Navy wins again, but UK captures 3 individual titles

For eight straight years, the UK boxing club had come within a punch of its ultimate goal: a regional championship.

This year, the Cats hoped to finally end Navy’s domination over UK, but once again, their efforts came up just short as the Midshipmen took home another regional crown.

Despite another second-place finish, the Cats captured three individual titles and three runners-up this weekend at the National Collegiate Boxing Association’s Midwest Regional at the Buell Armory.

As a result of the Cats’ strong showing, UK will send six boxers to the NCBA Collegiate Boxing Championships in Reno, Nev., starting on April 12.

Boasting one of the more talented squads in recent years, the Cats took the tournament by storm, sending boxers in six different weight classes to the finals. Freshman Cliff Cornett, a first-time champion, joined defending champions Tyler Sexton and Jamyle Cannon at the top of their weight classes.

Sexton, the two-time defending regional champion at 119 pounds, defeated Huy Troung of Navy to claim his third straight regional championship. But Sexton, who will be making his third trip to nationals, isn’t satisfied with being regional champ.

“I’m glad to do it again,” Sexton said. “But I want the guy from Army. (The national championship) was stolen from me last year and I want that back.”

Arguably the biggest accomplishment came from Cannon, who changed weight class before the tournament. Fighting three relatively unknown opponents in as many days was something new for the junior, who moved from the 139-pound weight class to 147.

But Cannon, who knocked out his first opponent in 45 seconds Friday night, still took home the title of champion.

“It’s a big deal to me,” Cannon said. “There’s a lot of power difference between the weight classes. Coming in and winning is a big accomplishment.”

And though a bevy of bigger opponents that Cannon has never faced before awaits him at nationals, he isn’t worried about what lies ahead.

“I feel I’m technically superior to anyone I fight against,” Cannon said.

In addition to the three champions, UK’s Phil Heavrin (156 pounds), Conor Thomas (185 pounds) and Bojan Simic (heavyweight) received automatic invites to nationals for reaching the finals for their weight class.

While head coach George Ginter thinks Sexton will be the favorite in his weight class at nationals, Ginter said he expects all six of the boxers to make it to at least the semifinals.

Ginter was particularly pleased with the performance of Thomas, whom few expected to reach the 185-pound finals this weekend.

“Sexton is the favorite,” Ginter said. “But Thomas, I do like his chances at nationals.”

In the end, Navy’s depth landed them another regional title, but not as easily as the Midshipmen had hoped for. UK posted an overall winning record of 9-8 while challenging for the regional title, but Navy placed a fighter in almost every championship fight to tip the title scales in their favor.

Even with the Cats losing another regional title, the squad is excited to send six fighters out to Reno — double the number the squad sent last year.

“We’ll get in the gym,” Sexton said. “If we can get six All-Americans that will be great, we’ll get noticed.”