MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The United States Armed Forces Boxing Team began a training camp here June 7, in preparation for July’s World Military Boxing Championships in Pretoria, South Africa.
“Our goal going into the tournament this year, regardless of the inexperience of our relatively young team, is to bring home some medals,” said Robert Michael, assistant coach of the team. “With the extensive knowledge of boxing brought by the coaching staff and the determination in these fighters, we will refuse to be shut out.”
The three-week camp is designed to prepare the Americans to compete with military teams from all over the world in a single-elimination tournament, and is broken into two separate phases, according to Basheer Abdullah, head coach of the team.
“The first week, which was the conditioning portion of the camp, focused on a lot of circuit course training and aerobic activity designed to increase the boxers’ stamina,” said Abdullah. “The next two weeks will center on the techniques of boxing, while still maintaining the boxers’ conditioning.”
According to Abdullah, the team’s practice schedule during the camp is as follows:
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will consist of three workouts per day. The first will be a morning run to maintain stamina and aerobic conditioning. The second will be a gym workout that will include circuit training, light-weight training and technical drills. The third and final workout on these three days will give the athletes an opportunity to get in the ring for sparing practice.
Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays will include two workout sessions, training on the track and a gym workout similar to the one on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Sunday is designated a day of rest.
“We’re going to break them down in the beginning and build them back up by the end,” said Michael. “With this training we should be able to get everyone on the team in a position where they can compete for a medal.”
The team, which is composed of two Marines, five soldiers and one airman, is going to rely on the experience of the coaching staff and senior leadership from some of the more veteran fighters like Marine Sgt. Eric Canales, team captain of the Marine Corps Boxing Team, Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune.
“My goal is to bring home the gold,” said Canales, who has been boxing since the age of nine and competes in the 141 lbs. weight class. “We’re going to see a lot of international talent and fighting styles that we may not be used to. It’s possible that we could see competition against fighters from Olympic teams, but we’ve got the best coaches getting us ready and we all have the mindset to win.”
Canales teammate Marine Cpl. Jackie Saye, a super-heavyweight boxer on the Marine Corps Boxing Team, MCB, Camp Lejeune, is the only other Marine to be selected for the USAF team.
“I’m going there to get a gold,” said Saye. “I expect to see a more European style of boxing; a lot of dancing around and fancy footwork. We’ll just have to make the necessary adjustments and do what it takes to win.”
The young team hopes to return from South Africa in victorious fashion, and with some familiarity of worldwide competition.
“Although our primary goal is to gain experience in international competition,” said Abdullah. “We do intend to see the American flag raised in victory at least one or two times at the tournament.”