Story and photos by Walt Johnson
This year’s World Class Athlete Program boxing team is the youngest and most inexperienced team in some time. But it may also be one of the best if the results from the recent National Police Athletic League championship in San Antonio are any indication.
The Army team won the team championship at the PAL event held Oct. 19-24 with an effort that this team may have to get used to in the coming years, according to John Franklin, WCAP boxing team captain. Franklin said this year’s team has the potential to make a huge name for itself to add to the storied history of the WCAP boxing team program.
“This team has a lot of potential because we have a good blend of experience and youth. We have guys with strong mentality. For guys like Sidney Williams to go to the PAL for the first time and get a medal shows a lot about his mentality. We have other boxers with the same type mentality. Everyone is saying we are going to do some special things and they believe in their heart, their mind and their soul that they can do it,” Franklin said.
The WCAP boxing team’s goal going into the tournament was to get a trophy, which means the team would have to finish first, second or third, and that was a tall order, considering the team is practically brand new and has had very little experience in tournament-style events. Franklin said the coaching staff continually pushed the athletes during training, because the team knew it had to get fighters to advance in the tournament in order to achieve its goal.
The strategy worked out great as boxer after boxer advanced to the quarterfinals. Although only three of the boxers would medal – Michael Benedosso, Franklin and Williams – the fact the team was as successful as it was showed that the work in the gym paid off.
“Our goal was to win the team trophy and all during training our focus was to get as many fighters to the quarterfinals as we could to get ourselves in position to win the team trophy,” said Franklin. “I was talking to my teammates every day about what it would take to be successful at this tournament. I wanted my teammates to be confident in our coaches who were so very positive during our training camp.
“This tournament is not like other championships, it was scored strictly by computers and so we knew that we would have to bang a little bit and box a little bit to get the scores we needed. That is how we thought we had to win at this tournament and it worked for us,” Franklin said. In addition to the team winning the first place team award, some individual boxers that did very well. Benedosso earned the highest individual achievement – a silver medal – after reaching the championship match.
“The coaches did a good job of preparing us to fight and for what the PAL is all about. The coaches also instilled in us what we were fighting for, to win our bouts and to uphold the reputation of the Army boxing program which has a good reputation in the nation. Our goal was to show them what the Army boxing team is all about. The biggest thing the coaches told us was to box in San Antonio like we practice here and we would be fine.
“I was a bit nervous during my first bout because at my weight, 108 pounds, I am usually the first fighter for our team. I feel like, because I am the first fighter, I have to light the torch for the rest of the team. But when I get into any match,
I am always nervous until I get hit by the first punch, and then all the nervousness seems to go away. The good thing was, no competitor I fought was as good as I thought he would be. I spar against (John) Franklin every day. Compared to him, most boxers don’t measure up to his talent and that helped me a lot,” Benedosso said.
Williams joined the WCAP team in October, and he immediately made a name for himself at the tournament, winning a bronze medal. Williams said the key to his success was his mindset.
“My expectations going to the PALs was to win a belt and a gold medal. I came up a bit short, but when it was over I was proud of what I was able to accomplish. I never let doubt come into my mind when I go into a fight, and I had nothing but victory on my mind. I went into the fight telling myself that I was more than a conqueror, that I was going to climb this mountain and not accept less than that from myself,” Williams said.