Boxers Bring Home Championship Belts

The VMI club boxing team poses with their belts.

Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III ’62, superintendent, pauses with members of the boxing team, their coaches, and members of the commandant's staff following the team's performance at Syracuse.—VMI Photo by Kelly Nye.

LEXINGTON, Va., April 5, 2019—Taking just seven boxers to Syracuse, New York, for the United States Intercollegiate Boxing Association national tournament March 22-24, the Keydets returned home with an impressive third-place finish in the team standings. VMI boxers earned three titles, and all seven fighters earned All-America honors.

“Fighting for three days takes its toll on everybody, but hats off to the team,” said Joe Shafer, in his second year at the helm of the VMI boxing program. “They really represented well and did what they were supposed to do. Every one of them did the best they could do in the ring, which makes me proud as a coach.”

Illinois, which brought 17 fighters to the national championships, won its second straight team title, the first time any school has accomplished that feat since the USIBA was founded in 2012. The University of California, Riverside was the runner-up, followed by VMI, the University of Michigan and Texas A&M to round out the top five in the field of 30 squads.

Three Keydets entered the tournament as top seeds in the beginner class, and all three walked away with championship belts. Kameron Warlitner ’20 was the champion at 165 pounds, while Troy Smith ’21 took top honors at 178. Adam Fodness ’21 was the last man standing at 189, and it was his championship bout that embodied VMI’s effort at the tournament.

At one point in the match, the referee called for a break, but as Fodness was stepping back, he was struck by a late right hand, which induced a standing eight count. Undeterred, Fodness responded with a flurry of punches that forced the referee to stop the fight, giving the title to the VMI fighter via TKO.

“He really showed the courage of the team, what the team’s spirit is all about,” Shafer said. “What a way to dig in and come back. That showed how tough these guys are.

“They really impressed the officials, coaches and other teams there,” the coach continued. “They are gentlemen everywhere they go, and it shows in the tournament, too.”

With the national tournament behind them, the Keydets will now begin focusing on the future. Shafer, who was recently elected as the vice president of the USIBA, said that efforts at the practice facility located in Clark King Hall will be aimed at grooming a younger group of boxers for competition next year, and plans are already in the works for next year’s schedule.

“I’m going to try to host a first semester home show next year and invite some big teams,” said Shafter, who noted that USIBA is continuing to grow, with colleges and universities around the country starting teams. “We [are hoping for] just a whole day of boxing.”

That regular-season schedule, of course, is geared toward preparing the VMI boxing club for its national championships. Shafer is hoping that his contingent will be much larger next year, and while the site is still to be determined, VMI has submitted a bid, along with Georgia Tech and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, to play host to the 2020 National Championships.

“We’re working for a bigger national team next year,” said the VMI coach. “Our Super Bowl is the national tournament. It all leads up to that.”

If Shafer’s hopes of preparing 10 to 15 boxers for the next national tournament are realized, then it is just possible that little old VMI might just contend for that team championship.

“This team gelled together this year better than I’ve seen in a long time,” said Shafer. “Now we get to focus on new talent. We’re going to reset again.”

Chris Floyd
Communications and Marketing

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