Boxers compete during the summer

Brice Burge

It was a busy summer for the United States Olympic Education Center Boxing team, with the team training and competing deep into the summer.

“The team was here a lot longer than they usually are,” said USOEC head boxing coach Al Mitchell. “We had a long winter of training and then had nationals in June.”

The first competition for the team was the State Games of Michigan held on June 26-27 in Grand Rapids.  The team was able to pull in three gold medals.

“It was good boxing matches down there,” Mitchell said. “Michigan is ranked very high in amateur boxing.”

Manuel Lopez was able to defeat Burim Beqiri from Kentwood, 5-0 on Saturday to give him a spot in the final against Tyler Fish from Grand Rapids on Sunday. Lopez was again able to win with a 5-0 decision for the title.

“(Beqiri) was pretty strong, so I threw a lot of body shots,” Lopez said. “He kept pressing me, but I felt like I won the fight. (Fish) was a lot easier, I just had to use my basic jabs and things we were working on in the gym. I felt I won both of them pretty easy and I was happy to take the gold.”

Jesse Hart also won gold with a one-fight title against Christian Thomas.

According to Mitchell, the State Games of Michigan was meant as a warm up for the US Nationals held from June 12 to July 17. This was the first trip to the Nationals for many members of the team. Extra weight was placed on this tournament because national rankings were derived from the results.

Hart again fought well, but fell just short of gold. After knocking out his first two opponents in the first round,  his third would-be opponent scratched. Hart then found himself in the title match against Luis Arias.. After the two 165 pounders tying for three rounds, Arias was given the win on tie breakers.

Pearson also felt the heartbreak of a judges’ decision. After three rounds ended in a 4-4 tie, Pearson fell by decision.

“It was a good fight, they both were tough, but we felt he had it,” Mitchell said. “You have to take it out of the hands of the judges.”

During the summer, the team practiced up to three times a day to further the development of the boxers. The team would practice as early as 5 a.m. and would end their final practice at midnight if the athletes were having problems making their weight goals. This work paid off for the team as they are on schedule for the big competition in October.

“They’re right where I want them at,” Mitchell said. “Next year is the Olympic trials, so they should continue to improve.”

The next competition for the team will be Oct. 19-24 at the National PAL Championships in San Antonio, Texas.