After hundreds of punches were thrown, countless fights were completed, and resilient champions were crowned, the three long days of boxing at USF had come to an end, and regardless of the results, the university was proud to host this historic event.
On April 11, 12, and 13 the United States Intercollegiate Boxing (USIBA) First Annual National Championship took place at the Koret Center and War Memorial Gym. Schools from all around the country participated in the tournament, including Georgetown, North Carolina, Syracuse, Michigan, Miami (FL), West Virginia and more. The past weekend marked first time in history that a collegiate boxing tournament included championship fights for female boxers.
The first USIBA National Championship was fought by men and women aged 17 to 34. All contestants entered a specific weight class division, with the classes ranging from 106-201 pounds for men, and 106-178 for women. If more than eight contestants entered a division, the top eight competed in the National Championship Tournament Bracket, while the others placed into the National Invitational Tournament Bracket. All bouts, or fights, included three two-minute rounds. The boxers received a score for each individual round, and whoever had the highest score after three rounds won the bout.
Participating in the National Championship was the USF Boxing Team, which enjoyed an advantage in fan size and support.
“It is a great honor, especially since this is the first UNIBA tournament,” USF co-head coach Jay Gonzalez said of hosting the boxing event. “It shows that USF is trusted in a situation like this, and so far we’ve heard a lot of good feedback from people.”
On the women’s side of the tournament, the bouts were dominated by the United States Military Academy (USMA). The school from West Point, New York boasted champions in four different divisions and had so many contestants that multiple matches found USMA boxers fighting against each other. However, they would have had even more success if it was not for USF’s own Adriana Bousalian, who defeated USMA’s Jocelyn Lewis to win the championship for the 119 weight class. Also winning a championship was North Carolina’s Michelle Kern, who beat Victoria Rao from USMA in the 125 weight class. Overall, it was a groundbreaking tournament for women’s boxing, as female boxers moved closer to achieving equal opportunity in the sport.
“The London Olympics last year were the first time that women’s boxing was recognized as an Olympic sport,” Gonzalez said. “So now, the next step is to recognize it at a college and club level, which is exactly what we are doing here.”
In the men’s championship, the winners were more evenly divided as boxers from many different schools took home titles. In the 125 weight class, UC Davis’ Mac Pham bested Shawn Sullivan of Virginia Military Institute, and Maryland’s Konrad Ptaszynski was victorious in a closely contested bout against Drew Chin from UC Davis. Other winners included Courtney Jackson of Miami over USC’s Aaron Goldwyn, in a physical bout filled with aggressive attacks.
For the USF Boxing Team, the USIBA National Championship offered a valuable learning experience. While Bousalian was the champion in her weight class and other USF boxers Jack Ryan, Connor Morgan, and Sebastian Doerner reached the championship for their class in the Novice, NIT, and Open Divisions, even the boxers who had less success left the tournament wiser and stronger. The National Championships gave the team a chance to compete against some of the best collegiate boxers in the country, and showed them what they needed to do to reach the top and develop their image as a winning program.
“Like any coach, I had very high expectations for my team going in,” Gonzalez said. “Some have risen to these expectations and some have fallen short, but that just means that there is room for improvement. I am still very proud that we had five different boxers who won fights and advanced.”
Now that the inaugural USIBA National Championship is over, the boxers will return to their respective schools, some with championship titles and some without. Either way, these three days of boxing set in place a new standard for collegiate boxing — one where participants from a diverse group of schools are given the chance to win at a national level, and one where women’s and men’s boxing are both viewed as equal.