State champions among 20 headed to regional championships
Twenty Junior Olympic state boxing champions from Louisiana will fight as a team against Alabama and Georgia’s’ best in the Regional Junior Olympic Box-Off in early June — and a rising Luling gym can boast three of those 20.
Sean King III, 15, Davin Wieland, 11 and Slayden Graham, 11, each earned Junior Olympic state champions in their respective weight classes this month at the Southern Association Junior Olympic Boxing Championship state tournament.
They now advance to the regional Junior Olympic championship. It takes the form of the southern states matchup, which will also be contested locally in New Orleans. The three are teammates training under the Elite Boxing Team Gym banner.
King and Wieland each felled more experienced fighters at the state tourney to earn their first Junior Olympic crowns. For Graham, it’s his second championship, though he’ll have to wait a bit for his first Junior Olympic fight of the year — he was the only entrant in the 112-pound open fight division, thus he moves on. If the trio advances at the upcoming tourney, they will earn their way to the Junior Olympic national championships.
“It’s exciting,” said Elite Boxing coach Farrell Boudreaux. “The best of the best in Louisiana are going to compete in this tournament. The neat thing is the kids you compete against all year, now you’re fighting on the same team. You know these guys, but don’t really know them, and now you’re chanting for one another. It’s a first for these guys and I know they’re excited for it.”
This year was the first time the Elite boxers competed in the open division, which doesn’t cap experience levels.
“Before, it was 15 or 20 fights maximum, but when it’s open, you could draw anyone, doesn’t matter if it’s 10 fights or 100,” Boudreaux said.
King’s state tournament opponent had 22 fights to his name, Wieland’s 25, while the two teammates each had seven fights prior.
“It goes to show, just because a guy has 20 fights on you, it doesn’t mean you can’t hang with him,” Boudreaux said.
King took to the sport quickly and is thoroughly enjoying this run.
“It feels awesome,” King said. “I like physical sports … I like to go out there and kick butt. It’s fun.”
King has wrestled and played football, but took note of boxing through a friend who got into the sport. King decided to try it out.
“I found out I’m pretty good at it,” he said. “I liked it as soon as I started, and just kept in the gym, kept on training.”
“It’s exciting … the best of the best in Louisiana are going to compete in this tournament.” -Farrell Boudreaux
His state championship opponent presented a different kind of challenge, the first southpaw boxer he’d faced to date.
“I knew to win, I had to keep that right hand coming and keep on circling to the left,” King said. “I needed to stay away from the jab and the power right … we did two minute rounds, we usually go 1:30. It was kind of tiring, but I ended up pulling it off.”
King, who hopes to go into mixed martial arts one day, said he enjoys the strategy of the sport about as much as the contact element.
“I do like that part of it … you don’t know what’s coming, but you have to anticipate it,” he said. “It’s awesome. It’s cool to go to regionals and hopefully we can take it to nationals from there.”
Wieland said he thought he could have performed better in his championship fight, noting he felt he didn’t move enough or throw as many punches as he’d have liked. Of course, he threw enough to garner a positive result, earning a win by TKO.
“It was the first tournament I’ve ever been in, really,” Wieland said. “So that was a lot of fun. I like to get in there and hit.”
He got into the sport after sparring with his cousin a few times.
“We just put on gloves in the front yard, and that got me started,” he said, calling the state championship his most memorable fight in his young career.
For Graham, the upcoming regional represents a swan song with Elite and in the state as a whole; he and his family will be moving to Arkansas. The fast riser will no doubt be missed by his coach and teammates after a strong run that saw him take a Golden Gloves state championship last year, in addition to his two Junior Olympic titles. He began boxing two years ago, after capturing three state championships in wrestling.
“It’ll be my last fight here, probably, but I want to keep fighting in Arkansas,” he said. “So this is a big tournament we have coming up, going against Texas … I think it’s an opportunity to train harder, and leave with a good record for myself here in Louisiana. I can leave it all in the ring.”
Boudreaux says he couldn’t be prouder of his three young boxers. They also represent the rise of a boxing gym that opened four years ago. Graham was Elite’s first state champion; a year later, that number has tripled, and the gym is strongly represented on the regional championship team.
“I’ve wanted to put together a Junior Olympic team, and our little guys pulled it off,” he said. “I was impressed by their performance.”
None of the three will know their first round opponent prior to the regional, so “it all comes back to our training.”
“We train four or five days a week … we know the competition is tough,” Boudreaux said. “It keeps everyone in check because when we’re not training, we know they are.”