BY MIKE HOUSER
RENO - After months - and in some cases, years - of training, several University of Nevada club boxers will finally get to perform in front of a home crowd.
The Wolf Pack will host the Nevada Invitational boxing tournament tonight at the Convention Center in the Eldorado Hotel-Casino. There are 14 bouts scheduled, of which eight will feature Wolf Pack boxers. Three other teams, including defending national champion Air Force, UNLV and Cal-Berkeley, will also compete.
Although the Wolf Pack have competed at invitationals in Las Vegas, Baltimore, New York and Seattle this season, only four boxers have seen action - 165-pound sophomore Ryan Healy, 150-pound sophomore Mike Townsell, defending 125-pound National Collegiate Boxing Association (NCBA) regional champion Jose Casas and 119-pound Daigo Moki.
All four will compete tonight and will be joined by super heavyweights John Lorman and Matt Swart, 132-pound sophomore Joaquin Tucson and 139-pound Brandon Carney.
For Tucson, of Lovelock, the chance to fight in front of a home crowd has been a long time coming. Tucson went 2-1 as a 119-pound freshman in 2001, including a loss as a 125-pounder in the regional tournament, but sat out 2002 after experiencing hand tremors.
"It was a major concern," said Tucson, a bareback rider when he's not boxing, working two jobs or going to school. "My doctors and parents thought I had Parkinson's disease. I have hand tremors and I saw a doctor every week. I don't have insurance. We don't get scholarships for boxing, so that's why I've got to work two jobs."
Tucson said he has received three opinions on his hand tremors, which have been attributed to stress, but said he still wants an MRI to eliminate any other, more malign, possibilities.
Tucson is scheduled to face Jeb Fredrickson, of the Air Force Academy, and appeared far from nervous Thursday as he finished his workout.
"I'm a solid 130. I'm ready," Tucson said. "I'm trying to redeem myself (for the 2001 loss). Being one of the leaders, some of the new kids look up to me and a couple of other guys that have been around for a while. I'm trying to do good for them. (Nevada boxing coach) Greg Rice has had a big influence on my boxing. He taught me everything. He taught me the basics and gave me his time. He's one of the best."
After running out of steam and dropping a decision in his first fight (in Baltimore, Md.), the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Lorman is looking to apply his newfound experience against Ian Tuznik, of Air Force.
"I've definitely learned (from his first fight)," said Lorman, a southpaw. "Instead of chasing the knockout, I'm going to use movement and try to take advantage of my height. The first guy I fought came right up to my face. Instead of trying to kill the guy, I'm going to let it unfold. If a knockout happens, it happens."
Lorman, a 25-year-old junior from Glendale, Calif., who is majoring in criminal justice, said fighting in front of a home crowd is fine - for the most part.
"I'm a little nervous," Lorman said. "With everyone you know watching you, you don't want to think how you'll do."
Fellow super heavyweight Swart can relate to the feeling.
"I was scared before my first fight. Petrified," said the redheaded Swart, a Gardnerville native who lost his only fight in early 2003. "I'd never fought before and I didn't know what to expect - especially at (super) heavyweight. I might fight a guy 205 pounds today, and a guy 300 next week."
He may not know his opponent's weight this time, but at least the 6-foot, 235-pound Swart knows his name. Swart will face Oscar Casillas, of Air Force.
"I'm ready. I've busted my (butt)," Swart said. "I work out at least two times a day. I try and push my limits every day. If a knockout happens, fine. It'd be good to have, but it's not in my game plan. I want to wear (Casillas) down. I want to break him mentally and physically. I'm working on my form, on the rhythm of boxing. Before, it was based on power, on arm strength. I'm trying to incorporate full movement of my body."
Swart said he's a bit ambiguous about fighting in front of friends and family for the first time.
"It's an internal conflict," Swart said. "There's some pressure. My friends and family haven't seen me in competition. Up till now, it's been 'He did this, he did that.' Now people get to see what it's really like. I take a lot of pride in doing this for my family and myself."
In other matches, Moki, originally from Chiba, Japan, will face Kim Moon, of UNLV; Casas will meet Samuelson Go, of UNLV; Brandon Carney will take on Luis Pena, of Air Force; Townsell will meet Abu Ramin of Cal-Berkeley, and Healy will test Mike Sackenheim, of Air Force.
Doors open at 6 p.m., with the first bout to begin at 7 p.m.
NEVADA INVITATIONAL BOXING TOURNAMENT
What: 14-bout collegiate boxing card.
Where: The Convention Center in the Eldorado Hotel-Casino.
When: Doors open at 6 p.m. First bout begins at 7 p.m.
Ticket info: Eldorado Showroom Box Office, or call (800)-648-5966 or 775-786-5700.