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Coaches, fighters arrive this week to train for Sept. 19 championship
By Steve Stockmar – Sierra Vista Herald
FORT HUACHUCA — The Army post here will renew its boxing tradition this week.
The All-Army Boxing Championships are back on Fort Huachuca when coaches arrive Thursday followed by team members arriving at Barnes Field House gym Friday and Saturday.
The annual event started back in 1986 when Lt. Gen. Emmett Paige Jr., a former boxer himself, led the effort to promote the sport by turning Fort Huachuca into a training ground for the 1988 Summer Olympics.
He got the program started with the Army’s sports director back in Maryland. Nearly 30 years later, it’s still going on.
“Together they turned Fort Huachuca into the home of Army boxing,” Les Woods, Fort Huachuca sports director, said Monday.
The Army hosts boxing training camp, which culminates with a final championship where the winners become team members for the All-Army Boxing Team. This year, a pool of 40 men and women were selected among applicants from all over the world to compete on the local fort.
Boxers will be put up in housing on post, get set up in a training venue, and will spend roughly six weeks getting in fighting shape for the championship, which takes place Sept. 19.
In the tournament’s early days, the Fort Huachuca event covered five nights of boxing for the championship. The sport has lost some traction, though, in recent years with the rise of Mixed Martial Arts. The trend has been felt at the All-Army Boxing Team level, Woods says.
“Boxing is just not as big and popular as it used to be,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that the athletes are any less competitive or any less skilled. There’s not as many as there are used to be. But certainly the few core that are left are dedicated athletes, give it 100 percent.”
Besides overall popularity, a recent rule change has hurt the men’s chances to advance from the Army boxing tournament to possibly as far as the Olympics.
Amateur boxing has eliminated headgear for the Olympics, but military regulations still require it. As a result, the Army no longer has an Armed Forces Championship that used to be a part of the process to reach the Olympic trials.
The Olympic trials, meanwhile, will be the ultimate goal for the women competing the next few weeks on Fort Huachuca. Headgear remains a requirement for female boxers, which makes the female All-Army Team the place to be for Olympic hopefuls eyeing the Rio Games in 2016.
“The women have a stronger future than the men,” Woods said.