If not for amateur boxing …
To the former and current boxers who gathered Monday at the Doubletree Hotel, at a news conference held to formally announce this week’s USA Boxing Western Elite Qualifier and Regional Open Championship, the benefits derived are not mere clichés.
Yes, said Albuquerque’s Sharahya-Taina Moreu, her trip last year to Guwahati, India on a U.S. team competing at the AIBA Women’s Youth World Championships opened her eyes to a world she didn’t know existed.
The poverty she saw in Guwahati, she said, made her “very grateful for being in the U.S. … seeing how rich we are without realizing it.”
Moreu will compete in the tournament, which begins today at the Albuquerque Convention Center and continues through Saturday.
As a newly minted elite class (18 years old and above) boxer, she can qualify for USA Boxing nationals, scheduled for December in Salt Lake City, by making the final this week in her 165-pound weight class.
In Guwahati, Moreu had the misfortune of facing Russia’s Anastasia Shamanova, the defending champion, in the first round. Shamanova beat Moreu by unanimous decision and laid waste to the 165-pound field in repeating as champion.
But her Guwahati boxing experience, Moreu said, was in its own way as valuable as her cultural awakening.
“I was the only one that actually gave (Shamanova) any real competition, because she walked through everybody,” she said. “… I got so much experience, and it really boosted my confidence to where it is now.”
Yes, Las Cruces’ Austin Trout, a former world professional champion, amateur boxing paved the way to his success as a pro — and in life.
“(Amateur boxing) literally changed my life for the better,” said Trout, who was the 2004 welterweight national amateur champion.
Later that year, Trout fell short in his bid to make the Olympics.
“I wanted to be an Olympian. I wanted to be the gold medalist,” he said. “… I didn’t quite make it. But I was an Olympic alternate, and I did get to go to the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.
“All those things helped mold me and shape me into the man I am.”
Trout said he values the friends he’s made in boxing, beginning in the amateur ranks.
“It’s a brotherhood you can’t explain,” he said.
And yes, said 2004 Olympian Jason Estrada, amateur boxing got him off the streets of his native Providence, R.I., kept him out of jail and, perhaps, out of the morgue.
Cliché? He doesn’t think so.
“Amateur boxing, and my dad, basically saved my life,” said Estrada, who is here this week as a coach. “I was in the streets doing a lot of bad things. … Without USA Boxing, who knows where the hell I’d be right now.”
And, yes, amateur boxing took Jesse Valdez from an impoverished youth in Houston to a 1972 Olympic bronze medal in Munich, Germany.
Valdez, who lives in Rio Rancho, brought his Olympic medal to Monday’s news conference, attended by Moreu and several other young boxers who will fight this week.
“This is your dream,” Valdez told them. “I want you to see it and touch it.”
THE IMPACT: This is the second year that USA Boxing, the sport’s national governing board, has brought this tournament to Albuquerque. It has grown by more than 100 percent from last year.
More than 750 boxers weighed in for competition on Monday. They’re joined by enough coaches and parents that Mike McAtee, USA Boxing’s executive director, believes the event might bring as many as 2,000 people to the city.
Angie Jepsen, senior sales manager for Visit Albuquerque’s Sports Commission, said a “direct spend” of some $940,000 is expected as a result of USA Boxing’s week-long stay.
“Direct spend is just the dollar for dollar that we estimate is coming into the community, new dollars,” she said.
THE SCHEDULE: Action begins today with sessions at noon and at 6 p.m. The schedule is the same for Wednesday and Thursday. There is one session at noon Friday, followed by Saturday night’s finals.
Admission is free today through Friday. Admission for Saturday is $10.
All sessions will be streamed live at teamusa.org/USA-boxing.