Air Force boxing back on base

  • Published
  • By Patrick Desmond
  • 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs
The Air Force School of Boxing is back in session at the boxing gym here.

As of Jan. 8, Air Force boxing coach Steven Franco has been leading his pupils through his brand of "boxing 101."

For camp veterans, such as All-Air Force light heavyweight Larry Hampp, two-time Air Force boxer Gary Griffin and camp returnee James Beck, the scene on the third day of training is a familiar one.

An Airman steps into center ring for an evaluation before his peers during a gym circuit workout.

Each boxer works through a series that includes jab, straight punch and hook combinations while maintaining the proper footwork and posture; the basics are reviewed.

The training is considering an abridged camp that began Jan. 8 and will continue until the Air Force tournament, the Box-offs, Jan. 22.

Franco said that emphasizing repetition of the basics, instead of just conditioning, is crucial to the performance of his group come fight night.

"We only have 14 days," he said. "The biggest thing that I try to teach is fundamentals and building off those fundamentals as much as we can until the Box-offs."

After the initial critique, the Airmen are set to 12 rounds of hitting bags with different combinations -- jabs, right hands, adding hooks.

"It's kind of like a burn out," Franco said. "You're burning out that arm."

The type of training, he said, increases the boxers' propensity to throw a seemingly endless amount of punches with proper form.

"The biggest thing with amateur boxing is the point system," the third-year coach said. "The more you throw, the more potential points."

Franco said he counts on the Air Force fitness program to fill the camp with conditioned athletes.

And since most of the Airmen are seasoned boxers, at least five bouts heading into the Armed Forces Boxing Championships, he knows most have separate regimens during the offseason.

Two potential Air Force boxers, Daniel Logan and Charlie Floyd, share the same base, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and train out of the same local boxing gym.

The eight camp boxers are four fewer than last year. While the talent pool is smaller, it makes one-on-one instruction easier.

Also, after two years of coaching alone, former Air Force boxer Rudy Moreno will join Franco as the assistant coach.

Moreno serves as a coach for a local boxing gym while stationed at Nellis AFB, Nev.

"It's a great privilege for Airmen to experience something beyond their career field," he said.

Franco continues his lesson in the ring, while Moreno helps Airmen grasp the nuances of the sport, such as glove position during retreat, attack and sidestep movements.

Looking ahead, the boxers' calendar is stacked with other workouts such as plyometrics, strength and conditioning routines, sparring, and of course, roadwork.

However, this time the "Air Force track team" might more closely resemble a group of Usain Bolts. At least that's the power Franco would like to produce in his boxers. He plans on cutting down the number of miles and focusing on high-intensity sprints to promote the explosive speed.

"We haven't run anything over three miles yet," Franco said. "I want that blast in the ring. I want them to be conditioned to speed, and hopefully that transfers over into our sparring."

It's a big year for Air Force boxing, as well as amateur competition, since Lackland AFB hosts the 2011 Armed Forces Championship in an Olympic-Trial year.

"This year, my main goal is to have at least one person make it (to the trials)," Franco said. "In order to get there, we have to win a gold medal at Armed Forces."

Last year, Hampp fell just short of that goal, losing to Army's Jeffery Spencer, the eventual 2010 USA Boxing national champion, at Armed Forces.

He's eager for another opportunity to take on the year-round programs of the Marine Corps and Army, and a shot at making an Olympic squad.

"This year is a big year," he said. "I'd like to be able to represent my branch of service."

"Mentally, I don't think I was strong enough (last year)," he said. "But I'm coming back stronger, and with two wins under my belt last month."

The champion from each weight class at Armed Forces qualifies for the Olympic Trials scheduled for July.

With a week left to train, Airmen will have to prove they are quick studies in order to earn a spot on the Air Force team to compete at Armed Forces, which may be as small as three servicemen, Franco said.

Their first test is the Air Force Box-offs, and a fight card likely filled by amateurs from local gyms.

Selections to the Air Force team to compete in the Armed Forces Boxing Championship Feb. 14 will be made following the Box-offs.

Other camp boxers are Forrest Booker, of Royal Air Force Alconbury, England; and James Barber, of Tinker AFB.