USOEC boxers land knockout blows

Trevor Pellerite

The USOEC boxers took home top honors at the Golden Gloves Regional finals, and six fighters will now prepare for the National championships, which begin on Monday, May 3.

Three fighters fought in the regional finals on Saturday, April 17, and all three came away with gold medals. NMU freshman Chris Pearson won the 152 pound weight class, freshman Manny Lopez took the 141 pound title and senior Ricky Alvarez won a decision over his 132 pound class opponent.

Two other USOEC fighters, Carlos Santos and Hasim Rachman, advanced to the National championships uncontested and freshman Darnell Parker advanced after winning the Kansas City Regional earlier in the season.

Head coach Al Mitchell was impressed and surprised by his team’s performance.

NMU freshman Manny Lopez (left) spars with senior teammate Ricky Alvarez during a USOEC practice. Both fighters took the gold medals in their respective weight classes last weekend at the Golden Gloves Regional Finals. // Trevor Pellerite/NW

“I thought they did a good job. Where they’re at right now, I didn’t expect them to be until next year. I’ve got a lot of athletes that aren’t seasoned, they’re young,” Mitchell said. “Condition really won the bouts for us, first round was close in all three bouts, but the second and third, they just took the bouts away.”

According to Mitchell, the team’s success stemmed from three big factors, the first being conditioning and control in the ring.

“The second thing, I think it was discipline in the ring; they stayed to the game plan. Third, they listened to me and stayed to the game plan. You need those three factors in any sport to win, and they put it together for me.”

Alvarez started the day off for the squad on the right foot. He took out Juan Tavarez of the Kenosha Boxing Club by unanimous decision and quelled Mitchell’s fears that he would be unable to remain consistent after a solid semifinal bout.

“Both bouts, he was consistent, he stayed to the game plan, he didn’t get sloppy or nothing,” Mitchell said.

Alvarez felt that listening to and following Mitchell’s fight plan was the key to success.

“I wanted to get my timing right. Just range, timing, everything I wanted to get precise so when I finally calculated everything by the second round, everything was just working out the way we had planned,” Alvarez said. “(Mitchell’s) got the master plan to win every fight. He studies all our opponents, while we’re sleeping, he’s up all night watching tape … and we just gotta do what he says, and we’ll usually come out on top.”

Lopez fought second, winning by points in his first official fight since August of last year. Lopez thought that he needed some time to get out of the comfort of sparring during practices, but figured things out quickly.

“You spar the same people, you fall into this comfort zone. The first round, I was a little shaky, but after the first 15 or 30 seconds, I got back into my groove and everything got back to normal,” he said.

Lopez explained that in the past, he has gotten upset and attacked quickly when he took a hard punch, and he was pleased with his ability to overcome that in the finals.

“Last year, if someone threw a punch to hurt me, I would come back like ‘Okay, it’s time to fight,’ but this time he threw a punch to hurt me, and I just blocked it. I just kept boxing and made him look too funny.”

Mitchell also noticed his fighter’s newfound control.

“Manny is one guy, he gets hit, he’s stepping to you and he’s fighting now. And I’m trying to get that out of him. In this bout he showed me that he can do it. And he listened, he stayed to the game plan and he boxed,” Mitchell said.

In the third and most dramatic fight for the USOEC, Pearson pummeled Kristian Boyd of the Milwaukee United Boxing Center until the Boyd’s corner eventually threw in the towel in the third round. The performance earned Pearson the Outstanding Boxer Award.

“It was kind of a tough fight. It wasn’t that he was real tough, he just kept his (defense) up real tight, so it was hard to get to him,” Pearson said. “I did catch him in the first, and I gave him an eight-count. I thought I was going to get him out of there in the first, but he survived. Last round, I picked it up a little bit.”

Pearson explained that he made a few adjustments as the fight went on to bypass Boyd’s defensive style.

“He was covering his head and he was bending down and ducking to avoid the head shots, so I shot it more to the body. He’d try to brace for that and when he braced he would pull out with his head up, that was how I was able to catch him up top to hurt him.”

Mitchell was impressed with Pearson’s performance but wasn’t surprised. He has seen Pearson’s potential since he arrived at the USOEC.

“He can fight, but he still has to understand where to be at in the ring, the discipline factor. But, he’s gutty as I don’t know what. He’s going to be an extraordinary boxer,” Mitchell said. “All my guys are really coming into their own, but I really think Chris, (with) a little more discipline, I don’t see nobody beating him in the next couple years.”

Mitchell said that if Pearson can focus himself both inside and outside the boxing ring, there could be no limits to his potential.

“Sometimes too much outside of your sport’ll kill you. If he stays focused, just like he’s getting focused in the ring, and focus outside the ring, I got a guy that I think can make the Olympic team,” Mitchell said.

In preparation for the National championships on May 3-8, Mitchell is going to have his team working on speed, technique and discipline.