“Relentless” National Champions and Future Officers

Categories: West Point Magazine, Cadet News, Grad News
Class Years: , ,

By Keith J. Hamel, WPAOG staff

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, cadets and graduates, to the Class of 1972 South Boxing Room of Arvin Gymnasium! In the “gray” corner, wearing workout shirts with the motto “Relentless” on the reverse, is your 16-time National Champion, 84-member strong Army West Point Boxing Team!

For nearly 120 years, boxing has been a part of the curriculum for West Point cadets, thanks to a mandate by President Theodore Roosevelt, and since 2016 that mandate has included both male and female cadets. Today, every cadet who graduates from the U.S. Military Academy knows what it means to go toe-to-toe with a peer adversary and to take a punch, maintain their composure, and keep on fighting.

At first, there was no boxing team at West Point. The best boxers in the Corps competed against one another as part of the annual Indoor Meet (a competition between classes featuring gymnastics, fencing, wrestling, boxing and “team” events, such as a tug-of-war and a medicine ball race). A Boxing Squad formed in 1921 and won the Intercollegiate Boxing Championship in its second year of existence, with cadets claiming victory in 23 of the 27 bouts they fought that season. “So finished one of the most successful athletic seasons any Army team has ever enjoyed,” noted the 1922 Howitzer.

The 1938 West Point Boxing Squad,

Later in the decade, the West Point Boxing Squad began competing against fighters from other colleges and universities as part of the NCAA-sponsored Eastern Collegiate Boxing Association and continued to prove itself as one of the Academy’s most successful teams. The 1938 Boxing Squad, for example, ended its season undefeated. Competition grew in the 1950s, with more than 200 schools offering an NCAA-level boxing program. The NCAA dropped boxing in 1960 when a University of Wisconsin boxer died after fighting in the NCAA championships. It wasn’t until 1976 that a new organization, the National Collegiate Boxing Association (NCBA), was formed. The Academy continued to produce great boxers during this time: Paul Christiani ’78 won a Golden Glove title in New York City, and Dave Addams ’98 became an All-American, winning the NCBA Championship in the 165-pound weight class.

A new era for West Point boxing began in 1997, when the team was granted authorizations and became a Directorate of Cadet Activities competitive club sport. In just a couple of years, the West Point Boxing Club became one of the top-10 competitive collegiate boxing teams in the nation, competing in both NCBA tournaments and invitational boxing expositions. Then, in 2008, West Point won its first national title, with four boxers— Steve Solaja ’08, Matt Longo ’10, Ryle Stous ’10, and Danilo Garcia ’11—earning gold medals at the NCBA tournament. The team repeated as national champs in 2009, 2010, and again in 2011, when five cadets won individual titles. Since the 2007-08 season, Army West Point has won five women’s championships and 11 men’s national titles (in comparison, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy have each won two).

Members of West Point Boxing Team spar

Perhaps because every cadet needs to take boxing in order to graduate, the entire Corps is familiar with the Boxing Team.

“Plebes are intrigued to try out for the Boxing Team because of plebe boxing,” notes Cadet Sharnae Harmon ’24, one of three captains of the 2023-24 squad and a National Champion in 2022. Yet, she also notes that there are big differences between taking plebe boxing and fighting on the Boxing Team (beyond just the former’s two one-minute rounds and the latter’s three two-minute rounds). “Plebe boxing teaches cadets the basics of boxing and how to fight safely; the Boxing Team teaches more defensive techniques, more punch combinations, and more teamwork,” Harmon says. “Furthermore, we’re more brutal when fighting one another than the matches in plebe boxing, and our two athletic trainers are often cleaning up blood.”

“We fight how we train, which means that our boxers are not special because of their talent; they are special because they are relentlessly working.”

— CDT Ryan Chi ’24, Boxing Team co-captain

According to Cadet Dylan Sheriff ’24, a member of the team who designs all the team’s workouts (colloquially called “Camp Pain”), nearly 200 plebes try to join the Boxing Team each year. “Just getting on the Boxing Team as a plebe was one of my biggest accomplishments at West Point,” says Sheriff, who has gone on to win a national championship in the 119-pound weight class. “We look for heart and coachability during tryouts,” he says. “We can build up skill but not heart; so, if a plebe is willing to work really hard and can take instruction, he or she is a good match for the Boxing Team.” Of course, coming from the cadet who runs “Camp Pain,” his work really hard should be understood as a euphemism. “Oh yeah, I got beat up all the time as a plebe,” Sheriff says, “but it was a good learning experience.”

The Boxing Team is also known among the Corps for its intense workouts. “Being on the Boxing Team is a huge time commitment,” says Sheriff. “We are training for at least two hours each day.” The team spends Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays working on conditioning, and Tuesdays and Thursdays are dedicated to sparring. Cadets are familiar with seeing members of the Boxing Team always running around Post or running up (almost Rocky like) the indoor, six-flight steps of Arvin. It goes back to the motto on the back of their workout shirts, “Relentless.” “It’s a work-ethic thing, not a how-we-fight thing,” says Cadet Ryan Chi ’24, a two-time National Champion and co-captain of the Boxing Team. “We fight how we train, which means that our boxers are not special because of their talent; they are special because they are relentlessly working.”

CDT Megan Nkamwa ’24, a member of the West Point Boxing
cadets of the West point Boxing Team who won national championships at the 2023 Nationals event in Charlotte, North Carolina

Finally, members of the Boxing Team are in visible positions among the Corps, which contributes to the team’s prestige and overall positive reputation at the Academy. “Our team has first sergeants, company commanders, platoon sergeants, and platoon leaders; we are very invested in the Corps,” says Chi. The Boxing Team also boasts a regimental commander, Cadet Fahad Abdulrazzaq ’24 (Third Regiment), and a battalion commander, Cadet Megan Nkamwa ’24 (Third Battalion, Third Regiment). Abdulrazzaq also earned a Rhodes Scholarship in November 2023, and Nkamwa also brought distinction to the Boxing Team by being named one of two cadets in the Corps to receive the 2023 Lt. Gen. Harold “Hal” G. Moore Warrior Athlete of Excellence Award last fall. “The Army Boxing Team is an incredible team,” says Nkamwa. “We have the best boxing program in the country, and we have the best cadets at USMA.” Some say the reputation of the Boxing Team even precedes membership in the Corps. “I knew I wanted to box before I came to West Point,” says Cadet Caleb Lagestee ’24, the Boxing Team’s third co-captain and a 2022 All-American. “I heard there was a winning culture on the team and that it would prepare me to be a warrior for the Army.”

CDT Leslie Thompson ’25 gets the victory over his Navy opponent

Despite the Boxing Team’s visibility among the Corps, there may be some things that cadets would be surprised to learn about those once nicknamed the “jabbers.” For example, there are likely few cadets outside of his company (C-1) that know that Sheriff recently beat Cyprus’s Olympian boxer, or that Chi recently defeated Bermuda’s Olympian (heck, Chi has taken on and beaten the 27th-ranked boxer in the world for his weight class!). An unknown yet interesting story on the 2023-24 Boxing Team involves Daisy Terrones ’26, one of 24 West Point women boxers, who joined the team already having amateur boxing experience under her belt (six fights). “I started boxing when I was 11 years old,” says Terrones. “I went to the gym with my older brother and fell in love with the sport, stepping into the ring for my first fight at age 12.” Terrones became a National Champion as a plebe, fighting in the 112-pound weight division. She was also recognized as one of four “Most Outstanding Boxers” of the 2023 NCBA Tournament. Given her extensive fighting experience, Terrones often helps Boxing Team Coach Jerry Hart ’93 demonstrate boxing techniques to her teammates during practices.

Members of Boxing Team proudly shows off their branch assignments

With such success in the ring, it wouldn’t be surprising if, once they graduate, Chi, Sheriff, and Terrones became as familiar among the Long Gray Line as they are among today’s Corps—yet, not necessarily for their boxing prowess.

“I’d be happy to serve the country through USA Boxing,” says Chi, “but I would be just as grateful being an Infantry lieutenant.”

“I want to keep my options for the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles open,” says Sheriff, “but right now I am focused on being the best platoon leader possible.”

“I am interested in the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program,” says Terrones, “but, with more than two years until graduation, I just want to keep being the best cadet I can be.”

With its emphasis on discipline and teamwork, the Boxing Team is teaching its cadets just as much about officership as it is about any jab-cross-hook punch combo. The captains’ vision for the Boxing Team is to create a team of national champions, and indeed they have. Even if they never win another boxing title, those who fight on the West Point Boxing Team will be champions for America’s team, the U.S. Army.

Read the complete Spring 2024 edition of West Point magazine here.

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