Stripes spotlight: Boxing champ now lord of the ring at Taegu
July 28, 2003
TAEGU, South Korea — His fighter had come on like a hurricane from the start, and boxing coach Miguel Marquez was about to witness one of his most satisfying ringside moments.
It was the Independence Day boxing card at the Army’s Kelly Fitness Center on Camp Walker earlier this month, and quiet-spoken heavyweight Sgt. Jeremiah Jones’ opponent backed up under a cascade of punches.
“I stressed to everybody before the tournament, when I talked to all the fighters, keep your guard up at all times,” said Marquez. “At all times.”
“And Jeremiah had just given his fighter an eight-count and the ref said, ‘Fight,’” Marquez said.
“I guess Jeremiah’s opponent assumed the fight was over and dropped his guard and started to walk over to his corner and Jeremiah punched him in the face about three or four times — solid, before the fighter realized that the fight was still on.”
Jones, of the 19th Theater Support Command, won by a knockout in the second round. It was his first fight.
“And that was very memorable to me,” Marquez said, “for the fact that I told everybody, ‘Keep your guard up at all times.’”
Marquez, 29, of Los Lunas, N.M., is now a civilian contractor working in the communications field for the Army in Taegu.
But he was a soldier from 1993 to 1999 and boxed for the Army during those years. He was 8th U.S. Army boxing champ in 1996 and 1997.
Starting in 1994 he boxed for the post team at Fort Carson, Colo., and took the Colorado Golden Gloves championship while there.
Last year in Taegu, interest grew in starting a boxing program for the Army’s installations in Area IV, its lower South Korea district.
Marquez volunteered to coach, becoming part of a fledgling boxing program that proved an instant hit. The July 4 event drew close to 1,000 spectators who often rose to their feet when the bouts were at their hottest.
Marquez is drawn to it largely for the same reasons he loves kickboxing, something he did in high school and would like to try professionally.
He craves “the thrill of going against an opponent that’s healthy, that’s trained, that’s physically fit, and going one-on-one with that person and pushing yourself to the limit to see who is the better athlete.”
He puts a big value on dedication and “heart” among the six or seven soldiers he’s been training after duty-hours in Taegu. They train twice weekly, but five times weekly when a fight’s coming up.
“My biggest aspect, as my way, would be heart,” he said. “I mean just, mentality. Just having the heart and dedication to go to a fight and put yourself into it, 100 percent, without any fear. ’Cause that’s where you lose — once that fear kicks in.”
A big part of his job is tending to his fighters in the hours before the fight.
“Mostly I try to give them confidence,” Marquez said. “Talk them through to what they need to keep mentally ready.
“They all get a case of the butterflies. Their mind races with energy. They’re continuously thinking about ‘What if I lose?’ ‘Will I remember everything I was taught?’ ‘What’s my combinations?’ It just races with everything they’ve learned and they want to work with.”
Army Sgt. Robert Flores of the 728th Military Police Battalion has been training under Marquez and gives him much credit.
“He’s very encouraging, but at the same time, he’s very candid, especially about a fighter’s progress,” Flores said.
“If they’re not hitting hard,” Flores said, “he lets them know, ‘Hey, you hit like a lightweight, and you’re not.’”
To make sure they’re fit, Marquez emphasizes conditioning, especially running to build stamina.
“You need to be able to carry yourself for three rounds, two minutes each round,” he said. “You need to be able to pace yourself, so you don’t waste all your energy first round, and second round your arms are going to be down by your waist.”
Marquez is heartened by the enthusiasm over Area IV boxing.
“Everybody’s very fired up about it,” he said. “You say ‘boxing tournament,’ a lot of people show up. … There are lot of people who maybe would not get in the ring, but they love to see athletes at work — they love to see finely tuned machines show their skills, in the ring.”
“He has a lot of knowledge,” said Flores, who won his July 4 middleweight bout in Taegu. “I don’t think I’d be able to win a fight against a decent fighter if he hadn’t taught me.”