By Walt Johnson, Fort Carson MountaineerMarch 5, 2009
FORT CARSON, Colo. - It was billed as a chance for members of the World Class Athlete Program boxing team to learn about top-flight competition it will face in the coming year, and it lived up to its billing.
Members of the United States Olympic Education Center boxing team came to the Mountain Post, Feb. 26, to compete in a boxing competition that was exciting and well fought by both teams.
The USOEC is located at Northern Michigan University and is one of four Olympic training centers in the United States that prepares athletes for the Olympic Games every four years.
Before the bouts began, Basheer Abdullah, WCAP head boxing coach, said this would be a great opportunity for his fighters to see how competitive bouts will be this year and how much they need to learn to get them ready for top level competition.
Abdullah said the team led by Al Mitchell, USOEC head coach and the United States 1996 Olympic boxing coach, would be talented and disciplined, just what his fighters need in preparing for upcoming competition.
With that in mind, Abdullah sent his boxers to compete against seven boxers from the USOEC who came to the post to give and receive boxing lessons. It was evident from the first fight of the night that the competitors were evenly matched, and it would take all the talent and tricks the boxers knew to earn victories.
WCAP's John Franklin and Nathaniel Hicks were the only two boxers to win first-place belts, but the other five bouts were so close there could have been more victors with one more punch or a little more time.
Franklin, who was the flashiest boxer at the event, won his bout in the 119 pound weight class against the USOEC's Rafael Santos. Hicks, who had to overcome a bad cold and fought the last two rounds with the biggest heart you could imagine, outclassed USOEC's Manuel Lopez in the 152 pound class.
In other bouts on the card, the USOEC's Keola McKee won the 106-pound weight class defeating WCAP's Michael Benedosso.
In the 132-pound weight class USOEC's Chazz McDowell defeated WCAP's Connor Johnson.
In the 141-pound weight class USOEC's Ricky Alvarez defeated WCAP's Dustin Lara.
In the 165-pound weight class USOEC's Jesse Hart defeated WCAP's Zacchaeus Hardrick and in the 201-pound weight class USOEC's Trevor Bryan defeated WCAP's Andrew Shepherd.
After the bout, Franklin said he worked very hard in the past few years, coming from the days when he was being "schooled" by former WCAP boxer Torrance Daniels, and that has led him to the successes he has had and hopes to continue to have.
"Daniels used to beat the breaks off me every day in the gym when I first joined the WCAP program, but now I am glad he did. He was with me in my first fights and he made me grow as a boxer real fast. After facing him in the gym, I knew I was ready for anyone," Franklin said.
Hicks said he realized when he decided to be serious about boxing that he was going to be a fighter the people would take notice of, and he felt overcoming a bad cold and his skill should open some people's eyes on his ability.
"Once I realized what I was capable of doing, I wanted to make sure I gave them a good fight and that they remember me. My boxing name is Bojangles, which is the name of one of my favorite eating places back home, and I want to let my opponents know that I intend to serve them up like a meal is served at the restaurant," Hicks said.