All-Army boxing concludes at Huachuca
February 7, 2011
By Alton Dunham
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz., Feb. 7, 2011 -- The All-Army boxing championships wrapped up on Saturday here, setting up the team that will represent the Army later this month at the All-Armed Forces championships.
For the last 25 years Fort Huachuca, Ariz., has been host to the All-Army championships, and once again the near-capacity crowd in attendance was treated to a showcase of the Army's best. High-paced action and fisticuffs dominated the venue, but a different theme also emerged.
Although the spectators were ravenous for a knockout synonymous with the combat sport, it never came, because every athlete who laced up their gloves refused to show an ounce of quit.
"I got more than what I expected," said All-Army head coach Basheer Abdullah. "We had some very inexperienced boxers. They accepted the challenge. They believed in what we told them, and no one quit in this tournament.
"Everybody competed to win, and that is what I loved the most," Abdullah said. "I was very happy with that."
MOYA OUTLASTS BADILLO-RAMOS
In the bronze medal competition at 141 pounds, Spc. Diego Moya, Ansbach, Germany and Pfc. Jonathan Badillo-Ramos, Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., seemingly agreed pre-fight to step into the ring and let punches fly.
Badillo-Ramos jumped to an early lead, but Moya fought back with sharp combinations to pull even in the first frame. In the second and third, Moya found a home for his uppercut and slowly distanced himself against a tough opponent to pull off a decision on points.
RENE EARNS BRONZE
In the 165-pound bronze medal competition, Sgt. John Rene, Heldelberg, Germany outpointed Spc. George Way, Fort Riley, Kan., for nine hard-fought minutes in a bout that kept the crowd enthralled.
JEAN-BAPTISTE EDGES BADILLO
Spc. Guy Jean-Baptiste, Fort Stewart, Ga., met a game Spc. Daniel Badillo in the gold medal contest at 123 pounds.
Superior defense on the part of both boxers filled the venue with tension as neither could impose their will. Both athletes pressed the action trying to find an opening, until Jean-Baptiste developed a small lead headed into the final frame.
Badillo courageously fought back in the final minute and nearly stole the round and the fight, but Jean-Baptiste maintained composure and held on to earn a spot on the 2011 team by a narrow one-point margin.
BARRY MOVES TOWARD OLYMPICS
If Sgt. Cherrie Retamozzo, New York National Guard, was supposed to go down quietly to World Class Army Athlete Spc. Caroline Barry, someone forgot to tell her. Retemozzo came out of her corner swinging with bad intentions, and even stunned her opponent with a well-timed jab in the first prompting awe from the largely pro-Barry crowd.
Near the two-minute mark, the WCAP boxer answered back with a jarring straight right to Retamozzo's chin that forced a standing eight count. In that second, it was clear Barry was simply the more physical fighter, as she bullied her opponent into the ropes and opened up with jarring body shots and laser strikes to the head.
Although she was largely outmuscled and ultimately outpointed while Barry pulled away on the score cards, the New York native Retemozzo gave no quarter and fought every second of every round in a courageous effort.
In the end Barry's powerful punches, superior foot work and physical prowess ultimately moved her one step closer to her Olympic dream.
"She could take a good punch," Barry said of her opponent after the fight. "The fight went the way I wanted it to, although I wanted to box a little cleaner, but I got the result that I wanted and got my spot in the Olympic box offs."
RAMIREZ FINDS REDEMPTION
Before the 132-pound men's finals, Fort Stewart's Sgt. Toribio Ramirez made it clear he came into this year's All-Army camp to redeem his performance in last year's gold medal contest. Sgt. Qujan Baptiste, fighting out of Fort Carson, Coplo., made it clear he too had aspirations for gold, as the two put on a punching clinic.
In the opening frame, it appeared that Baptiste would force Ramirez to wait yet another year for a coveted spot representing the Army as he unloaded fast flurries to take a 2-1 lead. In the second round, Ramirez made the necessary adjustments and turned up the heat while creating space to score with his hard-hitting counter hook.
"He was real difficult to fight," Ramirez said. "I had a good corner, and after the first we could see he was so big and so strong I had to put pressure on him and turn up the pace.
"At first we were trying to use our boxing experience to outbox him, but I had to adjust to minimize his power."
The adjustments worked, and Ramirez outpointed Baptiste in a barn burner to earn gold and secure his place as the Army's lightweight representative.
WEHRLE WINS GOLD
Cpt. Rachell Wehrle, Fort Bliss, and Pfc. Tacara Hughes, New York National Guard, followed Ramirez vs. Baptiste in a gold medal contest to decide who would become the Army's new 141-pound female champion.
Hughes maintained constant pressure for all four rounds, but Wehrle simply let her hands go to open up a comfortable margin toward a decision victory. During the All-Army camp, Werhle admitted concern her lack of head movement would be a weak point, but ultimately it was her ability to slip punches that secured her the win.
"I was able to parry and move my head and move around her as opposed to standing right in front of her [punches]," Wehrle said.
"That is something in the last workout session that I specifically worked on with Coach Abdullah, just moving my head and parrying jabs, and in the end that was the difference maker."
LARA WINS ON POINTS
In the 141-pound gold medal competition, Spc. Dustin Lara, WCAP, treated the audience to a boxing fundamentals clinic against a familiar foe, Staff Sgt. Charles Gable, fighting out of Fort Polk, La.
Gable proved he belonged in the finals, landing solid counters to score, but Lara's discipline and incredibly high and accurate punch rate proved too much as he displayed his boxing prowess to earn a victory on points.
HARDRICK COMES BACK
In a near upset victory, 2nd Lt. Jamal Robinson, Fort Bliss, Texas, used his compact muscular frame, speed and infighting to overcome the reach of WCAP boxer Spc. Zacchaeus Hardrick and keep the score near dead-even with two minutes left in the third.
Hardrick, though, displayed heart and sense of urgency, pulling the score to 4-4 by landing a crisp right hand that cut his opponent near his eye and led to the referee stopping the competition.
"The score shows that fight was pretty tough," Hardrick admitted after the win.
"He had really great speed and it made it hard to time a lot of shots. Next, it's time to train and get ready for All-Armed Forces, but as far as my future opponents go, I think that guy right there (Robinson) was as tough as it gets."
BLACKWELL WINS HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT
In the final contest, the always exciting Tucson native Charles Blackwell, an Army Reserve Soldier from Arizona and Spc. Steven Nelson, Fort Bragg, N.C., proved that heavyweights can bang.
Blackwell seemed well en route to a win in the third, but Nelson brought the crowd to its feet by mounting an undeniable display of offense. The two stood toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring, and every single spectator in attendance cheered the athletes as they let it all hang out with non-stop punches in the final minute. Ultimately Blackwell secured the victory and the gold, but both athletes can hold their head high as they delivered perhaps the most exciting fight of the competition.
COMMANDER LAUDS WARRIORS
Col. Timothy Faulkner, garrison commander, lauded the warrior spirit of the Soldier-Athletes after the finals.
"These Soldiers represent the heart, the discipline and spirit of fighting warriors, which our Army is," Faulkner said.
"I know they are going to represent the Army very well at the Armed Forced Championship at San Antonio, Texas."
The 2011 team is especially important to the program as they will represent the last contingent with famed Army head coach Basheer Abdullah at the helm.
"We haven't lost since 1991, and we have 14 consecutive titles under my leadership," Abdullah said.
"The Marines have been talking a lot of trash. They feel they have a strong enough team to take that title from us this year. I am very confident in this team. We have a strong team going forward and I am hoping that we can add one more year."
The 2011 Army team will now look to defend once again at the All-Armed Forces championships, Feb. 13-18, at Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio, Texas.