News: US airmen, UK fighters slug it out for charity
Story by Tech. Sgt. Neal Joiner
HUNTINGDON, England - Sweat ran in rivulets down the faces of six RAF Mildenhall airmen as they pushed themselves through another three minutes. It collected in their shirts as a tangible display of the discomfort and pain that pushing the body to its limits elicits. A buzzer sounded and the airmen moved to their next stations to endure another three minutes of training. For these airmen, the sacrifice given in training was a means to an end.
Fourteen boxing matches held at Hinchingbrooke House Performing Arts Center in Huntingdon, England, Dec. 7, 2013, pitted 12 airmen against fighters from around the United Kingdom.
The matches were collectively held in the independent boxing event “For All the Glory,” the brain-child of two RAF Mildenhall airmen: Tech. Sgt. Duane Vandross, the 100th Air Refueling Wing spectrum manager assigned to the 100th Communication Squadron, and Capt. Sean Mitchell, an aircrew flight equipment officer with the 100th Operations Support Squadron. The pair met while both stationed at Osan Air Base, South Korea. They started the Osan Boxing Club and wanted to hold a boxing event there, but were unable to due to a lack of time and resources.
“Luckily, we found out we both were coming to the UK. We both were here about a year before the idea came up again, but it seemed as though we picked up right where we left off.” Mitchell, from Montgomery, Ala., said.
Initially the two airmen wanted to host an exhibition match with just U.S. fighters on either RAF Mildenhall or RAF Lakenheath but they soon reached out to the local community.
“Capt. Mitchell and I were able to team up with a local gym we train out of, Thomas A. Becket, and the head coach there was interested in helping us do the show,” Vandross, from New York, said.
Partnering up with the Cambridge, England-based gym allowed the event to grow into an international competition which attracted U.S. airmen from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, interested in joining the card.
“I heard about the event from a mutual friend of Duane’s, (Staff Sgt.) Kim Washington,” said Staff Sgt. James Beck, from the 76th Airlift Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
Beck flew in from Germany and was the co-main event headliner on the fight card. Washington, also from Ramstein AB, fought and beat her opponent earlier in the night.
The headliners were Tech. Sgt. Richard Mora, a hydraulics element lead with the 100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, and Marty Kayes, training out of East Down Gym in Northern Ireland, for the White Collar Boxing Cambridge light middle-weight title.
Mora is a former All Air-Force Boxing Team member with a boxing resume that included representing the Air Force at the Armed Forces Championship in 2005, the U.S. armed forces in the 2005 Conseil International du Sport Militaire games as well as competing in multiple regional Golden Gloves competitions in the United States, but had not competed for several years.
“Although I'm a little concerned since my absence in the ring, Vandross and the team have been lighting a fire under my butt to get me motivated and trained up again,” Mora, from Oceanside, Calif., said.
At the other end of the spectrum were Senior Airman Oscar Campos-Ortiz, a postal clerk with the 100th Communication Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, and Airman 1st Class Richard Ferrante, from the 48th Medical Operations Squadron at RAF Lakenheath. The two fighters had a combined boxing experience of eight months with Ferrante having never before competed.
Marking the start of each fight, the lights dimmed and a spotlight shown on a smoky side door as each boxer entered the arena and made his or her way to the ring. A disc jockey played the fighters’ selected walk out songs and an announcer called out each of the fighter’s names in dramatic fashion, his voice ringing clearly from the public address system.
Twelve of the fights were three, two-minute rounds. All but two, both technical knock outs, went all three rounds. The last two fights of the night, the co-main event featuring Beck, and the main event, between Mora and Kaye, were four rounds each of sweat, skill and aggression.
The action-filled event lasted until nearly midnight, culminating with Mora’s hand raised in triumph. Kayes quickly asked for a rematch, which Mora agreed to without hesitation. The night wasn’t all about friendly rivalry and the glory of victory however.
“We're competing to represent our country but most importantly, to raise money for the Special Needs Christmas Party hosted by the Air Force Sergeant’s Association” Mora said.
In addition to raising funds for this year’s special needs party, proceeds from the event went to the nonprofit organization We Hunger Over Peace and to fund the purchase of an upgraded wheel chair for a local child struggling with a serious illness.
After a night of fights, some hands were raised and others were not, yet even with the outcomes, all of the fighters represented their country well and proved themselves winners for training and sacrificing for the benefit of others.
Editor’s note: This event was not sponsored or endorsed by the Department of Defense or the U.S. Air Force. Mora and Kayes are set to rematch Jan. 26, 2014. For more information contact Tech. Sgt. Duane Vandross at 01638-543737.