Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Wild Essays from B-Hop and Africa

Team USA's boxers just arrived in Bulgaria for the Youth World Championships, and we wish them victory, especially our flyweight friend Shakur Stevenson of Newark.

USA Boxing had originally announced that Wild Card boxers would be allowed to compete in a box-off for the right to contend. Two of our top-ranked youths submitted applications, but in the end USA Boxing did not accept any applicants. There aren't any Atlas Cops and Kids in Bulgaria, but we hope to change that come Rio.

B-Hop might be pro by then, though. Here he is, in the blue, winning PC Richards Boxer of the Night for his Golden Gloves debut triumph over defending novice champ Khalid Twaiti. Our eyes at ringside, Karen Naranjo, reported that watching B-Hop win was "like watching a beautifully choreographed dance."

Photo: Ken Goldfield for the NY Daily News

I think I deserve a chance to represent the USA because I am a great fighter with a lot of potential, heart, and will, but I’ve only been boxing for four years. I’m a two-time national champion, one-time world champion.  
I have fought a lot of experienced people in national competition: Keshawn Williams, Omar Figueroa, Antonio Vargas, Jordan Rodriguez, Chayenne Rivera, and Corey Conner. The only ones who beat me were Antonio Vargas and Omar Figueroa, both on split decision. I have won a lot of local tournaments, too, such as the NY Metros (twice), JO States (twice), and Metro Regionals. Since I was 16, I have been fighting grown men, 19 years old up to 27.  
Even if I don’t get picked to do international competition, I think I would be a good sparring partner for the 114-pound fighters such as Shakur Stevenson and 108-pounders like Nico Hernandez. I am a good sportsman and would be able to cheer the team on. By me being there and getting great work with top-ranked fighters, that would give me experience, I would learn a lot, and then it would help me make the team the next time around.
If I was able to go back to the 2014 Youth Worlds in Reno, from watching all the good fighters, I think I would be on the team now. I have picked my training up to the next level. I train two times a day now: running, conditioning, and studying pros and amateur boxers. I keep that motivation in my head, that Team USA motivation.
If you pick me to represent the team, I won’t let you down. I have got that will to win. I can box and I can fight, and I don’t like losing. Boxing is my life. I train all day, and I sleep, eat, and drink boxing. I know if I get picked for Team USA, I’m going to turn up. 

Richardson "Africa" Hitchins is one of our most talented athletes, a true student of the game who just keeps getting better. Here he is with Coach Aureliano Sosa after winning his first open-level bout last weekend. Africa is also B-Hop's rival for the title of Loudest Boxer in the Gym. 

The sage Pat Russo edited Africa's essay before submitting it to USA Boxing in order to "humble it up." While we agree with everything Pat Russo does, we are publishing the unhumble version here because we don't have the edit and because we don't necessarily object to grandiosity in a young lion. Perhaps it is Africa's indomitable ego that makes him such a fearless practitioner of the straight right hand. 

I think I deserve to be invited to the OTC because I have the most talent in my weight, I am still getting better, and I know I’m going to represent the USA hard. You have to make boxing your life, and at this point, all I know is boxing. That is my life. I started when I was twelve. I won my first fight, and then I lost five fights in a row. I remember I cried in the locker room and said, “This isn’t for me.” As a grown man, you know you can get better but as a kid that really messes you up, losing five in a row. But then something in the back of my head said, “Keep going. Change it up.”  
Me and my coach Sosa started working more. He worked alone with me, because he saw something in me, some talent. He used to call me the sleeping horse. 
I just started winning, and I went from people saying I was dirt to them saying I’m one of the best fighters out there. I won as a junior the 2013 PAL Nationals and the 2013 Junior Golden Glove Nationals. In Reno, I beat the person that was supposed to win the whole tournament, Brandon Trejo, and I beat him in the Junior National Golden Glove finals, too, and I beat him easy. I beat a lot of top JO fighters, too.  
I study boxing. I don’t just watch pro fighters. I watch the amateurs, too. You have to watch everybody and learn from them all. I watched Earl Newman in my gym, because he had the best jab. I watched a lot of Rau’shee Warren and Marcus Browne. Marcus says I’m one of his favorite fighters and he says I have what it takes to be a 2016 Olympian. That motivates me even more. I want to prove the people who believe in me right.
All the great fighters have two things: The ability to time the opponent and the ability to keep their distance. I see what Floyd means when he says, “Fighters can know how to fight, but do you know how to win?” In the late rounds of a close fight, when you are staring at each other, the judges want to see who will be the first person to throw a punch, who will hold their ground more, who is looking more confident, who is landing the cleaner punches, who is controlling the pace.  
That was my biggest mistake in Reno. I could have dominated if I decided to be first. Mark Dawson was getting off first. He was pushing me back. He was probably more in shape. I think you got to take a loss in order to know how to win. When I came back I learned from my mistake. I watched the tape, and I saw little things like my left hand being low, him catching me with sneaky shots. I know that the next time we fight, it’s going to be different.  
If USA Boxing is looking for talent, I feel like I am it. I’ve got what Floyd calls god gifted. In due time my experience is going to come and I’m going to be complete. If you let me come to the OTC and improve it, I will show all the coaches there who is best 141. Because I’m not looking for a national title any more. I’m looking for gold medals only. 
I’m going to help the USA by representing it just like how I represent my home team and my city. It’s win or die, win or go home. At this level that’s basically all I know how to do. When I go to the OTC, you’re going to see that everything I said in this essay is true. And the international world is going to see another red-white-and-blue fighter winning everything.