Alaska isn’t exactly known as a hotspot for boxing talent, but an Olympic caliber coach is hoping to change that. He started the Alaska Boxing Academy two years ago and already has a few athletes who are dreaming big about competing nationally and internationally.
Arthur Tauilili hops lightly on the balls of his feet, jumping rope – warming up for today’s training session.
He’s in the Fairview Rec Center in Anchorage with about 20 other boxers who are mostly beginners. Once the warm-up is over, Arthur breaks off from the rest of the class with the more experienced boxers, and starts throwing punch combinations as he circles a punching bag.
Arthur is only 12-years-old, but he’s been boxing half of his life. His first fight was about two years ago.
“It felt like a video game,” he said. “Like, there was no one outside, it’s just me and him inside a little ring, and I forgot about everybody out there cheering, crying.”
“It’s a great experience for me.”
Getting to the level where he could fight took a lot of time, but Arthur says it was worth it.
“When you first come here, you don’t spar yet, you just do basic stuff,” Arthur said. “It’s kinda boring when you start because all you do is jab and all that, but once you keep boxing it’ll get really fun.”
Arthur’s coach is David Carey, the founder of the Alaska Boxing Academy. He moves between the beginners and the
“Set….box! No playing patty cake, let’s go. Work the jab,” Carey said, moving between the experienced and new boxers, running them through drills and offering advice.
Carey was a member of the U.S. Olympic team that competed in the 2008 Games in Beijing. After boxing in the Olympics, his plan was to turn pro. But, those plans were altered when a bicep tear sidelined him for a year. While he was recovering, he spent some time training at a gym in Anchorage, where a young boxer introduced himself.
“There was this kid that came in with his cousin, his name was Nino Delgado, and he came in with his cousin, Ricardo, and they said they wanted to box,” Carey said. “They had seen my newspaper clippings on the wall, they seen my pictures in Russia and on the Great Wall of China and stuff like that. They were like, ‘I want to go to the Olympics one day; I want to win the Golden Gloves; I want to train, I want to box.’”
“And I said, ‘OK, it’s not gonna be easy, but if you’re willing to listen to what I’m gonna have you do and go through all the training, I’ll train you.”
After training Nino for a couple months, they went to the Junior Golden Gloves Tournament in Tacoma, Washington. Nino won the tournament.
That was almost six years ago. And Nino – who is now 18-years-old – hopes to make the U.S. National Team next year. Even though he hasn’t been fighting for very long compared to many of his competitors, he believes he can earn a spot.
“We try to make up for inexperience with hard work,” Nino said.
If Nino makes the team, he’ll have a chance to go to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Nino’s success is something Carey wants to make more common. He would like to see amateur boxing draw more attention around the state.
“What people really, in Alaska, what they need to realize is that we have talent up here,” Carey said. “Not just in hockey, not just in the winter sports, we have talent in mixed martial arts, boxing, football, basketball.”
“But for fighting, we have really good fighters up here.”
Nino has helped Carey prove that claim. And as Nino prepares to move onto the next level, Arthur says he has some lofty aspirations of his own.
“My dream is to go in the Olympics and then win and become a professional boxer,” he said.
Carey says with enough motivation and dedication, it could happen. And he believes there are more Alaskans like Arthur and Nino who can compete at the world’s highest levels.