RECREATION & FITNESS

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Sgt Jamel Herring wins first National Championship
Doug Fitzgerald - The Colorado Springs Gazette

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Seven men’s boxing national champions were crowned Saturday, bringing their respective Olympic dreams just one tournament away.

Earning a chance to represent the U.S. in London were Santos Vasquez at 108 pounds, Jose Ramirez (132), Jamel Herring (141), Terrell Gausha (165), Marcus Browne (178) and Michael Hunter (210). Joining them at super heavyweight will be Dominic Breazeale, who won 18-17 over Brett Rather.

They will have to place among the top finishers at the Americas Qualifying Tournament, which will be held in May in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“I come from a very low financial family,” said Ramirez, who won his third consecutive national championship with his 19-13 victory over 2008 Olympian Raynell Williams. “Knowing that I’m going to represent a big country coming from a family like that makes me speechless.”

The USA Boxing National Championships, which ended Saturday at Fort Carson, served as the qualifier for the Americas tournament, the final international Olympic qualifier.

“I’ve never been to Rio; I never thought I would ever go to Rio,” said Vasquez, who advanced on a total-punch tiebreaker after he and his close friend, Leroy Davila, fought to a 10-10 draw. “But here I am and I’ve got to just train hard, see it as another fight and go all out.”

Six women’s weight divisions were contested but they had no Olympic qualification ramifications.

Three U.S. boxers had previously qualified for London, Rau’shee Warren at 114, Joseph Diaz Jr. at 123 and Errol Spence at 152. Those three classes weren’t contested at the national championships.

The other seven classes were wide open, though, and 395 men showed up for the chance to grab one. The large number of entrants meant the contestants would have to win either six or seven bouts in as many days – a physically grueling task.

“This week was probably the hardest thing I ever had to do with boxing,” said Herring, who beat Julian Rodriguez 14-9. “When I was in the world tournament we fought a lot but it wasn’t every day.

“Mentally, I’m tough now from dealing with this. Knowing that I went through this every day, fighting with different opponents, different strategies, different styles I had to see. I had to keep my weight and still maintain energy in my body and compete every day.”

Herring, Ramirez and Browne each won at the Olympic trials but did not place high enough at the first international qualifier to make the Olympic roster.

The other four will be competing in their first international Olympic qualifier.

“Ever since I thought about being in the Olympics, I’ve been searching for it and I’m one step closer,” Vasquez said. “I believe I’m going to get it.”