Satisfaction and relief.
Those were the sentiments Keon Briscoe was feeling as he stood in the middle of the ring holding aloft the Tony Rubino Trophy and acknowledging a respectful standing ovation from a raucous crowd of approximately 2,500 at Alumni Hall.
Briscoe had just become only the 19th four-time champion in the 74-year history of the Brigade Boxing Championships and the enormity of the accomplishment was somewhat overwhelming.
"I just feel so proud and honored. Right now, I'm thinking about all the people who helped me along the way," Briscoe said afterward. "Even though I'm boxing alone, I didn't get there alone. I had a lot of support from my coaches, my teammates and my parents."
Briscoe wasn't about to blow this opportunity to add his name to the trophy named in honor of former Navy boxing coach Tony Rubino. The senior from Norfolk, Virginia came out focused and showed superb ring generalship in pounding classmate Vincent Huerta, a newcomer to the sport.
Briscoe used a vicious jab to batter Huerta and a hard overhand right to hurt him in drawing standing eight counts in both the first and second rounds before the referee mercifully stopped the bout. And with that impressive knockout, Briscoe completed an unbeaten four-year run through the Brigade Boxing Championships and also earned the Spike Webb Most Most Outstanding Boxer Award.
"This is one of those things I'll tell my kids and grandkids about. It's something I'll never forget," Briscoe said. "I came in here tonight with a target on my back so I knew I had to give my best performance and fight like a champion. It doesn't matter how many times you've won Brigades, you've got to bring it for the finals."
A pair of juniors – Danny O'Neill and Anthony Alexander – have a chance to join the exclusive fraternity of four-time champs next year.
O'Neill really had to work in order to claim his third straight crown, getting pushed to the limit by classmate Jimmy Lawson. O'Neill escaped with a split decision victory despite getting his nose bloodied.
"That was the toughest fight I've ever had. Jimmy and I have fought at least 100 times in practice so we know each other's styles really well," O'Neill said. "He has a lot of power and hit me with a couple hard shots. I just had to dig down deep and show some heart. In the end, I wanted it more."
Meanwhile, Alexander dominated from start to finish and turned the face of fellow junior Aldrin Racelis into a bloody mess en route to a unanimous decision and his second consecutive crown at 185 pounds. Alexander, who grew up in the renowned boxing city of Detroit, said he will work even harder over the next year so he too can hoist the Rubino Trophy.
"It would feel great to put my name up there with all the great boxers in Naval Academy history," said Alexander, who was presented with the Chris Dobleman Most Improved Boxer Award. "I owe a lot to Keon Briscoe, who is a great boxer. I've been sparring with Briscoe since plebe year and I think that's really what brought the best out of me."
Jourdan Looney, another junior, will try to become a three-time champ in 2015 after surviving a rematch with Jordan Davis. The Waldorf native met some serious resistance, absorbing several wild flurries and some vicious head shots from the sophomore in the second round. Looney regrouped between rounds and absolutely pummeled the exhausted Davis in the third to earn his second straight title at 175 pounds.
"I fought Jordan last year so I knew how tough he was. And I knew that he really wanted to beat me," said Looney, who was surprisingly awarded a unanimous decision. "He hit me hard a few times in the second so I knew I had to come back strong. Everybody is tired in the third round so it's all about will."
Senior Carlos Perez captured his second straight championship in convincing fashion, using his superior strength to get inside on Beau Cisneros and bombarding the freshman with a massive number of punches that connected.
"When you see your name up on that wall as a champ the first time you automatically want to go for that second one," said Perez, who lost in the semifinals as a freshman then was unable to compete in Brigade Boxing as a sophomore due to injury. "It feels good to repeat. Over the last couple years, I've learned how to be aggressive and always on top of my opponent."
VJ Sakbun lost to O'Neill in last year's finals and said that result stayed with him for the following year. Sakbun got back to the 132-pound championship bout and this time scored a unanimous decision over fellow junior Jed Salonga. It was a tough result for Salonga, who was Brigade champ at 125 pounds in 2014, but was asked by coach Jim McNally to move up a weight class this year to make a more competitive bout.
"Losing last year made me even more motivated to go to practice, to train harder, to run more," said Sakbun, who made the club team this year after being relegated to intramurals as a sophomore.
Reuben Druckery is another fighter who rebounded from a disappointing loss in last year's finals to become a champion. The junior from New Orleans lost to Sean Hunt by unanimous decision a year ago, but came back to beat freshman Josh Gray by the same result.
Senior heavyweight Dan Gallien wowed the crowd and displayed a hammer of a right hand in battering freshman Solomon Belhu before knocking him out.
Odenton resident Caprice Kelty was a four-year member of the Navy women's soccer team and never really thought about boxing. She took up the sport four weeks ago at the urging of soccer teammate Lily Kraemer as a means of showing support. The Arundel High graduate wound up in the 139-pound final and acquitted herself well for a novice.
Kelty and freshman Portia Norkaitis went toe-to-toe for all three rounds in a nonstop fight that drew a standing ovation from the audience. Kelty knocked down Norkaitis at the end of the second round and landed more damaging blows in the eyes of judges, who awarded her a unanimous decision.
Norkaitis, a native of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, also didn't participate in boxing during the fall because she was the lead singer in the Naval Academy musical Translations.
In a rematch from a great fight last year, senior Sam Glaeser scored a split decision victory over sophomore Stephanie Simon for the second straight time.
74th Brigade Boxing Championships
125 – Alyson Eng, Jr., def. Lucy Diaz, So., unanimous decision
139 – Caprice Kelty, Sr., def. Portia Norkaitis, Fr., unanimous decision
156 – Sam Glaeser, def. Stephanie Simon, split decision
125 – Carlos Perez, Sr., def. Beau Cisneros, Fr., unanimous decision
132 – VJ Sakbun, Jr., def. Jed Salonga, Jr., unanimous decision
147 – Danny O'Neill, Jr., def. Jimmy Lawson, Jr., split decision
156 – Dave Von Savage, Jr., def. Ryan Caldwell, Fr., unanimous decison
165 – Reuben Druckery, Jr., def. Josh Gray, Fr., unanimous decision
175 – Jourdan Looney, Jr., def. Jordan Davis, Jr., unanimous decision
185 – Anthony Alexander, Jr., def. Aldrin Racelis, unanimous decision
195 – Keon Briscoe, Sr., def. Vincent Huerta, technical knockout