Andre Penn, left, from Ellsworth AFB, S.D., punches Ruben Gutierrez from Marine Corps Base, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, during the Armed Forces Boxing Championship preliminary bouts March 7 at the Bennett Fitness Center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Penn won by retirement. (USAF photo by Robbin Cresswell) (Photo by Robbin Cresswell)
Lackland Air Force Base, Texas —
The Army boxers took an early lead in the team standings as the preliminary phase of the 2007 U.S. Armed Forces Boxing Championship got under way March 7 at the Bennett Fitness Center on Lackland Air Force Base.
Christopher Downs, Zachaeus Hardwick, and Boyd Melson from Fort Carson, Colo., all won their bouts against rivals from the Air Force and the Navy.
Downs defeated Rodney Ellison Jr. from Francis E. Warren AFB, Wyo., in the light heavyweight (178 pounds) division by decision after four rounds. Hardwick defeated Gary Griffin from the Air National Guard, Stuart, N.Y., in the middleweight (165 pounds) division after the referee stopped the contest early in the fourth round. Nelson defeated Abdullah Johnson from Naval Air Station, Lemoore, Calif., in the welterweight (152 pounds) class by decision after four rounds.
Army head boxing coach Basheer Abdullah was most impressed with Melson, who went up against a taller opponent.
"(Melson) was really sharp, and he got into a nice rhythm," Abdullah said. "I thought he demonstrated 'computer boxing' tonight. He's a good counter-puncher, he has good eyes, and his speed makes up for lack of height."
Hardwick stunned Griffin with a left hook early during the fourth and final round.
Griffin fell flat on his back and appeared to be unconscious for about two minutes.
"I was feeling good," Griffin recalled. "The next thing I knew, there were people standing over me, and it was over."
To be sure, the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy also enjoyed victories during the event.
Andre Penn from Ellsworth AFB, S.D. defeated Ruben Gutierrez from Marine Corps Base in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii in the welterweight (152 pounds) division by retirement midway through Round 2. Penn took control of the bout soon after he forced Gutierrez to take an eight-count during Round 1.
"He was wide with his punches," said Air Force head boxing coach Edward Rivas, referring to Penn. "He needs to tighten that up. But for the most part, he did well. He did what he came to do. He had a little more experience than his opponent had, and that factor helped him."
Samuel Martinez from the Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, N.C., defeated Matthew McCoy from Lackland in the light welterweight (141 pounds) division after the referee stopped the contest early during the second round.
"(Martinez) executed what we've practiced in the gym for the past month," said Ronald Simms, the Marine Corps head boxing coach. "He was patient, and he was busy. He saw what was in front of him, and he reacted very well."
As McCoy spun along the ropes to get into a defensive posture, he went slightly off-balance and dropped his right hand.
"He dropped his hands, his chin came up in the air, and he got caught," Rivas said. "That's something we've been working on since day one. It's unfortunate he had to learn a lesson that way."
Also in the light welterweight class, Adam Fusinato from Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Fla., defeated Javier Albonica from Fort Stewart, Ga., by decision after four rounds.
Fusinato relied on his right hand and left hook as he out-pointed his foe.
"I knew I had to bring it to him," Fusinato recalled. "I got a little tired in the fourth round, but I came out with some big shots."
The card also featured two exhibition bouts between female boxers. Lynette Lopez from Naval Reserve Depot, Miami, defeated Khara Keegan from Fort Huachuca, Ariz., in the light female (114 pounds) division by decision after four rounds. Autumn Anderson from Francis E. Warren defeated Trivia Pino from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in the heavy female (138 pounds) class by decision after four rounds.
Distinguished visitors included Col. Eric J. Wilbur, 37th Training Wing commander.
The championship concludes March 9 at the Bennett Fitness Center, with the first bout scheduled for 7 p.m.