Lackland Air Force Base, Texas –
A feisty group of Airmen battled during the 2007 Air Force Boxing Championships hosted by Lackland Air Force Base's 37th Services Division during President's Day weekend at the Bennett Fitness Center.
Services held the championship fights Saturday and the preliminary competition on Friday.
Thirteen Air Force fighters fought to win their bout in the "Box-Offs" and prepare for the U.S. Armed Forces Boxing Championships set for March 6, 7 and 9 at the Bennett.
Two active-duty local boxers participated in the Box-Offs, Matthew McCoy from the 37th Logistics Readiness Squadron and Pete Villarreal from the Air Force News Agency, San Antonio.
McCoy won the gold medal after he stopped Villarreal Saturday in the lightweight class (141 pounds).
The fight, scheduled for four rounds, looked even until Villarreal stepped into a McCoy punch and dropped onto the canvas along the ropes midway through Round 2.
Villarreal thought McCoy hit him with a right hand. McCoy recalled he hit Villarreal with a left hook. Either way, Villarreal got back on his feet quickly and raised his gloves to indicate he was ready to resume fighting. However, referee Joe Curiel (the 1974 Air Force featherweight champion) looked Villarreal over for several seconds and decided to end the match.
"The fight was probably close on the (score) card before it happened," McCoy said. "It could have gone either way. I was just glad to get the win."
Villarreal thought the fight ended prematurely. He was obviously disappointed after he exited the ring.
"We had two good rounds ahead of us," Villarreal said.
Air Force Boxing head coach Edward Rivas helped McCoy get ready for the Box-Offs.
McCoy is going places, because he is mentally tough, Rivas said.
"We still have a lot to work on," Rivas added. "He still drops his hands, and we're trying to make him keep his elbows in."
Also on Saturday, Chief Master Sgt. Rodney Ellison Sr., Air Education and Training Command command chief, entered the ring, hugged his son Rodney Jr. and presented him with the gold medal for the light heavyweight class (178 pounds). The younger Ellison represented Francis E. Warren AFB, Wyo., and he won gold after he defeated Gerald Lamour from RAF Lakenheath, England.
Other Air Force Box-Offs gold medal winners included Rosey Summerville, Shaw AFB, S.C., who beat Eugene Marquez, RAF Mildenhall, England, in the lightweight (132 pounds) class. Andrew Penn, Ellsworth, AFB, S.D., retired Thomas Jacobs, Robins AFB, Ga., in the welterweight (152 pounds) category. Ray Sandoval, Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal, defeated civilian Steve Moreno from Lackland Boxing Club in the Super Heavyweight (201-pounds-and-up) division.
McCoy downed Duane Vandross from Davis-Monthan, AFB, Ariz., by first-round knockout during the preliminary phase of the competition Friday.
"It was a good fight," McCoy recalled. "He threw a left jab, and I came over the top with my right hand and hit him right on the chin. It was one of those punches that went just right."
Jacobs beat Villarreal after four rounds during another preliminary bout Friday. Jacobs was about six inches taller than Villarreal, and the extra height helped him win the fight.
"I would liked to have seen (Villarreal) step around more (against Jacobs), instead of just stepping into the guy," Rivas said.
Rivas added Villarreal never quits.
"He can improve a great deal," Rivas said. "He needs to work on the small stuff and the details of boxing."
All the coaches and referees ensured good sportsmanship prevailed amongst all the boxers throughout the Box-Offs.
For instance, when Lamour beat Al Dixon from Abilene Boxing Club after four hard-fought rounds during the Friday night card, he could not help but prance a little and raise his arms in triumph after landing a hard punch on his opponent just before the final bell.
From his ringside seat, Rivas pointed at Lamour and directed the fighter to retreat to his corner, and with a glare, he admonished Lamour for showboating.
Lamour went to his corner and apologized.
"I'm sorry, coach," Lamour said.
"You don't do that," Rivas replied.
Col. Eric J. Wilbur, 37th Training Wing vice commander, attended the Box-Offs Friday and Saturday.
"These athletes have trained very hard, and it is a reflection of what we do in the Air Force - we train very hard in the Air Force," Colonel Wilbur said.
The most emotional moment of the Box-Offs occurred on Friday during intermission, when Rivas presented Mark Lewis with a gift pair of boxing gloves autographed by the Air Force fighters.
Lewis has been battling cancer for several months. Months before the technical sergeant starting fighting the disease, he did much to help Services produce Air Force boxing programs.
"We would like to thank him for all of his hard work and dedication," Rivas told a cheering audience.
One week before the Armed Forces Championship gets under way, Lackland boxing coach Osmar Alaniz said many of the Air Force fighters plan to compete in the Golden Gloves Regional Tournament set for Feb.20-22 at the Woodlawn Gymnasium and Feb. 23-24 at the Alzafar Temple in San Antonio.
"It's really great that they're getting an opportunity to stay busy," Alaniz added.