Cats look to sink Midshipmen in weekend tourney

For the past eight years, Navy has dominated the Midwest Regional of the National Collegiate Boxing Association, knocking off perennial runner-up UK every year.

But with three national championship contenders on this year’s squad, UK boxing club head coach George Ginter thinks the tide may finally be turning against the Midshipmen, favoring the Cats.

For the second straight year, the UK boxing club is host of the Midwest Regional tournament. Last year, the tournament was held at the Four Seasons off Winchester Road. This year the club has moved the tournament on campus to the Buell Armory.

Fights start tonight and will run through Sunday. With the on-campus location, Ginter hopes students can show up to create a hostile environment for the other teams.

“Since Navy will be there, I think all of the Army ROTC guys are going to show up to make some noise,” Ginter said, referring to the athletic rivalry between Army and Navy.

With nine squads comprising the Midwest region, UK will have its hands full with more than just the Midshipmen. Ginter expects Miami (Ohio), West Virginia, North Carolina and The Citadel to all bring quality competition to the tournament.

“Navy’s number one,” Ginter said. “We’re the second best team. Miami will put four guys in, and they can all fight. West Virginia will bring four champions and UNC has one guy.”

UK’s best chance at landing a national champion falls on the shoulders of junior Tyler Sexton, Ginter said. Sexton, who fights at 119 pounds, has made it to nationals in Reno, Nev., the past two years but has fallen short of winning the entire tournament. Ginter said that junior Jaymle Cannon, who fights at 147 pounds, and freshman Chris Cornett also have the potential to be the top fighters in their respective weight classes.

“We have a legitimate chance for a national champion,” Ginter said.

As a former wrestler at Henry Clay High School, Sexton is used to being around a mat, and all that experience inside the wrestling ring has helped two-time All-American improve inside the boxing ropes.

“It absolutely helped,” Sexton said. “When I first joined, one of the guys said he hates wrestlers because they pick (boxing) up so easily.”

Sexton isn’t the only former wrestler on the team. Cornett, who is also Ginter’s stepson, wrestled at Henry Clay. In fact, going to Cornett’s wrestling matches is where Ginter got his first peep at Sexton.

Of all UK boxers, Cornett has the most experience, Sexton said. Cornett has been boxing since he was 8, giving the freshman experience that even most seniors lack.

“Chris is going to come in and surprise some people,” Sexton said.

But if UK has any hope of getting past Navy for the team championship, it’s going to have to improve on the last time the two teams got together. Less than a month ago in Louisville, Navy swept the Cats in all six fights during a match. And while the beating still lingers in UK’s mind, Sexton says that the Feb. 29 fight was a mismatch.

The premiere fight of the regional may  be a rematch of the two top fighters at 147 pounds. UK’s Cannon and Navy’s Antoine Aku have fought multiple times since last year’s championship fight, which Aku won. Cannon lost to Aku again during the fight in Louisville.

While the tournament does land on a weekend, Ginter suggests a solution for everyone.

“Show up at 8:30,” Ginter said. “Watch boxing, then celebrate at Two Keys with the guys that just lost.”