FLORENCE — Lamar’s Austin Hill is an 11-year-old with football dreams.
After he discovered boxing, he not only loved the extra conditioning for the gridiron, he found intrigue with strategy inside the ring.
“Both get you plenty of exercise and get you into shape,” said Hill, who trains 2-3 hours per day and runs four miles per week while a member of Darlington’s One More Round boxing team.
With a 2-0 record (one win via decision and other via a third-round knockout with a right hook) as he entered Saturday’s 80-pound final for 11-12-year-olds of the South East Amateur Invitational Boxing Championship at the Florence Civic Center, he appeared low key as he prepared for that morning’s weigh-ins.
“I’ll try my hardest,” Hill said that morning.
Hill and several others vied for championships in the USA Boxing-sanctioned event.
“Oh man, it’s exciting,” said Larry Frazier, who won a Golden Gloves crown for 147 pounds at age 16. Frazier is not only the coach of One More Round, but he organized this event. “It’s nerve racking. I hardly got any sleep last night. It’s just like before my first fight, so exciting. I hope everything works right and I hope everything goes smoothly. When you put on a big show like this, you want everything to go exactly right.”
Even before the first fight, logistics threw Frazier a sucker punch as the scheduled two-day weekend event was shorted to Saturday because, according to Frazier, some teams could not make it and there were boxers who didn’t make weight for their classes. Hill was the lone local fighter who qualified to fight.
Originally, there were 75 fights scheduled for this weekend. Instead, Saturday’s eight bouts were in front of an estimated 150 people. Among the fighters competing was Summerville’s Jessie James Lewellen, who was ranked No. 1 in the13-14 age group’s 132-pound division last year by USA Boxing. Now in his age group’s 138 class, Lewellen — who won bronze in last year’s National Junior Olympics — lost via uniramous decision Saturday to West Virginia’s Colby Wheeler.
“Overall for the first time that we put on an event like this in Florence, I thought we did pretty good,” said Frazier, also is a member of the Carolinas Boxing Hall of Fame. “Florence-Darlington is a football-baseball-basketball community. But today they saw some good fights here. Hopefully, next year we’ll be better. I want this to be a yearly event, and I hope next year’s event will be a little better.”
Among other boxing clubs at Florence on Saturday were from Fort Jackson. LT Matthew Aycox, of Columbia, was 0-1 entering his Saturday bout.
“Events like these are good opportunities to get to see good competition,” Aycox said. “I love the competition you get between the fighters. That’s what boxing’s all about.”
In an age where Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) grows in popularity, Aycox still likes boxing.
“In MMA, the technique is lost a little bit,” Aycox said. “And, in boxing you have to keep your fundamentals. It’s an age-old sport. And with Muhammad Ali dying, we have to show our appreciation and stay with it. That’s what I love about boxing.”
Aycox lost via technical knockout because of injury against White Rock’s Frank Mora.
And, as for Hill? His undefeated reign came to an end as he lost a uniramous decision to Kyree Williams, of Decatur, Georgia.
“I learned that some kids are better and just as good as me in boxing,” Hill said after his fight. “I mean, I know that they train and there are just some kids that are as good as me. I’ll get better.”