From fighter to coach, Army sergeant and boxing champion takes training to the next level
When he looks back on it now, his best moment in boxing was the night in 1996 at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., when he set out to reclaim the welterweight boxing crown for the entire U.S. armed forces.
Army Sgt. Fareed Samad was the Army’s welterweight title holder, had been the armed forces champ several times, and had run up so many wins that in 1996, he was ranked fifth U.S. welterweight amateur boxer.
That’s where things stood when the 27-year-old Samad climbed into the ring against the reigning armed forces welterweight champ, sailor Kimberly Evans.
From the sound of the bell Samad took the fight to Evans, hammering the taller man without let-up.
And when Evans shot a left jab at Samad, in the same instant, the sergeant fired a straight left that caught Evans in the head and sent him backwards to the canvas.
“There goes Kimberly Evans!” said the TV announcer over the roar of the delirious crowd.
Referee Gene Reese stopped the fight at 2 minutes 43 seconds in the first round.
“Samad is already celebrating,” the sportscaster told the TV audience, “and he may have a right to: It’s over.”
The crowd broke into chanting. “Fa-reed! Fa-reed! Fa-reed!”
“We must tell you that what you are seeing this evening is not indicative of what you normally see in this kind of amateur tournament,” the TV announcer said. “We are seeing an Army juggernaut going for power, and power alone. Listen to this crowd. ... For Kimberly Evans, he ran into yet another Army assault and in this case it was Fareed Samad.”
“I knew he wasn’t gettin’ up,” said Samad, now 34, who recently took over coaching the newly formed post boxing team at the Army’s Camp Carroll in Waegwan, South Korea.
“There’s a certain way you hit a person and a certain way that you know they’re not gettin’ up. I would have been stunned if he had got up because he fell like a sack of potatoes. If he had gotten up it would have been a long day,” said the soldier.
Assigned to the 307th Signal Battalion battalion’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Samad works with computers these days.
But as the installation’s boxing coach, he’s the one training about seven soldiers who show up regularly, and a few who hope to get on the fight card for the big July 4 outdoor tournament set for Kelly Field, Camp Walker, Taegu.
Some are calling it the Rumble on the ROK. ROK stands for Republic of Korea.
Planners hope to have at least five bouts in what will be the second card since the Army’s 20th Area Support Group last fall started up the new boxing program for Area IV, the lower South Korea military district. The debut card was March 8.
In training them for the competition, Samad has 15 years’ boxing experience to draw on.
He trains the Carroll fighters five days a week after normal duty hours. There’s conditioning — jumping rope, stretching, wind sprints. And there are the technical sessions concentrating on boxing fundamentals — proper boxing stance, the various punches and how to throw them.
“I tell ‘em that your left hand sets up your right hand. When you throw the jabs, which is your left hand, the jab sets you up for your right hand, and your right hand sets up you up for your hook ... You throw the right hand, it brings you to the left hook, the left hook brings you to the right hand, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.”
He’ll keep a close eye on his fighters, especially in the hours before a bout.
“When you have a boxer for the first time... He’s used to you and you don’t want to leave him alone. ‘Cause you don’t want him to think about other stuff.
“You my boxer, and we go to a tournament, I wrap your hands up, I talk to you, I just talk to you about funny stuff, trying to let the time go past. ‘Cause the anticipation of boxing — say we weigh in at 6 or we fight at 9. I just talk to you, talk trash, just keep you laughing.
“In the movie ‘Gladiator,’ remember how they’re waiting to fight? They’re nervous, you know you gotta do battle. ... But during that three hours I shouldn’t talk to you about boxing at all.... You know how nerve-wracking that would be?
“I even tell ‘em, ‘Everybody should have butterflies because butterflies keep you on edge.
“When you’re too relaxed, like, ‘I can take this guy,’ you’re not gonna move out of the way when he throws a punch.
“And of course they’re gonna get anxious. They might get nervous. Their anxiety might be a little high because they’ve never been in that place, that hostile environment, but we’ve just been doin’ what you’ve been taught.
“I coach like I box,” said Samad, “I’m into defense, I’m into not getting hit... I’ve got hit before, don’t get me wrong. But who wants to be known for taking a good punch? I’d rather be known for knocking people down or knocking people out.”