Spc. April Moreland is not your average athlete. Not only does she compete in the male predominant sport of boxing, but she began training almost two years ago, at 29.
Moreland, a supply technician assigned to Company D, 305th Military Intelligence Battalion, 111th MI Brigade, first saw boxing as a great way to get in shape, until her coach, Andres Portela, changed that perspective.
“He saw something in me, the potential to actually compete,” Moreland said.
According to Moreland, Portela looked past her age and told her that she did have what it took to be a competitive boxer. It was not long after she started competing that she started winning.
Moreland decided to take boxing one step further by putting in her application for the All Army team and it paid off. Including the All Army Championship this year, she competed in eight competitions, winning six and losing two. Moreland and the other members of the All Army Boxing Team are currently at the USA Boxing Championship in Spokane, Wash., where they will compete tomorrow through April 6. When Moreland returns to Fort Huachuca, she will continue training for future competitions.
Before they left for the competition in Washington, Moreland and the other boxers could often be found training in Barnes Field House. On a weekday, training started with a weigh-in. Moreland’s weight class is light middleweight.
Before training, she and other boxers grease up with a gel-like substance called Albolene. According to Moreland, this helps open up a boxer’s pores to sweat efficiently. Sweating is good in boxing to keep weight down.
The boxers’ training began with calisthenics, such as jumping jacks and swinging the arms and shoulders. The boxers warmed up as a group, but then broke off to individually shadow box, meaning the boxers practiced their techniques as if they were in a real fight. Staff Sgt. Alexis Ramos, boxing coach, explains how this works like a simulation.
“It helps you visualize somebody in front of you,” Ramos said.
After shadow boxing, the gloves went on, the arms came up and the chin went down. With a large punching bag, Moreland began practicing her jabs starting with speed, then during the next set switched to focusing on power. There’s a difference in sound between the two types of punches.
The boxers did circuit training. This is when one activity is performed for a certain amount of minutes and then the activity switches to something different. Moreland spends one circuit on the heavier punching bag and two taking smaller jabs without boxing gloves against a smaller bag, called a speed bag, and a medicine ball tethered to elastic cables.
During one rotation, boxers got off the training floor and into the ring with a coach to practice with punch mitts. Ramos mentioned how this type of training improves accuracy and focus. The coaches wore the mitts as they worked one-on-one with the boxer.
Moreland sums up her overall training as a lot of cardio training: hitting at the bags, sparring, meaning a freestyle form of fighting but with enough rules to prevent injury and core training. In addition to cardio, there is conditioning training, which includes running every other day and occasionally light weight lifting.
While physical stamina is an important key to winning a boxing match, Moreland shows that mental stamina is equally important elaborating on what goes through her mind every time she competes.
“Each round is two minutes long, and it feels like the bell is never going to ring,” Moreland said. “The only thing that’s in my head is, ‘keep going April, keep going, you have the training, you have the conditioning, just keep going.’”
She also gets motivation from her coaches telling her she is a winner and to go inside the ring and win. Moreland remembers the words of Portela to keep her motivated. There were times when she thought she was too old for competition and he let her know that if she did not believe in herself, that he did, and told her to believe in her training.
“According to the boxing world, this old lady is getting in the ring with these younger females and I am winning, so he must see something in me and that keeps me going because at least if I’m seeing it, he’s seeing it and I don’t want to let him down,” she said.
Moreland has short term goals to stay in competitive boxing but in the future, has dreams of becoming a coach. She feels that she would be more effective as a coach than a boxer.
“I like boxing, but I have a way of reaching people through speaking, so I think I will be able to articulate my skills better as a coach than a fighter,” Moreland said.