Olympian Raul Marquez on USA Boxing Alumni’s 1992 US Trials virtual reunion
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (November 24, 2020) – USA Boxing and the USA Boxing Alumni Association recently held a virtual reunion via Zoom for competitors at the 1992 USA Boxing Trials, including a pair of 1992 USA Olympians, Raul Marquez and Montell Griffin.
The group was comprised of 19 fighters who competed at the 1992 USA Olympic Trials, plus a few administrators, who happily spoke non-stop for an hour and 45 minutes. They gleefully reminisced, shared personal updates from the past 22 years, remembered their most memorable experiences as amateur boxers, and even got emotional at times as they rebounded. Some have kept in touch through emails and social media, but visibly seeing each other on the Zoom call was eye-opening for these ring brothers.
“You all are part of USA Boxing,” said call host Mike McAtee, Executive Director of USA Boxing. “Hector Colon and Raul Marquez got their brothers on this call. It was a natural fit. We have 13 kids getting ready to qualify in May for the Olympics. USA Boxing touches 36,000 kids every day. It changed our lives, and we can have an impact saving lives.
“It’s an honor seeing you all. You are the backbone of USA Boxing. Boxing made us who we are, you have inspired boxers. This was long overdue, and we plan to have reunions with other Olympic Trials classes in the future.”
“This is very cool to see everybody and I enjoy listening to you,” added Chris Cugliari, USA Boxing Alumni Association Director. “You’re all helping bring the spirit back to USA Boxing Alumni. Boxing people love being around boxing people, and that’s what the USA Boxing Alumni Association is all about. We’re bringing that spirit back. I love having you guys in our alumni program. This has been a blast!”
“I’m not much of a boxer, but I’m happy to be part of this boxing program,” commented Barry Siff, USA Boxing volunteer marketing advisor. “I grew up in Detroit during the 1980’s and hung out at Kronk (Gym). I’m happy to be on this call. We all need to help Mike and the team going forward. Don’t wait until 2028 in Los Angeles. We have Tokyo next year and Paris in 2024. Kids can learn from you. I’m happy to be part of USA Boxing.”
(Robert Allen and Tarick Salmaci were also on the call but unable to speak due to technical problems)
HECTOR COLON: “I love you guys. It’s been so long. I hope we can communicate like this more often. We need you all to support USA Boxing and USA Boxing Alumni. My first international fight was in Barbados and I knocked out my opponent in 26 seconds. I remember receiving the Adidas bag and shoes. It was such a special thing. I dreamed of making the Olympics and I should have, but I found God calling me away from the sport. I was proud watching you and I rooted for you.
“It’s great to be back in USA Boxing and giving back to USA Boxing, because it helped me become the person I am today. I could have gone the wrong way. Let’s do this again and keep giving back to our sports.”
RAUL MARQUEZ: “I’m very excited to be here. I feel honored and I’m probably the only one here who fought most of the guys here. I have a lot of memories. I’m honored to be here with you, my boxing family. It’s beautiful.
“Everybody here knows how hard it is to win a tournament. We know what it takes because we were all elite. We have to give back. I’m still involved in boxing.”
ORLANDO HARRIS: “I had the greatest time in USA Boxing. I started late. I fought once before I went into the military. I got better and learned how to fight in the military. I had to because I had to do good or go back to my unit. In ’04 I got into car accident. Everybody died but me. They say I’m disabled, but I’m not, I still coach boxing.”
PAULIE AYALA: “The ’92 Olympic Trials is my most memorable moment because I was there. In 1988, I lost in The Westerns in the semifinals and I left boxing. I wasn’t focused. I watched you people excel and didn’t fight again until 1992. I lost to Sergio (Reyes), who I had fought 16 times before that fight. I met a lot of you guys fighting in Russia. What’s inspiring is listening to all of you.”
MONTELL GRIFFIN: “I was late going to the rty, coming in 1991. I had two fights going into the Golden Gloves, but I lied and said I had 12 so I could fight in the opens. My first fight was in 1991. I had to fight the No. 1 guy, Jeremy Williams, to make the Olympic team. Those 1 ½ years as were the best of my life. I looked up to all of you guys and have respect for all.”
ANTWUN ECHOLS: “I made it to Team USA, and I was an Olympic alternate. Raul (Marquez), he likes to talk, and I was excited to fight him. I learned a lot. I love being with all the guys. Larry Nicholson took me under his wing. He talked to me daily. I was a young kid, and my family life wasn’t good. When I went to the ’92 championships, these people were my family.
“I was raw off the streets of Davenport (Iowa) and Larry took care of me…thank you. If it wasn’t for the people at the Olympic Center, I don’t know where I’d be today.”
DANNY RIOS: “In 1992, I lost in the semifinals of the US Championships. So, I had to win the Golden Gloves to go to the Olympics. At the Trials I won my first fight and lost my second. I later turned pro. I’m working security and helping to train fighters at a local gym. I hope to have my own gym. I’m glad to see you all after all these years.
SKIPPER KELP: “I’m in Vegas. I moved here when I was in the amateurs. The best thing was the camaraderie. We grew up together. Together, we came of age as teenagers and I met some of my best friends for life. We were all at the elite level, the best versus the best, and eventually we fought each other. I met a lot of guys in 1989 in Russia.
“I own Fight Capital Gym in Las Vegas. When you go to Vegas, call me and come to my gym. We have a brotherhood for life. Amateur boxing brings people together. To reconnect like this is awesome.”
DANELL NICHOLSON: “My most memorable moment was representing USA Boxing at the 1992 Olympics, because I became an Olympian and met all these great athletes. Meeting you is really my most memorable. You can’t beat boxing!”
RONALD SIMMS: “I was probably on the amateur team longer than anybody. I stayed on so long that I have a lot of memories. I was part of the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympic teams. I saw a lot of talent come through. I started in 1995; this sport is addictive and I’m still involved in amateur boxing. We still have the most talented kids in amateur boxing.
“My dream was to make the Olympic Team and I still haven’t made it. My goal was to be No. 1 and I was in 1995. Then, I wanted to quit, but my coach said it wasn’t the time. The lessons I learned from you guys and sharing with kids is what it’s all about. I’m in India working as the chief coach, doing what I love.”
PAUL VADEM: “I’m glad to see everyone. I have so many memories, the most memorable is seeing you, my boxing brothers. We trained together to make names for ourselves. We will always have this to go back on. I get emotional. It didn’t matter where you came from, your economical values, and we competed against each other. But at the end of the day we respected each other.
“I’m a speaker and author today. What I had learned in boxing is why I’m able to do what I do. Thanks. This is beautiful. I’m thankful to see you all.”
JAMES JOHNSON: “It’s amazing to see some of these faces, It’s great to see you, guys! I remember the Olympic Festival. Randall Crippen. He was talkative……I gave him a diploma at the end of the match.
“I broke my hand in competition and they wouldn’t let me fight. I did and I drew a hometown kid in (Worcester) Massachusetts, Bobby Harris, and won. With one hand, I lost in the final. It’s good to see you guys. I’m living in Flint, Michigan. I went on to get my college career and today I’m a network engineer.”
DEAN FLETCHER: “I was an amateur a long time. I have many memories, but one is the years I was on the Board of Directors as an athlete representative. Kids today, the reason you can’t fight twice a day is me.
“The traveling, I can’t let that go. When things aren’t going well, I think of my amateur days. Nothing but love for you guys.”
LARRY NICHOLSON: “My most memorable things is being the 1993 Boxer of the Year. I accomplished a lot. I won silver at the 1993 and 1994 World Championships. Should have been gold. You were great fighters and role models. I had an opportunity to go to college – North Michigan University – and I have a degree.
“I’m still involved in boxing today as head coach of the Michigan Golden Gloves. I’m very happy where I am right now. I didn’t go pro because I love amateur boxing, the discipline and life. I worked with three Olympic teams. We’ve done well as frat brothers.”
MARK LANTON: “It’s a pleasure to see everybody like this. My most memorable moment was winning the Western Trials. I was an Army soldier when I was an amateur fighter. In Iraq, sometimes, Frank Vassar kept in touch with me. I’m retired now from the military. I worked at the VA as a federal police officer. I’m totally retired. I coach kids at a local gym and I’m living the life in Orlando.
FRANK VASSAR: “Winning the US Olympic Sports Festival and National Golden Gloves in 1999 was my most memorable. I was in the Army, the National Guards, when I was boxing. I got commissioned in the Air Force. I did three combat tours and was injured. Crazy stuff. I’m glad I made it back. I always enjoyed going to tournaments and seeing you guys. I love all you guys.”
RICHARD BONDS: In 1989, I remember fighting Jeremy Williams. He was the best and that put me on the map. The next four years I was going to Colorado and that was the best. I was a college student and got a criminal justice degree at the University of Memphis. I met Echols at dual. We’d come together three or four times a year, maybe more and when you saw somebody it was like yesterday.
“In 1992, I wanted to make the Olympic team. I lost my first fight in Worcester and didn’t make it to the Olympics. There were only 12 weight classes and I was one of those guys. You are my frat brothers.”