Four youths recently traveled from Cleveland to Independence, Missouri as boxing championship contenders. They returned home winners. From February 1 to 4 they fought in the 2012 National Silver Gloves Tournament, which is for 10 to 15 year old amateur boxers.
Tiarra Conwell, 11, Khalil Osaze, 12, Dazzlin Turner, 15, and De'Andre Williams, 11, train with the Lonnie Burten Untouchable Boxing Academy. Founded by Head Coach Donyelle (“Dee”) Bell in 2011, the Academy is located in the Lonnie Burten Recreation Center on East 46th Street off Quincy Avenue.
Four assistant coaches join Bell in training young boxers like the ones the Academy sent to the national competition.
In their individual weight classes, Williams and Turner both claimed first place in the nation. Said Williams, “The best part was when I won and my team was cheering me on."
Osaze and Conwell each won second place.
Turner actually won by default because no one in her class fought. However, she felt especially proud that she and Conwell were trailblazers. That's because 2012 is the first year in which girls competed in the National Silver Gloves Tournament. “We got a chance to make history,” said Turner.
Conwell described the competition as “challenging.” She had wise advice for anyone who is thinking about boxing: “Keep [your] hands up" and "Work hard and never quit.”
Her father, Assistant Coach Chuck Conwell, expressed his pride. “She’s ranked number two in the country,” he said. “Going in with three fights, she fought a girl that had about 14 fights. So I was very satisfied with the outcome.”
According to Strength and Conditioning coach, Kalonji Osaze, father of Khalil Osaze, the Academy team was remarkable for several reasons. First of all, he said, it’s rare for a single school to send four boxers to the national tournament without any of them being eliminated before the final competition. But in the Academy’s case, said Osaze, “Everybody we took [to Independence] fought for the title.”
Another reason the Academy team stood out, said Osaze, was that boxers who make it to the nationals usually have already fought as many as 80 matches. But on the Academy team, Williams had only fought 17 fights before winning the national title. What’s more, each of his teammates had fought in less than 10 state or regional matches before qualifying to box in the national contest.
“That just doesn’t happen,” said Osaze.
It seems Academy boxers have a time-tested secret to success: great coaches. Bell, Conwell and Osaze all spoke of how important a good coach is.
Conwell, a 43 year-old father of 7, remarked that his younger children are taking boxing much further than he did at their ages. He said, “No telling how far I could have went if I had had somebody like me in my corner.”
By M. LaVora Perry
Click here to learn about another young boxer from Greater University Circle.