By Master Sgt. Doug SampleApril 12, 2010
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (Army News Service, April 12, 2010) -- Thirty-three Soldiers entered the ring during the All-Army Boxing Trials April 7-9, but at the clang of the final bell only 11 were left standing to represent the Army at the Armed Forces Boxing Championship next week.
The team that enters the ring against the other services for the championship at Naval Base Ventura County, Calif., April 18-24, will be as experienced as any that All-Amy boxing head coach Basheer Abdullah has fielded.
Abdullah, who has coached at the Olympic level, sat with his coaching team quietly studying and analyzing each bout at Barnes Field House and repeatedly pointed out that experience often distinguishes the winners from losers.
"In most of these matches, you'll notice that the fighter with the most experience in the ring will have an edge," Abdullah explained. That point was echoed by his staff in their analysis as well.
In the first fight, Spc. Terry Pena, of Fort Carson, Co., outscored (28-13) opponent Spc. Guy Jean-Baptiste, of Fort Richardson, to win his light welterweight match; while in the second matchup, Staff Sgt. Tracey Napper, Fort Bragg, N.C., out-punched Spc. William Bennett, Camp Humphreys, Korea, for a 35-8 decision and the middleweight crown.
"Napper is an aggressive fighter; he's experienced and he just never let up," noted Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Downs, assistant coach and former Olympic Trials gold medalist. "His experience shows in the ring. Napper is just too fast with his punches. Pena has a lot of experience as well as training in the World Class Athlete Program. He is just a good pound-for-pound fighter, so the outcome of that fight was expected."
In the heavyweight category, Spc. Ron Donaldson, representing Walter Reed Army Medical Center, started out strong, but faded in the later rounds against Sgt. Louise Gibbs of Fort Sill, Okla. Donaldson had a quick knockdown of his opponent in the first round; however Gibbs regained his composure and returned the favor, flooring Donaldson in the third, causing the referee to stop the fight, for a 25-16 point win.
"Donaldson is a very young fighter and needs more experience," said Staff Sgt. Runnel Doll, the only Army Reserve member on the All-Army coaching staff. "He's only 19, so I hope to see him back next year because he has potential and we can work with him. Gibbs just had too much experience in this fight."
That was the case throughout much of the night, where the more experienced fighter prevailed. When featherweight champion, Sgt. Alexis Ramos, Fort Carson, Co., dazed Sgt. Chad Reed of Fort Polk, La., with a hard body shot, stopping the fight 51 seconds into the second round, assistant coach Staff Sgt. Joe Guzman could only shake his head with amazement at how well Ramos handled his opponent. "Look at the points (17-1). That pretty much says it all," he said.
For Ramos, the experience of being part of Army's World Class Athlete Program at Fort Carson, Colo., seemed to have given him an edge, just as it did with Spc. Connor Johnson and Spc. Dustin Lara, both WCAP fighters. Despite fighting tough matches, they retained their lightweight and light welterweight crowns.
In his first-round bout against Sgt. Toribio Ramirez of Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Johnson was caught off guard by a clean shot to the head that sent him to the canvas. However, Johnson picked himself and his pride up off the mat, and rallied back for a 33-12 win.
"He (Conner) got knocked to the canvas, but he didn't let that bother him; he stayed focused, and stayed with his game plan," assistant coach Sgt. 1st Class Samuel Brown, noted. "That shows his maturity and experience as a fighter. I think he came out a little excited, but I knew he would eventually calm down and fight his fight."
Meanwhile, Lara, in his light welterweight match against Pfc. Christian Reyes, once again proved the acumen of WCAP fighters. Lara landed 41 punches (the most of any fighter for the night) to Reyes' 17 to take the gold medal. "Lara is a quick and accurate puncher," Downs said. "Reyes just could not keep up with the punch output. He mainly had to stay on defense."
The only loss by the WCAP team came at the hands of Sgt. Matthew Fisher of Fort Polk, La., who claimed gold in the middleweight division with a close win (31-18) over Spc. Zacchaeus Hardrick. Guzman said Hardrick, who was heavily favored to win, did not fight to the level he is capable of.
"I'm shocked, I really am," Guzman said after the fight. "Zac is way better than what we saw tonight. He did not compete; he did not set up his jab -- this is not the way he fights." Regarding Fisher: "He has turned out to be a sleeper in this camp," Guzman added, "This kid came out and fought hard like he had something to prove, and he proved it tonight."
But perhaps the best example of experience providing the upper hand in the ring came during a clash for the light-middleweight title. The match pitted Spc. Samuel Vasquez, a Pennsylvania Army Reserve Soldier who has more than 100 fights under his belt, and Spc. Tyrone Lindsey, of Grafenwoehr, Germany, whose powerful punches could rip a head off.
During the bout the two fighters went toe to toe, exchanging punches and body shots for three rounds with no surrender. Lindsey, who has the hulking presence of Lou Ferrigno in the ring, knocked out his opponent with one punch the night before. However, Vasquez, with his father in the crowd urging him to fight on, would not roll over that easy. And at the end of three hard-fought rounds, the two exhausted gladiators could only embrace as Vasquez raised his glove in victory, 20-8.
"This is a great feeling," said Sam Vasquez Sr., who traveled from Pittsburgh to cheer on his son. "He's disciplined, he trains hard, and it pays off. I'm so very proud of him."
Added Doll, "Vasquez has family here tonight, so that kinda gives him a hometown edge, but his conditioning was what really paid off -- he's in really great shape as a fighter. He's fought a lot of fights in his career, so he knows how to go the distance and fight to the end. That's why he won the fight."
In other matches: Spc. Jeffery Spencer of Fort Carson, Colo., defeated Sgt. Quadi Hudgins of Fort Hood, Texas, (27-6) for the light-heavyweight title, giving WCAP a 3-1 record for the event; while hometown favorite, Pfc. Charles Blackwell, an Arizona Army Reserve Soldier, turned the lights out early, knocking out Pfc. William Lambo, Fort Bragg, N.C., 45 seconds after the opening bell.
NOTE: WCAP boxers 1st Lt. Michael Benedosso (light flyweight), Sgt. John Franklin (Bantamweight), Spc. Donnie Palmer (super heavyweight), and Spc. Carrie Barry (female lightweight), were all unopposed during the All-Army Boxing competition and will advance to the Armed Forces Championship by default. Pfc. Tacra Hughes (light middleweight), New York National Guard, and the second female boxer to make the All-Army team, sustained a shoulder injury and will not compete.