By Gale Gundersdorff and Tina BellerApril 22, 2009
FORT HAMILTON, N.Y. - It was standing room only at the Fort Hamilton Fitness Center, Saturday, April 11, when spectators began filing through the doors at 5 p.m. for the three-round, two-minute boxing matches.
The U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion New York City co-sponsored the Battle of the Branches Boxing Invitational, the second such event since they and Fort Hamilton's Morale, Welfare, and Recreational Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers hosted one last November.
Twenty contenders from all branches of the services, except the U.S. Air Force, were already preparing themselves in the locker rooms for the evening's amateur boxing; 18 men and two women anxious and excited, waiting for emcee Matthew "Tyler" Gierber to announce their weight class and name before entering the ring.
Volunteer doctor, Celeste Jacque, a medical practitioner from the Veterans Hospital, New York, and Registered Nurse, Herbie Hipp, also sat ringside to ensure the safety of all participants. Even veteran boxing aficionado Martin "Bazooka" Kovzelove, the 'Cut Man,' was on-hand to support medical personnel to ensure boxers did not deny needed medical attention.
Vanessa Harrison, the timekeeper and bell ringer, tested and reset her timer, idly playing with the hammer that would announce the beginning and end of rounds.
The first super middleweight or junior middleweight class matched the U.S. Coast Guard's Petty Officer 3rd Class Juan M. "War Machine" Lora, in the red corner against U.S. Army Cpl. Ryan T. "Thundercat" Harbaugh, in the blue corner. Lora is a member of the U.S. Coast Guard's Sector New York, while Harbaugh is assigned as a recruiting noncommissioned officer with the South Shore Recruiting Station on Staten Island, U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion New York City.
Both fighters extended the typical boxers handshake to start the fight, but after three swift rounds, Lora's jabs and connecting punches to Harbaugh were enough for him to walk away with the trophy.
In the welterweight division, U.S. Army Master Sgt. Natanael "L.E.S. Express" Lebron, in the red corner tested out his opponent U.S. Army Reserve Pvt. Clement "KO" Miller, in the blue corner.
Lebron's skill, punching and reaching distance proved to be more than Miller could overcome, and Lebron walked away with the first-place prize.
The first dual in the super middleweight division included competitors U.S. Army Sgt. Louie "Brooklyn Boy" Herschtein, a recruiting noncommissioned officer assigned to the Bayridge Recruiting Station, U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion New York City, in the red corner against U.S. Coastguardsman Petty Officer 3rd Class Steven "The Chino Loco" Reagan representing the U.S. Coast Guard's Sector New York, in the blue corner.
Herschtein and Reagan plowed through three rounds, but it was Reagan who showed good chin and walked away with first prize.
In the last middleweight match before intermission, U.S. Army Sgt. Keeon R. "Break 'Em Up" Britton, a recruiting noncommissioned officer assigned to the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Albany, battled U.S. Army's Staff Sgt. Pablo R. "California Kid" Munoz, representing the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Chicago. Break 'Em Up dropped the California Kid in the third round.
Second half of amateur battle results in 2 technical knockouts, 1 default.
The second half of the tournament began with the only female welterweight competitors in the Battle of the Branches between U.S. Coast Guardsman LaShaunda D. "Swagalicious" Moore from the Sector New York, versus the Department of Defense's Abigail "Ms. Takeover" Rodriguez, a civilian administrative assistant assigned to the Post Exchange here.
An intense brawl pursued between Swagalicious and Ms. Takeover, as they both punched frantically at times, but went the length of each minute-and-a-half round - surviving. Rodriguez, who had come into the ring initially waving her native Puerto Rican flag, did not succumb to Moore's sometimes deft punches, and in the third round, the crowd was cheering Rodriguez to her final victory.
The light heavyweight category saw the U.S. Navy's Petty Officer 2nd Class Craig "Countrytime" Johnson, in the red corner versus the blue corner's U.S. Army Sgt. Levi "The Juggernaut" Vernon, representing the Philadelphia Metro Recruiting Company. Johnson came away victorious by unanimous decision.
The next two junior heavyweight matches were just as intense. Fort Hamilton's Military Policeman, U.S. Army Sgt. Joel "The Latin Stallion" Barragan, made his opponent kiss the canvas with a technical knockout against U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Mid-Atlantic's Sgt. Curtis "Jersey's Finest" West, in the second round after all was said and done.
In the next match, referee David Sive, called the medical team ringside to examine U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert "Money" Schott's bloody nose after U.S. Army recruiting noncommissioned officer, Staff Sgt. David "Put 'Em Down" Smith, pounded Money in the first 15 seconds of fighting. After examining the bloody nose and talking with medical personnel, Sive called the fight and declared Smith the winner, much to the dismay of both athletes. Schott versus Smith was billed as the 'one to watch' because both boxers have a good run of previous experience.
The Bronx versus Brooklyn cruiserweight or junior heavyweight bout matched the U.S. Navy's inside fighter, Petty Officer 2nd Class George Allen Knight, IV, against the Marine's outside fighter, Ensign Dax "Dinova" Verdia. Both boxers went the distance to fight full rounds in what appeared to be an awesome barnburner, but it was Brooklyn's Verdia who would finally take the trophy home.
In the final and most uproarious match of the evening, heavyweight fighter and U.S. Army V. Earl "Bad Ass" Mills, hailing from the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion New York City, bum-rushed rushed his opponent, U.S. Army Recruiting Noncommissioned Officer Jacob "Dempsey" Jarden, in a first-round technical knockout. His punishing and powerful punches put Jarden down on his knees with the quick response of the medical team by his side. The fight ended with an insistent medical team and Bazooka sending Jarden to seek medical care at the Brooklyn Veteran's Administration Hospital.
The default contest between middle heavyweight contestants U.S. Marine Corps' Emmanuel Nunoo and U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class LeVar Curry went to Curry.
The sponsors followed the rules of the Amateur Boxing Association for all matches in order to secure the safety of the participants and enhance the integrity of the sport.
The U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion New York City command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Major Darryl Robinson, and commander, Lt. Col. Paul J. Cook, thanked all volunteers and participants for their time and contributions at the end of the successful event.
The U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion New York City, in conjunction with Fort Hamilton's Morale Welfare and Recreation's Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers Program, has scheduled another fight for August 2009.