USA Amateur Boxing: it’s about doing things the right way, not the easy way

The majority of the 34 gents and two ladies who attended Saturday's coaches’ meeting hung around for this group photo.

The majority of the USA Amateur Boxing coaches who attended the July 25, 2015 Coaches’ Meeting hung around for this one of a kind group photo. Photo: J. Wyatt

USA Amateur Boxing, the national governing body of amateur boxing, is the United States’ member organization of the International Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) and as a national governing body it is recognized by the United States Olympic Committee. It is responsible for the administration, development and promotion of Olympic-style boxing in the U. S.


With its headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, it sponsors a host of programs to develop and promote the sport. It sponsors national and international competitions to select teams for events which include the Olympic Games, World Championships and Pan American Games. 

Even though USA Boxing has now won 109 Medals in Olympic competition, ranking first among all nations, they haven’t been doing well as of late. In the 2012 Olympics, the U. S. A. team escaped complete embarrassment when two young ladies 17 year-old Claressa Shields won a Gold Medal and 21 year-old Marlen Esparza won a Bronze for Team USA. Some of the famous athletes who have emerged from the ranks of USA Boxing include Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Evander Holyfield, Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar de la Hoya.

Like the drought in California, the U. S.’s inability to win medals in Boxing appears to be worsening. In 2008, heavyweight Deontay Wilder secured a Bronze Medal. In 2004, Andre Ward won a Gold Medal and Andre Dirrell a Bronze. That does it. It would be fruitless if we continued. If you want to point fingers, those fingers should point at the folks of USA Amateur Boxing. 

How so? USA Boxing authorizes, recognizes, and insures 57 Local Boxing Committees (LBCs), which are grouped into 14 regions, and in that number you have LBC 44 which covers both San Diego and Imperial Counties. This LBC, along with it’s coaches, athletes, and officials constitute what we’d call the grassroots of local boxing.

On Saturday, July 25, 2015, LBC 44 held a “Coaches only meeting.” The email from it’s newly elected President, Hondo Fontan got straight to the point: “LBC 44’s MANDATORY COACHES MEETING! I need ALL COACHES to attend. If you cannot attend, you need to send a representative. There are certain issues/topics that we need to address and begin working on for the common good of our Athletes, Gyms & LBC.”

After traversing some early minefields, this General George Patton like administrator has been getting high marks not only for the results were seeing but for his leadership.640 challenge single Unlike England’s Prince Albert (the Prince who was played by Colin Firth in that movie – The King’s Speech), it’s doubtful Hondo Fontan will ever need an assist from a speech therapist like the one Geoffrey Rush played. Fontan is an excellent public speaker who on Saturday knew how to maintain the group’s attention.

Our analysis of Fontan’s leadership style thus far? To his credit he’s been quite busy. He’s been going from gym to gym talking to the coaches and owners to learn about their problems. He’s also been able to make things happen by encouraging and channeling the contributions of others. He’s taken a stand on and then addressed the important issues. He navigates the troubled waters by being prepared. He’s sensitive to how things are evolving. In other words he’s not afraid of innovation.

If you were one of the 25 gyms without representation at this meeting, for shame. Saturday’s get together was like one of those stockholders’ meetings that large companies have. You needed to be there so you could be better informed. Those present will move ahead with or without your input. The following 34 gents and two ladies were in attendance at Saturday’s meeting: Abdullah Basheer (The Boxing Club, La Jolla), Art Wilson (ABC Mongoose Gym, San Diego), Bobby Lopez (Golden Hands Boxing, Chula Vista), Brian Nevarez (Nevarez Boxing Team, Vista), Carlos Barragan, Carlos Barragan Jr. and David Barragan (House of Boxing, Paradise Hills), Clemente Casillas, Jason Haines and Dino Bamberos of the host gym National City CYAC, David Gutierrez, Esq. (Gutierrez Boxing), Edgar Sandoval (Bound Boxing Academy), Greg Diaz (Diaz Boxing Team), Hector Gil Jr. (Gil Boxing Team, Oceanside), Joe Vargas (The Arena, Point Loma), Jorge Marron (Marron Boxing Camp, Lakeside), Jose Cital (Undisputed Fitness Downtown), Coach Kalina Fernandez O’Farrill (Chair Person of the Jr. Olympics and Silver Gloves), Luis Rodriguez (UFC Gym Mission Valley), Rey Araujo (San Ysidro Community Center, San Ysidro), Marcel Acevedo (United Boxing & Fitness, Chula Vista), Mike Davis (Rhino’s Boxing, Vista), Ruben Gutierrez (Imperial Boxing Youth Athletics, San Diego), Sergio Melendrez (Alliance Training Center, Chula Vista), Sherman Sadsarin (Maxwell’s Boxing, Miramar), Terry Wright (San Diego Athletic Academy, San Diego), Tim Cain (USA Boxing Official), former President Tony Contreras (North County Boxing, San Marcos), Tony Palafox (Victory MMA, Point Loma), coaches Ivan Martinez and Jonathan Albarran from Intensity MMA, South San Diego plus Hondo Fontan, the President, Valerie Hernandez, Vice-President and Jim Wyatt, Secretary.

At this time, we’ll try to give the absentees a rundown of what happened. With his agenda in hand, the LBC-44 President began: “Everything is a work in progress, which sounds like an excuse, but as your leader I was hoping for an even bigger turnout.”

The group then began a discussion concerning the organization’s present difficulties and how best to eliminate these headaches. The answer kept coming back to more communication. Then, there was a positive discussion regarding the glut of quality boxers, up and coming boxers from San Diego and Imperial County and despite all the talk about Boxing being on the decline, and taking a back seat to MMA, that notion was quickly dispelled. If you’re a statistician and like to keep track of things by the number; over the past two years, within the LBC 44’s jurisdiction, there have been 15 new boxing gyms that opened their doors, three closed and three new gyms are about to open.

Fontan’s next rant: “There’s no reason why our boxers and coaches have to travel north to Los Angeles or out of state for these national tournaments. For instance, we can host the Silver Gloves and with our upcoming show on August 15th, Joe Vargas and The Arena are going to show you how our shows can attract much larger crowds. Just as Victory MMA did with their show at the Fluxx Night Club. Their show sold-out and made a ton of money.

“In August alone, we have four shows scheduled. Simply put, there is no reason why LBC-44 gyms can’t compete with the LA crowd and save our local boxers and more importantly their supporters, from forking over all this money for travel expenses.

“We also want you to know we now have a policy in place where we pay half the boxer’s plane fare for a National Tournament, plus we pay half of their lodging. And, in some instances we can even offer you a per diem, a daily allowance for expenses. We’ve also negotiated a great price for the required Ambulance service for all shows. Your local LBC will pay half of that cost. Changes are being made. All we have to do is communicate.”

In regards to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, LBC-44 currently has four boxers, two male, two female with a shot at representing our country. They are Genaro Gamez, Danyelle Wolf, Stalacia Leggett and Abraham Martinez. I’ll bet some or most of you didn’t know that. You and I need to be informed about these things.”

Here is an outline of the competitions which lead to being selected to the USA Olympic Boxing Team:

Men – 10 Olympic Weight Divisions

1) Chattanooga, Tennessee Men’s Event, December, 2014 – one boxer chosen

2) USA National Championships Spokane, Washington, January, 2015 – one boxer

3) Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 20-27 – two boxers

4) Baltimore, Maryland, September 5-12 – two boxers were to be selected but the event has now been cancelled

5) Memphis, Tennessee, October 24-31 – two boxers

6) Men’s Olympic Trials, December date with the location to be announced – eight boxers in each weight division will compete in a double elimination tournament.

It should be noted the current Men’s National Team will be competing in the 2015 AIBA World Championships in Doha, Qatar on October 5-18. If any USA Boxer qualifies at this event, then that weight division will be not be contested at the December Men’s Olympic Trials.

(bottom, right) Genaro Gamez (l) and Abraham Ramirez, two of the four local boxers with a chance to go the 2016 Olympics in Brazil pose for a photo after a recent workout.

(bottom, right) Genaro Gamez (l) and Abraham Ramirez (r), two of the four local boxers that have an opportunity to go the 2016 Olympics in Brazil pose for a photo after a recent workout. The other two group photos show the hopefuls that are still working hard to maintain their position on Team USA.

The competition is fierce between the ladies Danyelle Wolf and the 2008 Gold Medalist Claressa Shields.

The competition is fierce between the ladies. Both Danyelle Wolf (l) and the 2012 Gold Medalist Claressa Shields (r) are training hard to nail down that 165 lbs. spot.

On Friday, July 24, 2015, Claressa Shields of Flint, Michigan won an unanimous decision victory over the Dominican Republic’s Yenebier Guillen in the women’s middleweight gold medal bout at the Pan American Games in Toronto. Women’s boxing made its Pan American Games debut in the 2011 event, one year before the sport’s first appearance in the 2012 Olympics. As the U.S. team failed to medal at the 2011 Pan American Games, Shields’ gold medal is the first for an American woman in Pan Am competition.

Shields has now won gold in every major international event contested in women’s boxing, taking titles in elite and youth world championships competition as well as her historic win at the 2012 Olympic Games. The 20-year-old recently moved from her home in Flint, Michigan to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to focus fully on her run at a second Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The other two young ladies vying for a spot are (left to right)

The other young ladies vying for a spot on the Olympic Team are (left to right) Marlen Esparza, who won the Bronze Medal in 2012 and Californian Stalacia Leggett who is from Oakland, Calif. but now resides locally in San Diego.

 Women – three Olympic Weight Divisions

1) USA National Championships Spokane, Washington, January, 2015 – two boxers

2) Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 20-27 – three boxers

3) Baltimore, Maryland September 5-12 – three boxers were to be selected – an event now in limbo.

  1. Women’s Olympic Trials, Memphis, Tennessee  October 24-31 – eight boxers in each weight division will compete in a double elimination tournament.

Advisory from USA Amateur Boxing, Colorado Springs: “Due to circumstances beyond our control, the men’s portion of the Pathway to Glory Olympic Trials Qualifier II of September 7th through the 12th in Baltimore, Maryland, has been postponed.”

Participants at Saturday's Coaches Meeting included Jason Haines (l) of CYAC, Border Patrol officer Edgar Sandoval of the Bound Boxing Academy and Sherman Sadsarin of Maxwell's Boxing.

Participants at Saturday’s Coaches Meeting included
Jason Haines (l) of the host gym National City CYAC, Border Patrol agent Edgar
Sandoval who trains boxers at the Bound Boxing Academy and
Sherman Sadsarin owner of the brand new Maxwell’s Boxing Gym in Miramar.

In this photo we see Julius Ballo after he was hoisted up on his father’s shoulders. That same day, Saturday, July 25, 2015, Ballo was a winner at the 2015 Jr. Golden Gloves Competition.

USA Amateur boxer and star in the making – In this photo we see Julius Ballo after he was hoisted up on his father’s shoulders. That same day, Saturday, July 25, 2015, Ballo was a winner at the 2015 Jr. Golden Gloves Competition.

Back to our Meeting: A discussion then ensued in regards to the requirement of once a year physicals for the safety of the boxers which led to the revelation that one boxer recently fought without adhering to the regulation of abstaining from sparring and competition for 30 days after he was ko’d.

President Fontan: “Whereas LBC-44’s boxing program prides itself on enforcing the rules, we often hear about these transgressions in other LBCs especially when our boxers travel north to Los Angeles to compete. An official who would allow this to happen should change his moniker to, “Safety not Guaranteed,” especially after failing to correctly check the boxer’s white passbook.

We believe in keeping our boxers safe!! If a restriction has been placed on a boxer that boxer MUST NOT “train” or “spar” during the restricted period per Rule All protective measures must apply if a Knockout and/or concussion occurs during training or anywhere. The Coach is responsible to report all incidents to USA Boxing.

“Let it be known that in our LBC, there will be no skirting of the rules. If you’re not familiar with the rules concerning the safety of an athlete, then you need to read the regulations.

This is the reason you have USA Boxing and state Athletic Commissions so the rules are followed and young people do not have their health put in jeopardy.  The sport of boxing needs more compliance, not less compliance. If known, the coach or coaches plus the official responsible for this oversight should have been reprimanded or maybe even suspended.

“That reminds me, there will be a “Coaches Clinic” on Saturday, August 8, 2015 at 9 a.m. Several local coaches need to attend in order to earn their certification to qualify to be in the corner during any USA Amateur event. Without the proper certification you will be barred from being in that corner.”

Also at Saturday’s con-flab, the coaches had an opportunity to talk about past differences. Just like my father used to say, “It’s easy to mistrust, even hate the man who lives at the end of the street. Why? Because you have never gotten to know him.” On Saturday, we saw coaches shaking hands and listening to one another. One coach was overheard saying, “I never knew that. So that’s why your boxers had to pull out of the show?”

(top, right) Head coaches and long time friends Sergio Melendrez (l) of the Alliance Training Center and Joe Vargas of The Arena pose for a photo. All photos: Jim Wyatt

(top, right) Head coaches and long time friends Sergio Melendrez (l) of the Alliance Training Center and Joe Vargas of The Arena pose for a photo. Below we see the LBC 44 President Hondo Fontan addressing the group. All photos: Jim Wyatt

Throughout Saturday’s meeting and the conversations that took place after the meeting, we noticed several fences being mended.

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