Friday the 27th of January, 2017
From Nick Skok, Editor in Chief
Unless you’re on a reservation in the confines of a casino or on a boat (yes, a boat) boxing in the state of Washington is few and far between and even more rare in the city of Seattle. The one exception to the rule is the Washington Athletic Club’s ‘Main Event’ which has hosted annual collegiate cards in one form or the other since the 80’s.
For an anomalous occurrence expect an atypical night with its own rules. The party begins around 6:00 PM for members of the private club who shelled out $175 to attend the black tie event that starts with dinner and drinks. The crowd lightens up with a comedy show and rubs shoulders with friends and special guests before ushering up the elevator to the 8th floor gymnasium that has been fitted with a boxing ring.
Surrounding the ring are clothed tables, some with bottles of champagne, others with cocktails on board, cozy enough for a sharp view but spacious in context for the not uncommon dance number that might break out in between rounds. An overhead view can be obtained by taking the stairs up to the track that encircles the gymnasium and was dotted with some local college students and boxers who would fight the following night. The crowd was a pleasant show in itself and one that would be treated with some solid boxing.
On hand in the ring this night were collegiate boxers representing 9 universities including Air Force, Berkeley, Iowa State, Navy, Nevada, Santa Clara, UCLA, UNLV, Utah, and local school the University of Washington, who had 8 fighter’s taking part on the 12-fight card. Weights ranged from super batamweight to heavyweight and were contested for three rounds lasting 2 minutes each.
Boxers tonight were in protective head gear though we saw the Olympics do away with the garments this past year for the first time since 1984 citing new health studies. One fighter told me the gear is hot and can be hard to see out of. The extra weight he thought snaps the head back more and could be even riskier for a concussion, which echos sentiments from AIBA (International Boxing Association). This boxer’s only injury on the night though would be the reinjuring of his hand he had previously broken.
Women’s boxing, which has happily seen a resurgence thanks to names like recently turned pro Olympic gold medalist Katie Taylor, was represented in two bouts this evening. Zoe Wang of Navy controlled the floor behind the scenes before the show with an impressive display of shadow boxing that showcased her focus. Her coach’s eyes lit up when I mentioned the long trip they must’ve endured from Annapolis and then relaxed again when he noticed Wang’s prep work. Her focus paid off when her hand was raised later on.
Literally on another level than everyone else was Erik Barsegyan, a Russian boxer by way of UNLV, who I encountered alone on the first floor lobby tapping the air with his wrapped fists. The light featherweight would again separate himself from the crowd by showing extreme poise and noticeable technique in the ring. Rather than fumble backwards when popped with jabs, his balance was steady and feet well positioned for effective counters that included hooking combinations.
My observations weren’t lost on the judges who scored Barsegyan not only the winner of the fight but also the recipient of the ‘Ed Weichers Most Outstanding Boxer’ award for the evening. The award was accepted later on by Barsegyan’s teammate because Barsegyan had again excused himself from the room where he was already going over his performance that he later told me could’ve been a lot better.
If the name Ed Weichers rings a bell it’s because he was the head boxing coach at the Air Force Academy that he led to 19 national championships. He also coached the Australian team in the very 1984 Olympics mentioned before.
Capping the night off were a couple of TKO’s sponsored by local talent Jasper Bourgette and Erik Peterson of UW. Afterwards, their coach Christopher Mendez brought the team together in their makeshift training room that was just hours earlier used for racquetball, and made sure everyone took stock of not only what was accomplished that evening but also what could be improved on. Preparing them not only for the ring but for life, Mendez encouraged the team to go network with the affluent crowd of private members and fight for a life outside the ring.
The WAC ‘Main Event’ was a gem and especially for the students, some of whom had never been to the west coast and got to stay in the swanky rooms above the club. Maybe organizers and patrons will consider expanding the event to include a summer showcase? There’s certainly enough talent and demand for a biannual event in a city, fresh off of hosting the NCBA championships last year. I can already hear the gloves touching up and the champagne glasses clinking in aggreement.