By DFMWRFebruary 8, 2010
FORT POLK, La. -- Sidney Russell is an imposing man. He's as serious a trainer as they come, but Russell's animated disposition doesn't seem to match the grizzled old stereotypes that come with his title. He's a boxing coach for the Fort Polk Boxing Team, and he's got three of Fort Polk's toughest, most committed Soldiers working fanatically to be the best fighters in the Army.
Chad Reed, locally famous for his silver medal in the semi-finals of the All Army Boxing Tournament (a prerequisite for the Olympic team), joins Russell and fellow Soldiers Anthony Mayfield and Matthew Fisher this year to compete again in Colorado.
Russell met Reed at Wheelock Bayou Fitness Center, and the two started training together. Russell, who has a background in mixed martial arts, researched the fundamentals of boxing on his own, and every team member is as obsessed with boxing as he is.
Together, they've built a strong, talented team from the ground up.
"That's what I do every night," Reed said. "I go home and watch boxing. It doesn't matter what it is. It could be "Rocky" or old footage: It doesn't matter. That's what I do. I'm a boxer." Reed's obsessive drive pays off. He's focused and passionate about the sport. And it's a good thing, too, as Russell demands 100 percent from his fighter's bodies and a large part of their lives. If something is fun, it's out, which means a strict diet, no drinking, no women, no late-nights, no partying.
"And I can tell," bragged the coach.
From the looks on his fighters' faces when he says so, you can bet they believe him.
In opposition to Reed, teammate Matthew Fisher is soft spoken and even-keeled. He's humble about his start as a fighter. Fisher's older brother boxed for the Navy and they spent their childhood in Indiana "beating each other up." Fisher had formal training as a Muy Thai fighter in Hawaii, but was familiar with boxing because of his brother.
Teammate Anthony Mayfield met Russell through Reed. The two men were in the same unit. Mayfield's only boxing experience was fighting in smokers against other Soldiers in Iraq in their down time. "I kept winning," he said, "so I kept doing it."
With six kids (including two sets of twins), his Family supports him, but it's challenging.
"It's hard to stay focused, 'cause little kids get sick," he said. "They're my first priority."
At 24, Mayfield is gracefully balancing a six-day-a-week boxing schedule and supporting an eight-person family.
The three fighters and their coach have put together a team with the support of their command and units. They have no official space to practice, and they buy most of their own equipment and uniforms. They're always looking to grow into a bigger team.
"You (have to) push so hard tears will run down your face," Reed said after a training session. "You do 400 pushups and, sometimes you can't move your hands anymore, so you get punched, and you're tired and you want to stop but you don't stop. Boxing comes from in here."
The boxer points to his heart, and goes on, "Every boxer wants to be the champion of the world."
With the Olympics in their sights, it is not so unlikely.
For more information about the Fort Polk All Army Boxing Team, call 531-2794. Russell also teaches a Fight Fitness Conditioning Academy class every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 p.m. at the Wheelock Fitness Center.