News: Warrior-citizen turns warrior-boxer
Story by Spc. Hector Corea
WICHITA, Kan. - The lights are blinding and the screams are deafening. On the way to the ring, your heart starts pounding, harder and harder. The announcer calls out the names, while you look to your opponent. Your muscles are tense while the sweat rolls into your eyes. Both of you are here to fight. Both of you are here to win. But only one will leave with his head held high and a golden belt on his waist. This is the scene found in the professional boxing ring, a scene Spc. Manny Thompson is uniquely familiar with.
At first glance you wouldn’t notice anything special about Manny Thompson.
With a gentle demeanor and big grin, Thompson works aside his fellow service members in the 387th Human Resource Company. And like all Reserve soldiers, Manny attends battle assembly as part of his commitment to his country and the Army. During his off time however, Manny has various pursuits, including professional boxing, modeling, and scholastic studies.
The 24-year-old Wichita, Kan., native, first began spending time in the boxing ring at the tender age of 11. Growing up in a single-parent household with his two brothers, Manny was trying to find a way to better himself and search for opportunities. Given his natural talent, Manny found boxing was the perfect outlet for him.
“Boxing served me as a platform, kind of like the military did,” said Thompson. “It helped keep me out of trouble and now it serves me as a profession.”
In the 13 years since, Manny has amassed an amateur record of 38 wins and 11 losses, qualified for six amateur national championship tournaments, and won the Kansas-Oklahoma Golden Gloves championship two years in a row. In addition, Manny recently won his second fight on the professional circuit, and is currently training for his third fight next March.
He plans to fully realize his potential as a boxer and continue his success.
“I want to keep fighting and winning,” said Thompson.
But unlike most people, Manny doesn’t do it for the fame or the money.
“It’s not for the money, it’s more for the experience,” said Thompson. “Boxing gives me a sense of worth.”
In addition to boxing, Manny has pursued other opportunities in modeling. He twice featured in Cosmopolitan magazine, as well as a Super Bowl commercial and Splurge magazine.
As a scholar, Manny has achieved various academic successes.
“The importance of education was instilled into me by my mother,” said Thompson. “And my coach Johnny Papin really pushed college, since it was an opportunity for me at the time.”
After graduating from high school, Manny was awarded a full ride scholarship to Cowley County Community College, was voted outstanding student of the year, and eventually received a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice.
His collegiate studies are aimed at his future desire to work in the justice system.
“What I’m really interested in is criminology and working as a criminal investigator on the federal level,” said Thompson.
He plans to finish his master’s degree in criminal justice administration next May, and start his second Masters of Science in International Relations in the fall.
Of all his achievements however, Manny believes his time in the Army Reserve is unlike anything else.
He first joined at the age of 18. At the time, Manny had various avenues open to him, both in his boxing career and his higher education. The decision was a hard one, since it meant he would have to leave for training and any possible deployments in the future.
While he faced resistance from many friends and family, Manny received a great deal of support from his mother.
“She backed me up in my decision,” said Thompson.
After shipping off to Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training, Manny returned home more determined than ever before.
“The military was a really big thing for me,” said Thompson. “Being away from home the first time, it was eye-opening.”
Now a Signal Support Systems Specialist with the 387th Human Resource Company, Manny looks back at his six years of service with pride.
“The Army gave me a lot of attributes like leadership, motivation, and discipline.”
Manny felt the attributes and skills he gained as an Army Reserve soldier helped mold him into the determined and goal driven individual he is today.
In the end, what drives Manny Thompson as a soldier, boxer, and scholar, is a deep sense of selflessness.
“I like to place more importance on happiness instead of money,” said Thompson. “When I help people by being selfless, it makes me happy that I’m able to make somebody else happy.”
Manny has done a variety of charitable work, including volunteering for Big Brothers, Big Sisters and accomplishing nearly 1700 hours of community service for a scholarship.
I’m very humble and professional,” said Thompson. “I try my best in every endeavor I set for myself.”
Looking forward, Manny hopes to continue his pursuits in all aspects of his life.
“I’ve made mistakes and I still do now,” said Thompson. “But if there’s something I want to accomplish, I’m going to accomplish it.”