WCAP coach Abdullah expects Army boxers to rebound at Olympic Trials
June 29, 2011
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Although flyweight champion Sgt. John Franklin was the only Soldier to reach the medal rounds of the 2011 USA Boxing National Championships, U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program coach Basheer Abdullah still likes his boxers’ chances at the Olympic Trials.
Seven Soldiers already have qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Men’s Boxing, scheduled for July 31 through Aug. 6 in Mobile, Ala., and two more remain in contention for Olympic Trials berths.
Franklin salvaged a rough week for WCAP and All-Army boxers in Colorado Springs, where no other Soldier advanced beyond the quarterfinals. Abdullah intends to regroup his troops in time for the Olympic Trials.
In the single-elimination national championships, WCAP Spc. Jeffrey Spencer, the 2010 light heavyweight U.S. national champion, lost his first bout of the tournament, 14-13, to Sijoula Shabazz of Las Cruces, N.M.
Second Lt. DeRae Crane of WCAP prevailed over 2009 national champ Robert Brant of Oakdale, Minn., on a 3-2 judges’ decision after the light heavyweights battled to a 12-12 tie and were deadlocked at 60-60 on total punch count.
Crane, however, was eliminated from the quarterfinals by Shabazz, who prevailed on an 89-87 tiebreaker after they boxed to a 16-16 tie. That setback cost Crane a berth in the Olympic Trials, leaving him with one final shot at the 2011 Last Chance Qualifier, scheduled for July 4 through 9 in Cincinnati.
“One of those light heavyweights is going to make this [Olympic] team because I’ve got two of the best in the country,” Abdullah said. “It’s unfortunate that we got the decisions we did at the U.S. National Championships, but we’re going to overcome that. I’ve got two experienced light heavyweights going into the Trials that can come out of that tournament the Olympian.”
WCAP Spc. Carrie Barry dropped a 14-10 decision to World bronze medalist and reigning national champion Queen Underwood of Tacoma, Wash., in the women’s 132- pound quarterfinals. That loss denied Barry a berth in the women’s Olympic Trials and left her with two more chances to qualify. The January or February dates for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Women’s Boxing have not been set.
WCAP Spc. Samuel Vasquez lost 21-18 to Luis Olivares of Glendale, Ariz., in the welterweight preliminaries. WCAP Capt. Michael Benedosso dropped a 32-26 decision to David Carlton of Cincinnati in the light flyweight prelims.
“We’ve got to remain humble, and I blame myself,” Abdullah said.
The tournament draw resembled a roadmap to the finals for no less than four Soldiers but it did not play out that way.
“I was so confident and felt so good about our preparation that I think I celebrated a little bit too soon,” Abdullah said. “You’ve still got to go fight. I take full responsibility for us not being humble as a team. I think we looked ahead of ourselves. We have to go in there and get it, so we have to go back to being humble.”
All-Army boxers Staff Sgt. Andrew Shepherd of Fort Carson, Colo.; Army Reserve Spc. Charles Blackwell of Tucson, Ariz.; and Sgt. Toribio Ramirez of Fort Stewart, Ga., were eliminated from the tournament after losing their first bout. They are, however, already qualified for the Olympic Trials, as are Spencer, Vasquez and Benedosso.
“We have to focus on our finish a little bit more,” Abdullah said. “With Carrie Barry and Samuel Vasquez losing in the last round, we’ve got to be a little bit more technically sound in that last round and finish stronger. Some of us need to slow our pace down earlier and finish stronger. Some of us need to stay mentally focused all the way through. We’re going to adjust some of our drills in training camp.
“I still have all the faith in the world. If there’s one thing I know about this business is anything can happen at the Trials. The Trials is a wide-open thing. I don’t care what happens here, it’s all about getting it at the Trials, and I still believe I’ve got the dogs to do it at the Trials " Carrie, Franklin, DeRae, Spencer, Vasquez " those are very strong hopefuls to me.”