BAUMHOLDER, Germany — In the equipment room before the fights, Pvt. Christopher Williams wasn’t sure about one piece of protective gear.

“Do I need this?” asked Williams, referring to the cup, a precious piece designed to guard one’s private parts.

Of course, answered the befuddled equipment room manager.

Williams, a scrappy middleweight from the 4th Battalion-27th Field Artillery Regiment, said he’s no stranger to fistfights. The ring, however, seems to be a more constructive way to unleash his aggressiveness, he said.

“Stay out of trouble,” mumbled Williams, explaining his motivation, mouthpiece rooted in place.

It was fight night Saturday in Baumholder, where 40 boxers from Kaiserslautern, Spangdahlem and Baumholder squared off for the “Boxing Invitational.” The event consisted of 20 three-round bouts, with medals awarded to both winners and losers following each fight.

At the Hall of Champions, spectators packed the bleachers and the rows of chairs lined up on the gymnasium floor. When the boxers landed clean blows, the crowd roared with approval.

The fighters were a blend of experienced boxers and first time pugilists. Some spent months in preparation. Others, overwhelmed from the sheer exhaustion and punishment, couldn’t finish their fights. Some bouts went the distance. Others ended in TKOs.

When it came time for Williams to enter the ring, he faced a fellow inexperienced boxer.

Pfc. Keith Reyes, a soldier from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry, never had an official fight in the ring before Saturday. But Reyes, muscular and long-limbed, looked the part.

“A group of us got together for three months and trained every day. It was a strict diet. No drinking. No late nights,” said Reyes, 20.

The high protein diet of chicken and fish along with intense boxing instruction came courtesy of Staff Sgt. Robert Erik Garza, an experienced boxer who trained five soldiers from 2-6 for the Boxing Invitational.

When the bell rang, Williams and Reyes quickly came to blows in the center of the ring. But Reyes’ long reach proved too much, keeping Williams off balance with a steady stream of punches.

In Williams’ corner, Van Horn shouted words of encouragement. “Keep you hands up,” he said.

But the punches kept coming, forcing the referee to intervene.

Reyes, a winner by TKO, was swarmed by friends as he left the ring.

“I still have a lot of energy,” he said.

Following the fight, Williams, 20, reflected on the experience while puffing a cigarette outside.

“It was crazy. It’s a different situation in the ring,” said Williams, surrounded by supporters. “I’ll do it again. Start training.”

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

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