Tag Archives: Boxing

Ex-NCO comes up short in welterweight boxing main event

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

Sammy Vasquez Jr. entered the ring Thursday night for a nationally televised welterweight boxing match, believing it was a bout he couldn’t afford to lose.

The only problem? His opponent felt the same way.

Vasquez, a former sergeant with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, suffered the second loss of his career when he was knocked out in the sixth round by Luis Collazo. The fight was the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card at the Horseshoe Tunica Hotel and Casino in Tunica, Mississippi.

Vasquez (21-2) entered the fight coming off the first setback of his career, a unanimous decision loss to Felix Diaz in July. Collazo was Vasquez’s original opponent in that summer tilt before an injury in training camp made way for Diaz. Vasquez remained eager to eventually face the battle-tested Collazo in order to salvage his top-15 ranking in boxing’s premier division.

But Collazo (37-7) had plans of his own. The veteran southpaw hadn’t fought since a July 2015 loss to WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman. The long layoff gave many experts reason to write off the 35-year-old. He knew he had a weapon in his repertoire that could prove otherwise.

“I knew his big punch was the right hook,” Vasquez told reporters after the fight. “I was working on keeping my hand up to block it. I dropped it at the wrong time, and he got me.”

Collazo first connected with the punch in Round 3, sending Vasquez to the canvas. He then deftly lured the Iraq War veteran into the knockout blow in the sixth round.

“In the locker room, my team was telling me that he’s going to be waiting for it,” Collazo said. “We wanted to touch him soft down low and then go up top. We opened him up. We both tried to line up the hook, and mine landed first.”

Vasquez controlled the action early, using his movement and jab to nullify Collazo’s aggressive approach. But Collazo found his target in Round 3, resulting in the knockdown. Vasquez regained his legs in the fourth round, peppering Collazo with a flurry of punches that opened a cut above his right eye. Action slowed down in Round 5 as Vasquez resumed keeping Collazo at bay with his movement, seemingly clawing his way back into the fight.

But it all came to a violent end in Round 6.

Though disappointed with the result, Vasquez also approached the setback with a different perspective. He previously stated that he has been in the biggest fight of his life. Vasquez deployed twice to Iraq with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in 2005-’06 and in 2008-’09. He carries the hidden scars of war. Last year, Vasquez revealed he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He attends weekly sessions with a counselor and sees a psychiatrist regularly. Vasquez said his progress is bolstered by the physical outlet boxing provides.

After his second consecutive loss, Vasquez knows he will have an arduous task ahead of him to climb up the welterweight rankings again. But — as he did last summer — he is willing to make the trek back.

“Obviously this is going to set me back,” he said. “I need to come back stronger. I hope that I can come back and fight someone that can help me move up the ranks.”

 

 

Soldiers shine at Olympics as runner wins, loses, wins silver medal

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

While he holds the distinction of being an All-American runner from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Spc. Paul Chelimo never won an NCAA championship.

Now, he’s an Olympic medalist.

But the path to the silver medal claimed by Chelimo on Saturday night in the men’s 5,000-meter race at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, wasn’t easy. In fact, it was downright unusual.

The 25-year-old water treatment specialist and member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program at Fort Carson, Colorado, stayed with the front of the pack of 15 runners throughout the race. He opened up his stride in the final 150 meters to outkick every competitor save for the exceptional Mohamed Farah. Farah won the 10,000 and 5,000 in Rio, the same pair of races he won at the 2012 London Olympics.

But Chelimo’s second-place finish was astounding, considering he was relatively unheralded and needed a frenetic effort at the end of his semifinal qualifying race just to earn a spot in the final. Nonetheless, Chelimo finished the final with a personal best time of 13:03:90, and the American celebration began as his second-place effort meant the first American medal in the race since 1964.

But on the way to a television interview, officials dropped a bombshell – Chelimo was disqualified. He was notified during the interview. A crestfallen Chelimo stepped back from the microphone but continued the interview.

“My intention was not to impede anyone,” Chelimo said.

Spc. Paul Chelimo, center, opens up his stride in the final 150 meters of the 5,000-meter race at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Spc. Paul Chelimo, center, opens up his stride in the final 150 meters of the 5,000-meter race at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Just like that, Chelimo’s impressive feat was nullified. Television replays showed his left foot land slightly out of bounds while rounding a curve. He could also be seen extending his arm while bumping occurred among the pack of runners. Neither of these actions is uncommon in distance running and officials have discretion when considering whether they give runners unfair advantages. In Chelimo’s case, the initial verdict was lane infringement.

But this edition of the Olympics has not been without unique appeals. The U.S. women’s 4×100 relay team successfully lobbied to rerun their race after they complained of being impeded by Brazilian runners. They went on to win the gold medal.

U.S. track officials appealed Chelimo’s disqualification immediately. After further review by the governing International Associations of Athletics Federations, Chelimo was reinstated as the silver medalist an hour after being stripped of the honor.

“Now, I’m really happy,” Chelimo told reporters after the successful appeal. “It’s the best feeling ever. It’s the best, best feeling ever.”

NCO helps lead boxer into history

Team USA’s Olympic gold-medal drought for men’s boxers will last 16 years.

But one of the country’s female boxers vaulted herself into the annals of boxing with her performance Sunday. And an NCO from WCAP had a hand in it.

Claressa Shields beat Nouchka Fountijn of the Netherlands by unanimous decision for the women’s middleweight boxing title. It was Shields’ second consecutive gold medal win, having previously claimed the prize at the 2012 London Olympics. Shields is the first American to win back-to-back gold medals.

One of the coaches that helped her make history is an NCO.

Sgt. 1st Class Joe Guzman is part of the coaching staff led by Billy Walsh. For Guzman, who is an assistant boxing coach for WCAP, the Olympics are familiar territory. He was part of the staff for Team USA Boxing at the 2012 London Olympics as a trainer. This time around, he is a full-fledged assistant, part of a staff that includes Augie Sanchez in addition to Walsh.

The coaching staff led bantamweight Shakur Stevenson to the gold-medal match Saturday but fell short against Cuban Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana.

NCO completes pentathlon

Sgt. Nathan Schrimsher entered the final day of action in the modern pentathlon in ninth-place overall after an impressive day of fencing.

But the 24-year-old motor transport operator and WCAP member couldn’t close the gap. Schrimsher finished in 11th place among the field of 36 athletes. He was the only American competing in the pentathlon.

The best performance by an American in the competition came in 1912 when George S. Patton, the man who would eventually become a famed U.S. Army general, finished in fifth place at the Summer Games in Stockholm, Sweden.

NCO ranked in top 10 heading into final day of modern pentathlon

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

No American has ever won the modern pentathlon since its inception at the Olympic Games in 1912. An NCO is in a decent position to be the first.

Sgt. Nathan Schrimsher heads into the final day of the competition Saturday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in ninth place overall. Schrimsher, a motor transport operator and member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program at Fort Carson, Colorado, is America’s lone competitor in the modern pentathlon. The 24-year-old is being coached at the Olympics by fellow WCAP member and 2012 Olympian, Staff Sgt. Dennis Bowsher.

The modern pentathlon is rooted in military endeavors, Schrimsher told the Albuquerque Tribune last month. The competition — which consists of fencing, swimming, jumping, running and shooting — is comprised of events that a 19th century cavalry Soldier would have to be proficient in.

“He had to have the ability to ride a horse he had never met before, to be able to cross land or water by running or swimming, and then be able to defend himself with a sword and gun to deliver the message across enemy lines to the commander,” Schrimsher said.

Schrimsher showed his savvy with the épée sword during the first day of competition Thursday. He scored 20 wins, good for 220 points and a No. 9 ranking. The competition concludes Saturday with the swimming, jumping and run-shoot events.

No matter the outcome, Schrimsher said he is grateful to represent his country both on sports’ biggest stage and as a Soldier.

“The Army has supported me for three years,” he said. “Without that support it would be extremely hard on me. But it’s an honor to be able to represent not only my country through athletic perspective, but to represent the Army is awesome.”

NCO leads 2 boxers into gold-medal bouts

Team USA boxing will have two shots at a gold medal.

Claressa Shields punched her ticket to the women’s middleweight gold-medal match after beating Kazakhstan’s Dariga Shakimova by unanimous decision Friday in their semifinal match. Shields joins Shakur Stevenson (men’s bantamweight) as the two U.S. boxers remaining in the hunt for the country’s first gold medal since Andre Ward claimed the hardware in the light heavyweight division of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

When the pair returns to the ring for action Friday and Sunday, they will have an NCO in their corner.

Sgt. 1st Class Joe Guzman is part of the coaching staff led by Billy Walsh. For Guzman, who is an assistant boxing coach for the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program at Fort Carson, Colorado, the Olympics are familiar territory. He was part of the staff for Team USA Boxing at the 2012 London Olympics as a trainer. This time around, he is a full-fledged assistant, part of a staff that includes Augie Sanchez in addition to Walsh.

Shields will fight Nouchka Fontijn of the Netherlands on Sunday. Stevenson faces Cuba’s Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana on Saturday.

Nunn competes in 50k race walk

Staff Sgt. John Nunn finished 42nd out of 80 competitors in the 50-kilometer race walking competition Friday.

Despite missing out on a medal, finishing the race was momentous enough for the dental hygiene specialist. Nunn, a WCAP member, was in danger of missing out on his third Olympic berth earlier this year before mustering the fortitude that has made him a standout Soldier.

Nunn was stricken by the flu during the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, which took place February in Santee, California. In order to qualify, Nunn was told he would have to finish the race in order to punch his ticket to Rio despite having previously attained the “A” standard time required for the team at a race two months earlier.

So with a body temperature topping 100 degrees, chills, aches and swollen eyes, Nunn took to the track and ended up winning with a personal best time.

Nunn finished the race Friday with a time of 4:16:12.

Sgt. Nathan Schrimsher fences during modern pentathlon competition at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, in this July 2015 photo. Schrimsher is ranked ninth overall heading into the final day of competition at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)
Sgt. Nathan Schrimsher fences during modern pentathlon competition at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada, in this July 2015 photo. Schrimsher is ranked ninth overall heading into the final day of competition at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)

Army athletes continue quest for gold at Rio Olympics

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

The gold-medal chase is still on for several Soldier-athletes taking part in the 2016 Olympic Games as the competition enters its final week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Sgt. Hillary Bor continued to impress in his unlikely trek to the Games by winning his semifinal heat Monday in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 8:25.01. Bor’s time ranks sixth overall among competitors. He will run in the 3,000-meter steeplechase final Wednesday morning.

For Bor, who wasn’t mentioned in most media projections of pre-Olympic Trials favorites to earn berths on Team USA, the chance to race for a medal is an unprecedented opportunity. While he was an accomplished NCAA steeplechaser, having been named an All-American four times while attending Iowa State University, Bor had stopped running competitively for nearly two years before he enlisted in 2013.

“I was not running when I joined the military,” Bor told the Army news service last month after his runner-up finish at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon. “Then I started running for fun just to represent the Army at the Army Ten-Miler and in cross country.”

That fun developed into a competitive streak, one that Bor used to help his All-Army team win this year’s Armed Forces Cross Country Championship at Bend, Oregon. Bor followed that up with his Olympic berth. Now he has a chance to claim one of sports’ biggest prizes, something he said he wouldn’t have been able to achieve without the resilience he has honed while part of the Army. He is also grateful for the opportunity to compete at all given that his unit – the 230th Financial Management Support Unit, 4th Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade – at Fort Carson, Colorado, is currently deployed to Afghanistan.

“I was actually scheduled to deploy with my unit, but my (Army) brothers deployed instead of me,” Bor said. “That changed my mindset, that I needed to work out, because you don’t take anything for granted. I started training hard, and I realized that I had a chance.”

That chance arrives Wednesday.

Boxing team

Three U.S. boxers remain in the hunt for the country’s first gold medal since Andre Ward claimed the hardware in the light heavyweight division of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

When Shakur Stevenson (bantamweight), Gary Russell (light welterweight) and Claressa Shields (women’s middleweight) return to the ring for action today and Wednesday, they will have an NCO in their corner.

Sgt. 1st Class Joe Guzman is part of the coaching staff led by Billy Walsh. For Guzman, who is an assistant boxing coach for the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program at Fort Carson, Colorado, the Olympics are familiar territory. He was part of the staff for Team USA Boxing at the 2012 London Olympics as a trainer. This time around, he is a full-fledged assistant, part of a staff that includes Augie Sanchez in addition to Walsh.

Guzman has been a WCAP coach since 2008. Before his foray into coaching, he was an accomplished boxer in his own right. Guzman was a three-time All Armed Forces champion and won a silver medal at the 2007 World Military Championships. He qualified for the Olympic Trials in 2008, but his career was cut short by a knee injury.

Other news

Three other Soldiers, including two NCOs, from the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program compete later this week.

Sgt. Nathan Schrimsher begins action in the modern pentathlon Thursday. Schrimsher is coached by fellow Soldier, Staff Sgt. Dennis Bowsher. Staff Sgt. John Nunn competes in the 50-kilometer race walk Friday. Spc. Paul Chelimo will run Wednesday in the 5,000-meter race.

Six other athletes from WCAP and the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit have already finished competition at the Rio Olympics. They include:

  • Sgt. 1st Class Josh Richmond finished 7th overall in the men’s double trap competition Aug. 10.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Glenn Eller finished 14th overall in the men’s double trap competition Aug. 10
  • Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sanderson finished 10th overall in the men’s 25-meter rapid fire pistol competition Saturday.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Michael McPhail finished 19th overall in the men’s 50-meter rifle prone competition Friday.
  • Spc. Leonard Korir finished 14th overall and Spc. Shadrack Kipchirchir finished 19th overall in the men’s 10,000-meter race
  • Sgt. Hillary Bor runs the 3,000-meter steeplechase July 8 at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon. Bor finished second to earn a spot in the Rio Olympics. He has reached the finals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase, which will be run Wednesday (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)
    Sgt. Hillary Bor runs the 3,000-meter steeplechase July 8 at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon. Bor finished second to earn a spot in the Rio Olympics. He has reached the finals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase, which will be run Wednesday (Tim Hipps / Army News Service)