It has been seven years since the Marine Corps had an All-Marine boxing team, but the spirit of the storied program was still very much alive at the third Freedom Fight at Northside High School in Jacksonville on June 21 which was hosted by All-Marine boxing team alumni in conjunction with the Jacksonville-Onslow Sports Commission.

Some of the All-Marine boxing team’s greatest boxers, such as Jamel “Semper Fi” Herring, Bonnie “the Queen B” Mann and J.B. Williamson were in attendance along with former Army boxer James “Bonecrusher” Smith, a former World Boxing Association (WBA) Heavyweight Champion, and other Marine boxing alumni and fans of the sport. The fight coincided with the weekend of the alumni team’s reunion and hall of fame induction ceremony, giving longtime friends and teammates a chance to return to Camp Lejeune and catch up.

“Camp Lejeune is like a second home to me,” Herring said, who is the current World Boxing Organization Junior Lightweight Champion. “I was around Lejeune for nine years when I was in the Marine Corps, so Lejeune is always going to be another home to me.”

Six U.S. Marines competed in five of the 13 three-round bouts that were fought in three different divisions, elite, intermediate and youth, at the USA Boxing sanctioned Freedom Fight. Amateur fighters from clubs and gyms across North Carolina joined up with boxers from Virginia, Florida and South Carolina for the night.

Jabril Noel won in the final match of the night to claim the Marine Corps’ third victory in the event. Ariana Parra defeated fellow Marine Annett Nino-Fernandez as Ramon Matossegura, also a Marine, defeated Trevor Ellis in the elite male, 165 lbs. division.

Marines Christian Valdez and Edwin Asencio also competed in the event. Valdez lost to Team Norfolk’s Taeshaun Patterson as Asencio lost to Jackson Chapman. 

Though boxing is no longer an official All-Marine sport, the team’s return could be on its way in the years to come.

“We are going to bring the All-Marine boxing team back to the pinnacle,” said Williamson, a former World Boxing Council light heavyweight champion, who wants to help restore the prestige of the All-Marine team. “I was made to do this. I know my mission is bring the Marine Corps back to the top.”

For Mann, a two-time world champion, it’s not a matter of if the team is coming back, but rather a matter of when.

“It will come back,” Mann said. “It’s just a matter of time it comes back. To me, boxing was one of the main staples of All-Marine sports. When you look at the history of the team and Leon Spinks and Ken Norton, I don’t think you can justify not bringing it back.”

With the help of All-Marine boxing team alumni chairman, retired U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Michael Cline, and alumni like Herring, Williamson and Mann backing the cause, it is expected that Marine boxing will one day return to its former glory.

“I just want people to support the boxing program and to continue supporting it a lot more,” Herring said. “It has done a lot of great things … It’s great for bringing people together, and I just hope that over the years I see more people coming around and supporting it more and more.”

Regional boxers from Cape Fear Boxing out of Wilmington and Bear City Boxing out of New Bern also participated in the fight.

Marine Chevrolet Freedom Fight (June 21, 2019, Northside High School, Jacksonville, NC) Notable Results:

Elite Female division:

125 lbs. – Ariana Parra (Elmo’s Gym, N.C.) def. Annett Nino-Fernandez (USMC, U.T.)

Elite Male division:

152 lbs. – Taeshaun Patterson (Team Norfolk, V.A.) def. Christian Valdez (USMC, C.A.)

165 lbs. – Ramon Matossegura (Combat Club, N.C.) def. Trevor Ellis (Al Lowe Boxing, N.C.)

178 lbs. – Jabril Noel (USMC, N.C.) def. Kelvin Allen (Gladden Boxing, F.L.)

178 lbs. – Jackson Chapman (One More Round, S.C.) def. Edwin Asencio (Combat Club, N.C.)