While a February blizzard descended on the state of Colorado, the United States’ top boxers closed their first training camp of 2016 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. USA Boxing’s Olympic Trials winners opened the Olympic year in a joint training camp with the top women’s squad from Great Britain, including 2012 Olympic flyweight champion Nicola Adams and former world titlist Savannah Marshall.
“I planned this camp as part of our preparation for the Rio qualifier in Buenos Aires. The British team is one of the best teams in the World,” said USA Boxing Women’s National Team Coach Billy Walsh. “Our team needed to see how other nations work as full-time athletes. We were also privileged to have two of the three Olympic gold medalists from London in the same camp. Both nations will reap the rewards as the qualification process unfolds.”
USA Boxing’s Olympic Trials for Women’s Boxing winners Virginia Fuchs (Kemah, Texas), lightweight Mikaela Mayer (Los Angeles, Calif.), middleweight Claressa Shields (Flint, Mich.) were joined by three of their 2016 Women’s World Championships teammates for the 10-day training camp. 2012 Olympic bronze medalist and 2016 light flyweight representative Marlen Esparza (Houston, Texas), 2012 World Championships bantamweight bronze medalist Christina Cruz (New York, N.Y.), and Women’s World Team Trial light heavyweight champion Tika Hemingway (Brackenridge, Pa.) joined the three Trials winners at the OTC.
In addition to Adams and Marshall, two world championships silver medalists traveled with the Great Britain squad to the United States for the training camp. 2014 World Championships flyweight and light welterweight silver medalists Lisa Jane Whiteside and Sandy Ryan as well as newcomer Chantelle Cameron made the trip across the pond to train alongside Team USA’s best. In addition to the athletes, coaches Lee Pullen and John Pocknell, strength and conditioning coach James Hairsine, and Team GB staff member Laura Ross, and physiotherapist Charlotte Steggles traveled to the United States to support their squad.
Joint training camps with other top boxing nations provide a unique opportunity for athletes from both teams to prepare at their highest levels and get experience with some of the best athletes in the world. The Great Britain and USA Boxing staffs worked closely to introduce the athletes to drills and training tools that they had not seen previously.
USA Boxing’s elite women truly enjoyed their joint training camp on home soil. “It was a great camp. I got to work some of the most experienced boxers in the world,” Fuchs said. “The drills and test matches helped me see what I will be up against in the international field. It definitely helped prepare me for our first qualifiers in Argentina.”
Lightweight Mayer gained a lot from the joint training camp as well. “I really enjoy participating in these international camps. We got to work with our competition and really test ourselves and gain confidence through sparring sessions and test matches,” she said. “Everyone from Team GB had good energy and they were fun to work with. I’m excited to face off with them in the future.”
In addition to training alongside her teammates and British counterparts, Shields took time outside of the gym to raise funds and water for her beloved during the Flint Water Crisis. The Olympic champion manned a table at the Olympic Training Center during an international wrestling event to solicit donations and encourage awareness of the ongoing issue in her hometown.
The nine newly crowned Olympic Trials for Men’s champions and 2016 Olympian Carlos Balderas (Santa Maria, Calif.) participated in their first training camp at the Olympic Training Center with their female counterparts. Light flyweight Nico Hernandez (Wichita, Kansas), bantamweight Shakur Stevenson (Newark, N.J.), light welterweight Gary Russell (Capitol Heights, Md.), middleweight Charles Conwell (Cleveland Heights, Ohio), and heavyweight Cam F. Awesome (Lenexa, Kansas) traveled to Colorado Springs directly from their 2016 World Series of Boxing season opener in Miami. Stevenson won his WSB debut in such impressive fashion that he was named the WSB Boxer of the Week by AIBA. The 18-year-old swept all five rounds on all of the judges’ scorecards to receive the international recognition and he is the first American boxer to receive the honor.
The five WSB opening week boxers met their teammates flyweight Antonio Vargas (Kissimmee, Fla.), Balderas, welterweight Paul Kroll (Philadelphia, Pa.), light heavyweight Jonathan Esquivel (Anaheim, Calif.), and super heavyweight Marlo Moore (Hayward, Calif.) at the OTC for their first training camp as the 2016 squad. Olympic Trials silver medalist Brandon Lynch (Albany, N.Y.) and WSB and World Team Trial welterweight champion Brian Ceballo (Brooklyn, N.Y.) came out to Colorado Springs to provide sparring for the trials champions.
In addition to joint training and sparring with the Great Britain squad and specialized strength and conditioning sessions with the USOC’s expert staff, the American team participated in valuable training sessions with USA Boxing’s Women’s National Team Head Coach Billy Walsh and coaches Israel Acosta (Milwaukee, Wis.), Kevin Greene (Columbia, S.C.), Joe Guzman (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Kay Koroma (Burke, Va.), Benny Roman (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Augie Sanchez (Las Vegas, Nev.).
The athletes and coaches didn’t solely train their bodies in the opening camp of 2016, they always received valuable knowledge in numerous areas outside of the boxing gym. The U.S. team underwent classes in nutrition and media training as well as educational sessions from USADA and the USOC medical insurance personnel.
The Great Britain squad will return home today with all of the American boxers scheduled to depart tomorrow. Vargas, Balderas, Kroll, Esquivel and Lynch will all compete in the USA Knockouts second bout of 2016 in Miami on Friday while the remainder of the men’s squad will return home.
USA Boxing is scheduled to have their second joint training camp of the year with powerhouse Azerbaijan later this month in preparation for the first international Olympic qualifier in March.