By Staff Sgt. Todd PrudenApril 1, 2010
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (Army News Service, April 1, 2010) -- The ultimate goal of the 32 boxers attending the All-Army Boxing training sessions at Fort Huachuca's Barnes Field House is to qualify for the Olympic Games.
These Soldiers were selected to be a part of the All-Army Boxing Championship April 9, with the goal of furthering their boxing careers.
All-Army Boxing is the first step Soldiers can take to become recognized amateur boxers. Active-duty Soldiers, members of the Army National Guard and Reserve were selected to be a part of the All-Army boxing program to hone their boxing skills and compete with the best in the Army. These Soldiers voluntarily applied and were chosen for the chance to show off their talent and skills with fellow Army competitors.
"It's the best that the Army has to offer in a number of sports. Not just boxing," said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Downs, one of the coaches from the Army World Class Athlete Program, at Fort Carson, Colo. "All-Army does their sport for however long it's in season. Then they (the Soldiers) go back to their unit."
However, those with the skill sets and potential may be offered the chance to step up to the next level, which is the Army World Class Athlete Program.
"Win, lose, or draw, if they show some kind of potential or the skill level that they may be able to compete successfully at the national and international level, they may be looked at and may be asked to come into the WCAP program," explained Downs.
Downs said that the overall goal of the WCAP program is to go to the Olympic trials.
"The World Class Athlete Program is solely based on trying to make the Olympic team," Downs said. "It's not a developmental program. It's guys that already stand out and show potential to move ahead on the international level."
However the All-Army program is a developmental program, the training and coaching the Soldiers are receiving are said to be top-notch and rigorous for those attending. Soldiers are learning adjustments in their techniques to enhance their competitiveness. Currently, there are five coaches on the ground teaching these Soldiers how to be better boxers, and the training they receive will carry on to the bouts they will participate in during the first full week of April.
"This is probably the hardest I have ever worked out in my life," said Spc. Samuel Vasquez, a scout with Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 110th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division, of the Pennsylvania National Guard. "I've never gotten pushed so hard. All of the coaches here make you push yourself to 110 percent, and they want to see you do the best. That's what I've experienced here so far."
Vasquez said this was his first time attending the All-Army Boxing Championship. He said he had boxed competitively before and was ranked as high as number four in his weight class, and the opportunity to box with the All-Army program was a great way for him to enhance his fighting career.
"I'm really grateful to have this opportunity. I'm learning how much heart I have," he said. "The major goal is to get the gold in the Olympics and that's what I am here to do."
Vasquez realizes he has to start somewhere, and that proving himself in the All-Army Championship is a good start on his path to making it to the Olympics.
"Everybody wants to go to the Olympics," Vasquez said "But, I am going to take it one step at a time."
Vasquez knew of the program and thought that only active-duty Soldiers had the opportunity to make the All-Army program. However, when he was in the process of enlisting in the Army, his recruiter, who knew of his boxing background, told him it was offered to all Soldiers.
"I figured you'd have to be active duty to become a member of the All-Army boxing team," he said. "Once I found out that I could be in the National Guard and get on the boxing team, then I definitely took advantage."
However, not every Soldier had heard of the programs offered by the All-Army Sports program. Sgt. Alexis Ramos, a public affairs specialist at Fort Carson, Colo., said he had not heard of the program's potential until after joining All-Army Sports. He found out about the program by looking at an All-Army Sports calendar while stationed in Germany.
"When I first joined, I didn't know there was WCAP," Ramos said. "I knew there was boxing, but I didn't know to what extent. So, once I joined, I found out. I've always loved boxing. All of my family used to be boxers. So, I decided to try it out."
Simply 'trying' led to a great boxing career for Ramos. He is no stranger to the All-Army program. He said he has won two All-Army titles and two All-Armed Forces titles as well as being ranked seventh in the nation at one time and went on to the Olympic trials. And while he has had his success, he wants to build on it through the program and the tournament.
"The ultimate goal is obviously the Olympics. To hear your national anthem played on the Olympic stage; I think it's the greatest honor," Ramos said.
But, first, he said he must get back his old competitive edge before he can reach that level, and the All-Army Sports program is doing just that.
"It gives me an opportunity to build that fire back up. That urge to strive for success is there," he said. "It ignited that fire again and I'm just ready to take it to another level."
The first step for these boxers to reach their goals of making the Olympic team is making the All-Army Team, which will be decided at Barnes Field House at Fort Huachuca. Preliminary bouts will be held either April 6 and 7 or April 8, depending on the number of boxers participating. The Championship night will be April 9. The bouts start at 6 p.m. all days.
The next level for these Soldiers will be competing in the Armed Forces Championship in California. And finally, the CISM Championships to be held at Camp LeJeune, N.C., which is the premier amateur military championships event in the world.
"I'm thinking that it will be a good show coming up," said Downs. "Some of them don't have a lot of experience, but they show a lot of will and tenacity that will cover from some of the skills they are lacking. It all starts here from this program ... All-Army programs."