Inside the Native American Amateur Boxing Championships

Twenty-eight fighters from 11 different tribes won in the three-day 2012 Native American Amateur Boxing Championships event held at the Apache Gold Casino Resort in San Carlos, Arizona on July 5-7.

The champions, male and female, from ages 8 to 34, competed in specific weight classes and five divisions, including senior, junior Olympic, intermediate, junior and bantam.

The winners brought pride to the tribes of Navajo, San Carlos Apache, Chicakasaw/Cherokee, Chippewa/Cherokee, Assiniboine Sioux, Pima, Gila River, Acoma Pueblo, Blood Tribe (Canada), Choctow/Cherokee and Ute.

Marvin Clifford, Sr., director of the Native American Boxing Council (NABC), said that about 100 registered at the event. “The turnout was great. Local people and supporters of the athlete themselves, as well as a large number of local tribal people in the surrounding area came,” he said.

The tournament was a significant first step to producing a national Native American team to tour and compete at an international level and at the Pan Am Games, with the ultimate goal of training world-class boxers in time for the 2016 Olympic games.

“This is our first year. Previous organizations disbanded. We took the tournament and put it together,” said Clifford, referring to the

Native American Boxing Championships, which are sanctioned by USA Boxing, the national governing body of the Olympic-style amateur boxing.

Clifford said the Championships dated back to the late 1990s, with the last tournament held in 2004. He said it is their goal to get the Championships recognized by the national governing bodies of amateur boxing as a viable and respectable organization.

Since 2001, the NABC has identified over 100 boxing clubs that are in Native American communities and reservations. Clifford said NABC supports the clubs’ efforts and encourages young Native boxers to compete in events across the country.

“The thing about it is we want to give kids all the tools, training and information they need to compete at an international level,” said Clifford. NABC also wants to assist coaches by providing them with nutrition information for the athletes.

Promoting amateur boxing as a safe sport and a huge benefit to the health and wellness of Native American youth are also among the goals of NABC.

“We want to encourage kids to be successful outside of the ring,” he said, emphasizing that health and boxing go together. “People think of boxing as brutal. Amateur boxing is a high form of conditioning.”

Clifford said boxing could help the youth combat obesity and diabetes. He cited data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Service that states that Native Americans have the highest rate in obesity and diabetes.

A study of 4-year olds found that obesity is two times more common among Native American and Alaskan Native Children (31%) than among white (16%) or Asian (13%) children. In 2002, more than 100,000 Native American and Alaskan Native adults or nearly 15% or those receiving care from the Indian Health Service, were estimated to have diabetes.

Data also revealed that the likelihood of American Indians and Alaska Natives to have diabetes compared with non-Hispanic whites is 2.2 times higher. There was a 68% increase in diabetes from 1994 to 2004 in American Indian and Alaska Native youth aged 15-19 years. It is estimated that 30% of American Indians and Alaska Natives have pre-diabetes.

Contrary to perceptions, Clifford said boxing is safe. For instance, amateurs use 10 and 12-ounce shock-absorbing gloves in competition, while pros use 6 and 8-oz shock transmitting gloves.

“The whole premise behind this is that we are looking at amateur boxing as one of the safest sports,” he said.

Now that the tournament is over, Clifford said they are going to select a panel of boxing experts and evaluate the talent they have and then select the teams.

“There is some talent there. Kids competed in various tournaments. We see the need to provide them with additional tools and elevate their talent. We want to take it to the next level,” he said.

The champions in the male senior division (17-34) were Walter Francis, Jerome Jones, Wilfred Yazzle, Nelson Robertson, John Yazzie and John Garbox. Wamnee Ereaux won as the lone female.

In the Junior Olympic Division (15-16), the winners were Jeremiah Bahe and Zach Jacquez for male and Dacia Jacquez for female. In the Intermediate Division (13-14) male champions were David Blackwater, Joshua Bahe and Joash Kebos. Jayne Juste, Lena Bahe and Sharahya Moreu won in the female section.

The winners in the Junior Division (11-12) were all male. They were Simeon Williams, Marti Bruisedhead, Jerrod Gilbert, Tommie Nosie, Mark Dawahoya and Richard Hurford.

In the Bantam Division (8-10) Male champions were Justin Pino, Matayo Tillahash, James Bahe and Reppert Cassadore, while the female winners were Joylyn Dawahoya and Cytisha Mitchell.