All-Army boxing championships gives Soldier opportunity
Spc. George Way, right, HSC, DHHB, practices before competing in the 2011 All-Army Boxing Championships. Way has been boxing for more than two years and participated in the annual event where Soldier athletes can try out for the All-Army Boxing Team.
Story by: Stephanie Hoff
1ST INF. DIV. PUBLIC AFFAIRS
An often memorable character from the 2001 motion picture, "Pearl Harbor," was a naval cook, Doris Miller, portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr. During his off-duty hours, Miller had battled his way to earning the title as the ship's heavyweight boxing champion.
Despite joining the U.S. Army and competing in a lighter weight class, Spc. George Way's story may appear similar to that of Gooding's character. Way, a food service specialist with Headquarters and Support Company, Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, recently returned to Fort Riley after spending almost a month at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., competing in the 2011 All-Army Boxing Championships.
The event has been hosted at the post for the past 25 years and has served as the yearly opportunity for Soldiers to vie for a spot on the All-Army Boxing Team.
"It was basically non-stop training. We practiced two to three times a day, ran every morning and at the same time learning new stuff every day about boxing – just getting a lot of experience," Way said. "It was exciting. Very exciting. That fact that I even got picked was very humbling. It was good all the way through."
Way, along with 23 other Soldier athletes from around the world, practiced and trained at Fort Huachuca for about a month before competing in the 2011 All-Army Boxing Championships Feb. 4 and 5. The results of the championships determine which Soldiers qualify for the All-Army Boxing Team.
"For some of these athletes that we have in All-Army this year, this is the biggest stage that they've ever been on," said Basheer Abdullah, head coach, All-Army Boxing team, during an interview with the Fort Huachuca Public Affairs Office. "It's a great opportunity for them. We know that when they leave here they are going to be better athletes and better Soldiers."
Way began his boxing career more than two years ago, shortly before enlisting in the Army. Following his training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and Fort Lee, Va., his first assignment was with the "Big Red One" at Fort Riley, Kan. Since then, he has boxed with organizations in Manhattan, Topeka and Kansas City, as well as fundraising boxing matches for charity.
At the end of 2009, Way deployed with DHHB for a yearlong tour to Iraq. Despite the location and his irregular work schedule, he continued to pursue his boxing passion throughout the deployment. He remains grateful to his leadership for the support they showed and continue to express for his boxing career.
"It surprised me how supportive they were," he said. I have a lot of people in my unit who either were fans of boxing or were former boxers. I had a lot of people who were supporting me, especially my first sergeant, so that helped a lot."
This January, less than a month after redeploying to Fort Riley, Way headed to Fort Huachuca for the monthlong camp leading up to the championships. Way ended up being outpointed by Sgt. John Rene, from Heldelberg, Germany, in the 165-pound bronze medal competition. The match-up included nine hard-fought minutes in a bout that kept the crowd enthralled, reported Army News Service.
Despite the loss during the championships, Way is already preparing to compete in the boxing tournament included in the Big Red One's "Victory Week" as well as returning to compete for a spot on the 2012 All-Army Boxing Team.
He commended the role the Army has played in not only making him a better Soldier but a better boxer.
"If anything, (the Army) trains us mentally. Just dealing with our job and all the stresses that come with that; they kind of are similar to boxing. So it helps make you ready mentally. In boxing, you have to be more prepared mentally than physically," he said. "In some ways, I see (boxing) as an outlet for my personality. I'm not really a confrontational person. Whenever something as far as work or anything else is stressing me out, boxing is my outlet."
Way said he is undecided if he will stay in the Army once his current commitment ends, but his goals for boxing are unshaken.
"When I get out of the military, I'm going pro."