COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Sgt. John Franklin credited his U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program teammates for helping him - and his young daughter for inspiring him - to win his first national amateur boxing title.

Franklin defeated Oscar Cantu of Kingsville, Texas, 13-10, for the gold medal in the flyweight division of the 2011 USA Boxing National Championships on June 25 at Colorado Springs City Auditorium.

“Everybody believed in me this year,” Franklin said. “We knew the support of my team was going to help carry me through. It’s a blessing to win my first national championship just before my daughter’s third birthday.”

Franklin previously struck silver at the Conseil International du Sport Militaire’s 2007 Military World Games, the 2008 Police Athletic League Championships and the 2009 U.S. Golden Gloves National Championships.

“Those losses definitely helped me grow,” said Franklin, 27, who also took silver at the 2010 CISM Military World Boxing Championships at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. “It feels great to win. I’ve been doing this for a long time and this is my first national title.

“I always get to the medal rounds in every tournament. I’m always silver medal this, bronze medal that, so it feels so good to finally come out number one. It sets me up perfectly [for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials] because it shows all my opponents that I am where I am and I am where I’m supposed to be right now.

“This one ranks number one because I’m going to get this medal tattooed around my arm on my boxing gloves. It means a lot.”

Born in St. Louis and stationed at nearby at Fort Carson, Colo., Franklin was energized by the partisan crowd inside the historic Colorado Springs auditorium.

“I want to thank all the Fort Carson Soldiers, the Wounded Warriors from WTU, and everybody else who came out to support,” Franklin said. “And I want to thank all the Soldiers overseas, because without them, we wouldn’t be doing any of this.

“That’s what we do this for, to represent the other side of the Army and to be ambassadors for the Army,” he added. “It’s a great honor to wear that Black and Gold. We represent all the Soldiers around the world at every duty station and on every battlefield. It just goes to show that we have a softer side of the Army, but we still win either way.”

Franklin took early control of his championship bout and led 3-2 after one of three rounds.

“In the first round, he was allowing me to box and wait, so I was able to save a lot of energy,” Franklin said. “The right hand was perfect, especially in the second and third round when it really started picking up. It started landing flush and I knew that he was feeling it because the right hand was stopping him every time I hit him with it solid.”

That was precisely what Army World Class Athlete Program boxing coach Basheer Abdullah wanted to see.

“In that particular bout with that opponent, I let John be himself,” Abdullah said. “Whenever we have an opponent considered to be ‘a boxer,’ he’s going to outbox most of them because he has a very high boxing IQ.

“He gave us a pace that gave us an advantage. I’m always a little concerned about the aggressive boxers. Is he going to hold up? Can he sustain all the way through? But whenever it’s at that pace, I’m relaxed. I’m confident because I know he’s not going to let too many people outbox him.”

Sanchez turned up the tempo in Round 2 and forced the issue in Round 3, but Franklin, who led 5-2 after two, maintained control.

After Sanchez threw Franklin to the canvas late in the second round, Franklin bounced to his feet and responded with a strong jab to Sanchez’ head as the bell sounded, followed by a confident glare in the Texan’s direction.

“I caught him with a right hand solid, right at the bell,” Franklin said. “And I looked at him like, ‘That’s what you’re going to get if you throw me down.’

“In the third round, I tried to take control. He let me box for as much as I wanted, but I wanted to save a little bit for the end. Every time he came in, I countered with two or three punches. It was real fun.

“He was explosive. He came forward. He didn’t move a lot, but he was a boxer, and I know against a boxer I have a chance every time. He wasn’t like my opponent in the semifinals who came forward " bang, bang, bang, bang.”

On Thursday, Franklin rebounded from a standing 8-count and scored two points with a flurry of punches in the final 10 seconds for a 23-22 semifinal victory over Emilio Sanchez of Pacoima, Calif.

“I think I did win in the last 10 or 15 seconds,” Franklin said. “He caught me with a really good shot for the standing-8. I wasn’t really hurt, but it did stun me for a second. Right after that, I came right back and caught him with a right hand, and he tried to come right back, and I caught him with another right hand. He staggered to the ropes, so I looked to the referee for a second like: ‘Where his 8-count at?’ And he came right back and ran into another right hand.”

Franklin will miss his daughter’s birthday celebration while he competes in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Men’s Boxing, scheduled for July 31 through Aug. 6 in Mobile, Ala. But he is eager to climb back into the ring.

“I just want to thank the World Class Athlete Program again for giving me this opportunity,” he said. “I want to show love to all the fans, all my friends and Family and everybody that came out, and I want to give a special thanks to my daughter, Joniah Levae Franklin. I just want to tell her I love her, and ‘Go Army!’”

Franklin boxed in London, site of the 2012 Olympic Games, during a Team USA vs. England duel last year.

“It’s a pretty good place, and I plan on being back there in 2012,” he said. “I know I’m going to have a big target on my back after this but I’m ready for the challenge.”

Page last updated Wed June 29th, 2011 at 00:00