'm very appreciative of that. A three-year layoff is a long time, but I'm feeling better than ever."
Spc. Kerwick posted an 11-5, quarterfinal victory over former military world champion Capt. Boyd Melson at the recent U.S. National Championships. With the exception of one brief sparring session, it was the first time the WCAP teammates have met in the ring.
"Don't get me wrong because he is a great fighter, but I believe I'm better," Spc. Kerwick said. "I don't know if I'll get every decision when I fight him, but today I got the decision and that's the way I'm going to try to keep it."
Spc. Kerwick advanced through the semifinals via medical disqualification of two-time defending national champion Demetrius Andrade. In the finals, Dallas' Charles Hatley built a 20-point lead on Spc. Kerwick before the referee stopped the contest in the second round.
"I'll be back for the big event at the Olympic Trials and hopefully I'll do better," said Spc. Kerwick, who is embarking on what could be his last hurrah in the ring.
During the mid-1980s when Ray Kerwick was an avid kickboxer at a gym in Fort Lewis, Wash., Mahlon always tagged along.
"While we were doing karate, he would box," Ray recalled. "His coach kept telling me that he was a natural, and he just exploded from there."
Dan Vassar, Mahlon's original boxing coach, was in Colorado Springs for the recent U.S. National Championships, as were Ray, Peggy, Samantha and Killian.
"Peggy doesn't usually come to Nationals, but he just had a baby boy so we figured we'd kill two birds with one stone," said Ray, 53, of Spokane, Wash.
As much as Ray would cherish having an Olympian son, he's already proud of what Mahlon has accomplished.
"I just hope he stays focused and does what he's capable of doing," the elder Kerwick said. "He's already met all of my expectations."
(Tim Hipps writes for the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command Public Affairs.)