RENO -- Ryan Healy's belt said it all: "2004 National Collegiate Boxing Champion: 165 pounds."
Healy came out with all he had in the deciding third round to capture the National Collegiate Boxing Association (NCBA) national championship Saturday on a 3-2 split decision over Leif Nordhagen of Air Force at the Eldorado Hotel-Casino.
Healy was one of two University of Nevada boxers who competed in the championship round. Nevada heavyweight John Lorman was stopped in the third round by Wes Baer of Army in the other contest.The Air Force Academy took home the team national championship.
"The medal, the sweatshirt, the belt - it all made up for the regionals," said the 20-year-old Healy, referring to his Feb. 23 NCBA regional championship for which he didn't even receive a trophy. "I'm flying high right now."
Healy wasn't the only one as his friends, teammates and Nevada coaches Mike Martino and Greg Rice took turns hugging the sophomore from Salem, Ore.
"Ryan worked so hard," Rice said. "Last year he had this (pointing to his chin) and this (pointing to his heart). I'm just so happy for him. It's nice to be champion. They can never take it away from you."
Healy appeared to outbox Nordhagen during the first round, but his rival from Air Force - whom Healy beat for the regional championship - managed to rock the red-headed Healy throughout the second round with several right hands.
"The first round I was trying to set my pace - a slow pace - and box and move," Healy said. "In the corner after the second round I said, 'This is it. I have to come out and throw punches. Every time he hits me with one punch I have to hit him with two.' I was going to die on the floor or keep punching."
Healy kept punching. As he had throughout the tournament, Healy began to set up his right hand with a piston-like left jab. Once Healy started to land, he started to integrate right and left uppercuts and assumed complete control.
For Healy, the win represented the culmination of a year of hard work and dedication, which began with his loss in the nationals last year.
"Last year I decided to make a change," Healy said. "To keep boxing I had to put everything I had into it - devote all of my free time or quit. I ran every day so I didn't have to look back this year and go 'I could've done more.' It's like a payoff for all the hard work. It's my pay for all the sacrifices, when I could've gone out to the parties."
For Healy, now it's time to celebrate - for a little while, anyway.
"It's going to be good to relax a little," Healy said. "I'm going to take a week off and then I'm going back in training again. It's my life now. Last year it was a hobby, now it's my life. My goal is for the next two years is to get two more championships. Next year I want to get another belt."
The 6-foot-5 Lorman appeared to take the first round against the aggressive Baer, staying behind his right jab and moving well as he mixed in some powerful left crosses. But Baer, even though tired, was relentless, scoring a standing-eight in the second and another in the third, when the referee decided to wave it off after Lorman absorbed a terrific left hook.
Due to deadline issues, the Nevada Appeal was unable to interview the 25-year-old Lorman, a junior from Glendale, Calif.