And In This Corner...
March 5, 2004
USAF ACADEMY, Colo. -
Although the Wing Open Championship is a culmination of a year of hard work and dedication - for the winning boxers, it is also the start of a season of competition on the regional and national level.
One of the most anxiously anticipated events on the Air Force sports calendar, the tournament is an extension of an optional boxing class and intramural program that is offered to the Wing in the fall. Any cadet may volunteer for the tournament, which begins in February.
The opening rounds of the tournament are held in the Upper Boxing Room of the Cadet Gym. The intensity builds throughout each round and soon the capacity of the boxing room is not enough to contain the thrill of collegiate boxing.
"This is always an exciting time of year," head coach Eddie Weichers says of the tournament. "All of the boxers bring such a strong will to win and that makes these matches so intense. Every single one of them knows that they are just one bout away from the Wing Open finals. Clune Arena is where they all want to be."
The championship round is a classy show that is enjoyed by everyone. Cadets, in formal attire, usher the spectators to their seats, while the Cadet Drum and Bugle Corps entertains the crowd.
Once the action starts, fans cheer for their favorite boxers.
The boxers display a burning desire to win their weight class title. Along with winning the Wing Open title is a trip to the regional competition as the Academy's representative.
In the 46-year history of the Wing Open, nine cadets have made their mark by winning their division title for four consecutive years. These former boxing standouts are Jim Ingram (1964), Gary Vasek (1968), "Buzz" Dyre (1969), Charlie Stallworth (1973), Alex Cline (1980), Ricky Graham (1982), Bryan Dunn (1993), Mike Benza (2000) and Joel Rivera (2001).
Three Falcons - Ricky Graham, Arturo Alvarado and Mike Benza - have claimed four consecutive National Collegiate Boxing Association titles.
Since 1984, the Wing Open has donated more than $190,000 to charitable organizations or families in need in the Colorado Springs area. The organizations have included the Boys' Club, Special Olympics, Multiple Sclerosis of Colorado Springs, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Ronald McDonald House, the Bone Marrow Donor Foundation and most recently, the Colorado Springs Cancer Center.
The original group of 54 hopefuls was narrowed down to 20 finalists. The champions of the Wing Open will form the core of the team that will represent the Academy in national collegiate competition. The 2004 NCBA West Regional championships will be held on March 18-20 at the University of California in Berkeley. The winners from the regional competition advance to the national championships, April 1-3, at the El Dorado Hotel in Reno, Nev.
With six boxers returning from the 2003 national championship team, including defending national champion Clell Knight, this year's Wing Open promises to feature one of the finest cards ever assembled.
The weight divisions start at 125 pounds and proceed through 132, 139, 147, 156, 165, 175, 185, 195 and heavyweight.