When V.I. boxers Tiffany Reddick and Clayton Laurent left a few weeks ago for the 2011 Pan American Games in Mexico, they were facing some stiff competition from 600 of the best amateur boxers in the world.
Both Reddick and Laurent qualified for this year’s event during tournaments held over the summer in Panama.
This was the first time the territory has sent a female boxer to the games, and Reddick earned her spot after posting big wins at the final qualifier, including a 10-8 defeat over an opponent from Nicaragua that earned her the gold medal.
No stranger to competition, Laurent went into the Pan American games with over 20 amateur bouts under his belt, including an impressive 12-10 win over an opponent from Panama during this summer’s qualifier.
While both boxers did not reach their ultimate goals during this month’s competition, they still walked away with a positive attitude and high hopes for the 2012 Olympics.
Reddick’s first round opponent was from the Dominican Republic – the same opponent that came in second during the Pan American Games’ overall competition for females. While the fight was stopped in the first round, Reddick said during a press conference Wednesday that she felt that the call was premature.
“She was strong,” Reddick said of opponent, Yenebier Guillen Benitez. “I would have liked to go a little bit longer to see where I stand. The fight ended so quickly – it took longer to get to the ring than to fight in it, so I was kind of disappointed.”
Looking back, Reddick added that her experience in the Pan American Games will propel her toward the Olympics.
“I actually got to see the championship match between the Dominican Republic and Canada,” Reddick said.
“Canada was sixth time Pan American champ, and she showed me where I need to be by the time qualifiers come, which is in May. So I’ll use the time, put on some weight, and I promise that they are going to remember me,” Reddick added.
“The Olympics is the main goal,” continued Reddick, “so this tournament definitely physically and mentally prepared me for what I need to do to get ready.”
Laurent also shared Reddick’s sentiments, and said that the games were a good bonding experience that showed both boxers what they had to work on.
Laurent’s first round opponent was Puerto Rican fighter Gerardo Bisbal, who took the first round 5-4. And in the second round, even though Laurent landed numerous blows, Bisbal once again took it 7-1.
“To go up into this level of competition was a big thing for me,” Laurent said. “It was something I was eager to do, and from my perspective, even though I didn’t do as good as I expected to do in the fight, I still went out and tried my best.”
“I did different angles, tried to do what I thought would have been effective for the fight and actually, I’m happy with the outcome. It let me see that I’ve boxed some of these guys before and am in the same caliber as them. I just need to sharpen up my knives and get my tools get my tools together,” Laurent added Wednesday.
Laurent said the boxers were in the same field as some of the major international superpowers, including Cuba and Brazil.
“To be among some of these Olympic world-class athletes, to feed off their energy, to see their skills – I saw what I’m up against, and saw what I have to train for,” he said. “It was worth the entire trip, and I just hope I can work on what I need to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in May.”
Boxing coach Julian Jackson Sr. said Wednesday that he was proud of what his athletes were able to accomplish on their trip.
“The road to the Pan American Games was long and tough, but we have tough kids,” said Jackson, a three-time international boxing champion.
“There are certain areas that we have to work on – and it may not just be technique, it could be mental," he said, "but those are something that we are looking very closely at. I am really proud of these athletes. They went out there, they did their best, and that’s what we want to see,”
V.I. Amateur Boxing Federation President Jose Rosario also pointed out that many of the boxers’ opponents come from countries that allow their athletes to maintain their amateur status for most of their careers, allowing them to rack up hundreds of fights.
“The average athlete in these games has 200-300 fights,” he said. “Well, here we have Clayton with 30-something and Tiffany with under 10, and we still made it. So that shows that we have something special in the Virgin Islands that a lot of people don’t know about.”