Men’s Boxing secures 8th National title, Women take title

By Maj. Will Kobbe DPE Instructor/Boxing Coach

April 13th, 2017 | News, News and Features
The Army West Point Men’s Boxing team (left) took the NCBA team title again and three individual titles April 6-8 in Lawrenceburg, Ind. Sophomore Carlan Ivey (125 pounds and two-time national champ), junior Chris Bingham (195 pounds) and senior Matt Whitcomb (heavyweight) earned individual titles with the national championship coming down to the last fight with Whitcomb beating a Navy boxer. The Air Force Academy placed second. The Army West Point Women’s Boxing Team also earned a national championship.  Sophomore Ejakhianaghe Obiomon won at 156  pounds to take the national champion belt.  Courtesy Photos

Resilience, grit and determination are a few of the many attributes necessary to be an effective combat leader and Army officer. All three happen to define the brotherhood of the Army West Point Men’s Boxing team.

Throughout the past nine years, the Army West Point Men’s Boxing team has claimed seven National Collegiate Boxing Association (NCBA) national titles. Coach Ray Barone and the team have set this standard, anything less is considered a failure.

The team ends every session with “Road to Eight,” signifying the gold standard, a national championship.

Army West Point hit gold by taking the NCBA team title again and three individual titles April 6-8 in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

Sophomore Carlan Ivey (125 pounds and two-time national champ), junior Chris Bingham (195 pounds) and senior Matt Whitcomb (heavyweight) earned individual titles with the National Championship coming down to the last fight with Whitcomb beating a Navy boxer. The Air Force Academy placed second.

The Army West Point Women’s Boxing team also earned a national championship. Sophomore Ejakhianaghe Obiomon won at 165 pounds to take the national champion belt.

The path to the men’s team’s eighth national championship began immediately following the conclusion of the AY15-16 run at number seven.

Prior to the team’s summer departure to various locations for USMA military training, time at home or military schooling, the team gathered for one last huddle.

Cadet Team Captain Curtis Estes, the defending 165-pound national champion, reminded the team that national titles are won in the months leading up to competition.

Additionally, he ensured the team members that no slot is guaranteed and to expect to come ready to compete in August for a roster position.

August brought a new crop of cadets willing to participate in open competition.

The team selected 60 of 120 applicants, some elected not to finish tryouts, as the intensity and conditioning can be overbearing.

The team is mostly comprised of plebes and yearlings who understand their role. For most, they will not be the number one boxer representing the team in the regional and national competition. They willingly accept this position, working tirelessly in the shadows to sharpen the skills of the veteran boxers.

Throughout the next four months, the captains monitored the progress of each individual hoping to determine the boxers who will represent the Academy at the Regional Tournament.

The team must endure an internal competition to finalize the 11 weight classes.

Beginning in January, cadets conducted preliminary bouts in Arvin Cadet Physical Development Center whittling the field to two per weight class.

The competition to determine the regional team is known as the Brigade Boxing Open, which has been a staple of West Point for 61 years.

Through BBO to the regional finals held at Lock Haven University, the team fought to Lawrenceburg.

Entering the final evening’s competition, Army West Point held a point advantage over the U.S. Air Force Academy in the overall team component.

The following was each West Point boxer’s final results:

• 119 pounds—Freshman Isiah Ortiz fought valiantly as an underdog against the defending National Champion from USAFA. Ortiz, who has boxed for only six months, but forced the judges to decide a close fight. The team could not be more proud of his efforts. Air Force held team advantage, AWP sat in second after the bout.

• 125 pounds—Ivey secured AWP’s first National Individual Champion of the evening. Ivey added to his trophy collection with his second belt. AWP regained number one position after his bout.

• 132 pounds—Sophomore Vonn Grant demonstrated an incredible amount of skill and determination to win his two preliminary bouts heading into the finals. Grant dropped a highly-contested split decision in the finals.

Team Air Force regained the top spot after winning the 139-pound class. Army had to wait until the final two bouts to earn much needed points. Prior to the 195-pound contest, Army sat in third place behind the USAFA and the University of Washington. Then, the ultimate Cinderella story began …

• 195 pounds—Bingham is the ultimate Cinderella as his placement as the 195 representative happened weeks earlier due to injuries. Bingham served as the MC for the Brigade Open, now the team title rested on his shoulders.

To complete the story book ending, the opponent happened to be a three-time defending national champion. The odds were not in Army’s favor. Bingham paid no attention and used his quickness to delivery striking blows while moving about the ring, frustrating his opponent. Bingham secured the belt with a unanimous decision. The team was now in second with USAFA in first.

• Heavyweight—The final bout, Whitcomb is a giant of a man. Standing over 6’5” and 265 pounds, the former football player had the weight of 59 brothers on his broad shoulders.

To make this story complete, Whitcomb was fighting a boxer from the Naval Academy.

The first round could not have been more one sided, as the Navy boxer imposed his will on Whitcomb.

Coach Barone reiterated to Whitcomb that Navy was trying to take what was rightfully Army’s, the whole season, the hours of pain would be decided in the next 90 seconds.

Inspired to find something within, he charged ahead, securing two standing eight counts. With little to no technique, Whitcomb continued to throw devastating punches at the Navy fighter.

The official seeing the onslaught of lefts and rights called the fight one minute into the second round. Whitcomb leapt into the air and the team embraced each other as their eighth National Championship had been secured.

Three individual titles, one team title, mission accomplished; the “Road to Eight” was complete.

The jubilant team posed for pictures and accepted the team title.

As they have become accustomed to doing, they met in the middle for one last break down. Estes lead the team in shouting “Road to Nine!”

(Editor’s note: A Women’s Boxing story on their national championship will be in next week’s Pointer View.)