FORWARD OPERATING BASE UNION III, Iraq (Army News Service, May 7, 2007) - After several weeks of preparation, the "Black Jack Boxing Fight Night Tournament" kicked off May 4 with Soldiers from throughout the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

Several hundred Soldiers were on hand to watch the first weekend of the two-weekend event, which is being hosted by the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, and the 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, in a bombed-out foyer in the former Ba'ath Party Headquarters.

Fourteen fights were held May 4 and 5. Champions will advance to next weekend's final tournament.

Spc. Timothy Dunbar, 3rd Bn., 82nd FA Regt., who headed up the ring's construction and event organization, said the first night met all of his expectations.

"I think the overall outcome of it was very good, and I think everyone had a good time," he said. "That's the biggest thing - everyone enjoying themselves, that's what we're looking for."

Each bout was three rounds, each 90 seconds with 45 seconds between each round. While that may not sound like a lot time, according to Spc. Christopher Thomas, who won the first fight of the night, fatigue sets in quickly when the fighter is not properly conditioned.

"It seems like it's not a lot of time because it's only four-and-a-half minutes and you get to rest 45 seconds between each round, but when you're fighting for a whole minute and a half, it's definitely a gruesome, tiring sport," said Spc. Thomas, 1st Cav. Div. "You can get hurt seriously and the whole goal is to hurt the other person, so you've got to stay in shape."

Spc. Thomas said he was impressed with the quality of the ring.

"The ring's perfect and the floor felt great," he said. "I was a little bit nervous in the beginning, but once you start throwing punches and get hit a little bit, all that goes out the window."

While some participants had some prior experience boxing, for many this was the first time they had ever stepped into a ring.

"I thought it would be a challenge," said Spc. Mary Gordon, explaining why she decided to participate in the tournament. "I used to play other sports, and I wanted to try doing this. It's one-on-one, and it really challenges you."

Although she lost her match, Spc. Gordon said the experience was a good one and she hopes to participate in future tournaments.

Throughout the night, the fighters seemed to feed off of the energy of the enthusiastic crowd.

"The crowd reacts to what they see going on, and since it's them up there - it's the representation of their group that's up there - when their fighter is doing good, they're going to be doing good," said Pfc. Timothy Iuchs, one of the event organizers with 3rd Bn., 82 FA Regt. "I'm just glad that the guys got into it and they took it seriously."

"You put two guys in the corners, each representing their own unit; everyone wants to be the loudest and everyone's proud of their unit," Spc. Dunbar added. "I think it builds good morale and team camaraderie."

(Sgt. Robert Yde writes for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Public Affairs.)