Boxers continue training, learning

gordon.beedle

Three months after NMU lost the USOEC boxing program due to financial reasons, two former members of the program, and current NMU students, fought their way to silver medals at the U.S. Future Star National Championship under the guidance of former USOEC boxing head coach Al Mitchell.

Following the fall of the boxing program, Greg Carter, a 152-pound middleweight, and DeRae Crane, a 172-pound light heavyweight, continued to train with Mitchell at a new location in Marquette. Both finished second in their respective weight divisions at the championship in Colorado Springs on March 14.

Carter won three bouts in the tournament, one by stoppage and two by decision, before stepping into the ring for the final against Jovante Starks from Minneapolis, Minn.

“Greg and [Starks] went toe-to-toe right in the middle of the ring and it was like one of them was hitting with a sledgehammer and the other was hitting with a baseball bat,” Mitchell said. “After the first round, I had a headache – that’s how hard they were hitting each other.”

The heavy hitting would continue, courtesy of Starks, who took the title in the third round by decision.

Crane won three bouts before making the finals including one against the top-ranked boxer in the weight class, Lionell Thompson.

In Crane’s championship bout, he faced Lynwood, California-native Dorian Anthony.

Crane and Anthony battled their way to a double-tie breaker decision by the judges, ending 3-2 in Anthony’s favor.

“To make it all the way to the finals and losing in a double-tie breaker says a lot about my dedication,” Crane said. “So, under the circumstances it’s good, but on the other hand, I expected to win it.”

Mitchell said both Crane and Carter had been training extensively one-on-one with him. He added to go that far in the tournament, and to be training prior to the event with no sparring partner is practically unheard of.

“Once you get it in an athlete’s mind and make them strong and make them listen and they want it bad enough – like for these two athletes-nothing can stop them,” Mitchell said.

Crane and Carter’s preparation for this tournament started in January in Mitchell’s new gym in the basement of Ringside Fitness in Marquette. After the boxing program was cut, the two Northern students stayed in order to graduate from NMU. Because of Mitchell’s new position at Ringside, both boxers were still able to train with their former USOEC coach.

Crane described the transition of moving from the USOEC boxing gym on the upper-level of the Superior Dome to the basement of Ringside as a move from the penthouse to the dungeon.

“Losing the program didn’t stop us from performing,” Carter said. “We still had a place to train. We had the same coaches. We just didn’t have the same team.”

Crane, a marketing major, will graduate in May and Carter, a finance major, will graduate in December after he alternates for the Olympics this summer.

“School was the most important thing,” Crane said. “This was just an opportunity that kind of worked out. But school was the most important reason for me to stay.”

Mitchell said he saw these athletes come in as boys to the program at Northern and soon they will be leaving as men into either the boxing or the business world.

“To see an athlete excel in his sport and see an athlete excel in academics-that’s what life is all about,” Mitchell said.