Not exactly, but just as exciting for those involved! I am not sure if my L’il Trooper was able to participate in the tournament. We spoke with him for about 2 minutes on Saturday and he was pretty sick. I know this was an event that had been looking forward to participating in.
Tournament kicks off opening weekend; 14 fights rock FOB Union III
By Sgt. Robert Yde
2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs
FORWARD OPERATING BASE UNION III, Iraq – After several weeks of preparation, the “Black Jack Boxing Fight Night Tournament” kicked off May 4 with Soldiers from throughout the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
Several hundred Soldiers were on hand to watch the first weekend of the two weekend event, which is being hosted by 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment and 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment in a bombed-out foyer in the former Ba’ath Party Headquarters where the 3-82nd FA is based.
Fourteen fights were held May 4 and 5, with winners advancing to the second weekend. The championship bouts are scheduled for the evening of May 13.
“This was kind of like an opening fight night,” said Spc. Timothy Dunbar, 3-82nd. “Next Friday and Saturday we close out the brackets. We needed to close down some fights this weekend and the winners will take on each other next week”
Dunbar, a Lowell, Mass. native, headed up the effort in constructing the ring and organizing the event and said that the first night met all of his expectations.
“I think the overall outcome of it was very good, and I think everyone had a good time,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing – everyone enjoying themselves, that’s what we’re looking for.”
Dunbar added that while one of the main focuses was for everyone involved to have a good time, it was just as important to maintain the safety of the boxers. Much of this responsibility fell into the hands of those who volunteered to referee and judge the event.
“I put a PowerPoint presentation together and gave them all a brief before,” Dunbar said of the training he provided the referees and judges. “We just went over the safety issues because the biggest thing we were stressing was safety because the mission is first over here. They definitely did a good job.”
Each bout was three rounds, each a minute-and-a half, with 45 seconds between each round. While that may not sound like a lot time, according to Spc. Christopher Thomas, who won the first fight of the night, fatigue can definitely set in quickly if a fighter is not properly conditioned.
“It seems like it’s not a lot of time because it’s only four-and-a-half minutes and you get to rest 45 seconds between each round, but when you’re fighting for a whole minute-and-a-half, it’s definitely a gruesome, tiring sport,” Thomas, a Camden, N.J. native with Co. C, 1-5 Cavalry, explained. “Boxing is the most tiring sport. You can get hurt seriously and the whole goal is to hurt the other person, so you’ve got to stay in shape. You’ve got to definitely train harder than you work.”
Thomas, who started boxing during his last deployment to Iraq in 2004, said he was impressed with the quality of the ring, and that it felt good being able to get back into a boxing ring.
“The ring’s perfect and the floor felt great,” he said. “My legs were burning, and I was a little bit nervous in the beginning, but once you start throwing punches and once you get hit a little bit, all that goes out the window.”
Although several of the participants, such as Thomas, had some prior experience boxing, for many of the Soldiers, this was the first time they had ever stepped into a ring.
“I thought it would be a challenge,” said Spc. Mary Gordon, explaining why she decided to participate in the tournament. “I used to play other sports, and I wanted to try doing this. It’s one-on-one, and it really challenges somebody.”
Although she lost her match, Gordon, originally from Bellingham, Wash., said the experience was a good one and she hopes to participate in future tournaments.
Throughout the night, the fighters seemed to feed off of the energy of the enthusiastic crowd.
“The crowd reacts to what they see going on, and since it’s them up there – it’s the representation of their group that’s up there – when their fighter is doing good, they’re going to be doing good,” said Pfc. Timothy Iuchs, one of the event organizers with 3-82 FA. “I’m just glad that the guys got into it and they took it seriously.”
Dunbar agreed with Iuchs that the crowd’s reaction was one of the greatest contributors to the atmosphere of the fight night.
“You put two guys in the corners, each representing their own unit; everyone wants to be the loudest and everyone’s proud of their unit,” Dunbar said. “I think it builds up good morale and team camaraderie.”
After seeing the turn-out and success of the first weekend, Iuchs, originally from Sedalia, Mo., said that he expects an even larger, louder crowd for next weekend’s championship bouts.
“I think the crowd will increase now that the word’s out about the atmosphere and how everybody feels about it,” he said. “It’s just going to get bigger and better.”
Pvt. Richard Gray (left) of Battery A, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, Pfc. David Flores of Company C, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, prepare to square off during the “Black Jack Boxing Fight Night Tournament” May 5. Soldiers from the throughout the 2nd “Black Jack” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, participated in the first of two weekends of fights at Forward Operating Base Union III in Baghdad. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Robert Yde, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)