Army Dominates Interservice Boxing
By Petty Officer 3rd Class Jason W. Carter
Special to American Forces Press Service
PORT HUENEME, Calif., Mar. 5, 1998 The Army continued its dominance of interservice boxing competitions by winning the overall 1998 Armed Forces Boxing Championships Feb. 10-13 at the Naval Construction Battalion Center here.
The championships pit the top boxers from each branch of the military. In the end the Army had once again proved dominant, winning nine of 12 bouts. The Marines left with two golds and the Navy, one. Winners in each weight class automatically qualify for the International Military Sports Council CISM Championships in Warendorf, Germany, Sept. 12-21. This will pit each boxer against the top military boxers from other countries.
For both the Navy and Air Force, each year's tournament gives them the opportunity to prove that the Army and Marines aren't the only hotbed for boxing talent.
"Everybody looks at us in the Air Force like we really don't have the strength and skills that the other services have," said Staff Sgt. Michael Frazier of Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., who competed in the finals at 165 pounds. "My main thinking here is to get a little respect and show the other services that, yes, the Air Force can box."
The interservice rivalries reached their pinnacle during the Feb. 13 finals, which would crown gold medal winners. Although the winning service is not awarded a trophy or officially recognized, bragging rights were at stake.
Army advanced 11 of its boxers to the finals, followed by the Marines with eight. The Air Force and Navy saw two of their boxers reach the final bouts.
In the 112 pound matchup, Marine Cpl. Matthew Winters of Camp Lejeune, N.C., squared off against last year's champ, Army Spc. John Medina of Fort Carson, Colo. Trying to take the early offensive, Winters came out swinging and led a charging attack with quick jabs and body shots. At one point Winters even lost his balance and fell down. Medina used a patient attack of timely punches and won the gold in a close decision.
The 119 pound bout would not fare well for the Marines as Lance Cpl. Severo Henry of Camp Lejeune took on Army Sgt. George Cofield, last year's winner. The match lasted only 44 seconds with Henry never really getting himself on track. Marine Corps boxing coach Roosevelt Sanders Jr. threw in the towel ending the fight and giving the Army another gold.
At 132 pounds, Air Force Capt. Ellis Johnson of Kelly Air Force Base, Texas, faced Army Spc. Hong Gu of Fort Carson. Johnson, in the first of two "respect" fights for the Air Force, was unable to ward off Gu's patient, well-timed quick jabs. Hong Gu was in control for most of the fight, but Johnson did remain strong throughout.
The pace of the matches went up a notch at the 139 pound clip as Army Spc. James Webb of Fort Carson took on Marine Lance Cpl. Felson Perez, 3rd Marine Division, Okinawa, Japan. Perez, who won his earlier fight in impressive fashion, took the initiative quickly opening up a cut above Webb's nose. Both Perez and Webb exchanged vicious punches and head shots into the final seconds of the fight, with Webb getting the better of the two and winning the bout by decision.
The Marines got on the board in the 156 pound match-up as last year's winner, Lance Cpl. Henry Markin of Okinawa successfully defended his title against Army Sgt. Shaheed Shakir of Fort Carson. Markin's aggressive style and tenacity were too much for Shakir, as the energized Markin was in control for most of the fight.
The Air Force's Frazier hoped to ride his success from his semi-final bout in the 165 pound class against last year's winner, Army Sgt. Julius Fogle of Fort Carson. Frazier, who only had boxed for a year, couldn't overcome Fogle's experience and consistent barrages of jabs and lost by decision.
The first of the Navy's two final competitors, Airman Steven Cunningham, faced off in the 178 pound final against 1997 winner Sgt. Olanda Anderson of Fort Carson. Anderson, currently rated as the country's No. 2 boxer made easy work of his three rounds and won the bout by decision.
In a much anticipated heavyweight match-up, Petty Officer Third Class Israel Spencer of USS Pensacola squared off against Marine Lance Cpl. Tony Scoggins of Camp Lejeune. In a tightly contested fight the favored Spencer fought off a determined late charge by Scoggins and brought home the lone gold medal for the Navy.
The final bout in the super heavyweight class pitted Pfc. Preston Hartzog against Marine Lance Cpl. James Smedley of Camp Lejeune. Hartzog, who was admittedly sluggish in his semi-final bout, never got on track and lost a close decision to a more patient Smedley, who won his first all service tournament and second gold medal for the Marines.Although there's a common rivalry between each service, each boxer and coach was quick to point out the solid level of competition they faced from other opponents, and each stressed the importance of representing their respective service.
"It feels good to represent the Marines," said Perez. "Once we step into the ring, we never give up, and every year we're improving."
"I think the armed forces (as a whole) has a better team than last year," said Osmar Alaniz, All-Air Force Boxing Coach, from Kelly Air Force Base. "Hopefully if things go well and we get a good draw in the Nationals we should get some armed forces guys in the finals."
(Carter is a Navy journalist assigned to the U.S. Naval Construction Battalion Center Public Affairs Office at Port Hueneme, Calif.)
Gold - Sgt. Bradley Martinez (Army)
Gold - Spc. John Medina (Army)
Silver - Cpl. Matthew Winters (Marines)
Gold - Sgt. George Cofield (Army)
Silver - Lance Cpl. Severo Henry (Marines)
Gold - Sgt. Aljil Booker (Army)
Gold - Spc. Hong Gu (Army)
Silver - Capt. Ellis Johnson (Air Force)
Gold - Spc. James Webb (Army)
Silver - Lance Cpl. Felson Perez
Gold - Pfc. Steven Van de Walle (Army)
Silver - Cpl. Steven Stokes (Marines)
Gold - Lance Cpl. Henry Markin (Marines)
Silver - Sgt. Shaheed Shakir (Army)
Gold - Sgt. Julius Fogle (Army)
Silver - Staff Sgt. Michael Frazier (Air Force)
Gold - Sgt. Olanda Anderson (Army)
Silver - Airman Steven Cunningham (Navy)
Gold - SM3 Israel Spencer (Navy)
Silver - Lance Cpl. Tony Scoggins (Marines)
Gold - Lance Cpl. James Smedley (Marines)
Silver - Pfc. Preston Hartzog (Army)
Final Team Standings