When Lexington Police Officer Jerry Loughran started the Lexington PAL Cobra boxing club, even he didn’t dream that within less than two years it would claim a national champion.
But as of October, the young program can claim not just one -- but two -- national championships, as well as four Kentucky Silver Gloves titles.
“I thought it could take three or four years for us to have a national champion, but one of our members took the women’s national heavyweight championship,” said Loughran, who also teaches in the DARE Program as well as the Lexington Police Athletics League, known as Lexington PAL.
Club member Neisha Locke, 17, is the reigning USA Boxing National Heavyweight
Champion. In October, she traveled to Ecuador to represent the United States in the 2009 Mid Americas Championships and claimed that title when her opponent was forced to withdraw, leaving Neisha as the 2009 Mid Americas Champion.
Meanwhile Neisha and another club member, Sariah Edwards, competed in October in the 2009 PAL National Championships in San Antonio – the first time any of the team members had competed in a national PAL Tournament. Locke finished as runner-up in the tournament. Edwards won the 154lb. Junior Olympic Division, becoming the club’s second national champion.
In November, a third club member, Darius Bolden, became the fourth Kentucky State Silver Gloves Champion in the 12-13-year-old 80lb. division. He will compete in the regional Silver Gloves Tournament in Ashland on Jan. 16-17, against boxers from Philadelphia, Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Chicago. If he wins there, he would proceed to the national finals on Feb. 3-7.
Neisha joined the boxing club for the exercise. The 17-year-old weighed 210 pounds when she started boxing and was diagnosed with diabetes. She has lost 30 pounds already and wants to lose another 15 pounds.
She said she loved “the intensity of boxing.” “It was the first time I experienced a crowd cheering for me,” she said. “When I first get in the ring I am just kind of normal, but when the bell rings I am totally focused until it rings again.”
“All I think about is getting in there and getting as many points as my opponent does,” she said.
Bolden joined the club because he sister, Dariahn Williams, joined. “I wanted to lose weight,” Williams said, “so my weight coach wanted me to try out for boxing. I’m learning how to defend myself.”
Bolden said he was “jealous” because he had wanted to box since he was “nine or ten” and his family helped him sign up. “I am learning how to defend myself and if I get mad, to take it out in the ring,” he said. All three club members attend Bryan Station Middle and High Schools.
Loughran comes from a boxing background, he said He won a Golden Gloves State
Championship, as a youngster. Originally from London, Ky., he said he also trained with UK’s boxing team. “And my grandfather boxed for the Army and my cousin Tommy Loughran was the undefeated Light Heavyweight Champion of the World,” he said.
Jerry has been with the Lexington Division of Police for 11 years, and has worked for Community Services in the DARE and PAL programs since the fall of 2007. He also works in the GREAT program, which tries to keep kids from joining gangs.
The boxing club now has 30 to 40 young members, he said.
“The Division officers and Chief (Ronnie) Bastin have been very supportive of our program,” he said. The next goal is to have an Olympic team. “That’s what we’re working toward.”
Meanwhile, Neisha’s skills as a competitive boxer have come as a surprise to Jerry, he said. “I had no idea she had the tenacity she has, she is so genial and lighthearted.
“We will be at a tournament and she’ll be cutting up with her friends but she will reassure me she’s there for business.”
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PHOTO CAPTIONS: (Top photo) Lexington Police Officer Jerry Loughran; (Top inserted photo) Neisha Locke; (Bottom inserted photo) Darius Bolden.