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News > Feature - Boxing: Juggling day-to-day duties with Air Force 178-pound championship
Airman wins third 178-pound AF boxing championship
Capt. David Suszko, 319th Missile Squadron, works the mitts with Capt. Rodney Ellison, 319th MS, Jan. 29 at the Fall Hall Community Center. Captain Ellison has been the Air Force light heavyweight boxing champion and second in the Defense Department for the past three years (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Chad Thompson).
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Boxing: Juggling day-to-day duties with Air Force 178-pound championship

Posted 2/20/2008   Updated 2/20/2008 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Chad Thompson
90th Space Wing Public Affairs

2/20/2008 - F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- This Airman has grown up watching some of boxing's greatest fighters such as Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Evander Holyfield. But he holds the right to call himself the best in the Air Force because he has held the Air Force light heavyweight boxing championship since 2006.

Capt. Rodney Ellison, 319th Missile Squadron, won his third Air Force boxing championship at the 178-pound weight class Jan. 19 at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
He began his boxing career in late 2000 as a junior at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

"My roommate was on the boxing team and he talked me into joining him for a practice," Captain Ellison said. "The next morning I woke up sore in places on me that I didn't even know I had muscles. So I went to another practice just to work out the soreness."

After about a month of practices he said he was hooked.

"The coach walked up to me one day and asked me when I wanted to have my first fight," Captain Ellison said. "Then I looked at him and asked if I was on the team. The coach said that since I had been showing up for practice for about a month I was on the team."

Captain Ellison's first fight didn't go as planned but he said it only made him train harder.

"In my first fight I got my butt kicked," he said. "But I'm the type of person that feeds off of failure. So I trained harder.

"My next real fight was during an academy meet," he added. "I came in third place for the academy open. It was in a split-decision fight that was too close to call."

From there he continued to train and won several other boxing tournaments including the 2001 wing open and western open. And he came in third place in the collegiate championship, which was all in his first year of boxing.

After graduating in 2002 Captain Ellison didn't lace up his gloves until arriving to Warren in 2005.

Then weighing almost 235 pounds, he used boxing to get back into shape after a knee injury. He trained hard, lost 60 pounds and started competing again.

Since then he hasn't looked back, winning the Air Force 178-pound title in 2006, 2007 and 2008. He trains about five days a week and he even fits in a workout when he is out in the field.

"I take a rope and my gloves out to the field with me," the missileer said. "They have a heavy bag at most of the missile alert facilities so I can still work out. That and the boxing team has grown so much that there could be a maintenance guy or a security forces troop that is out there to practice with some days."

Captain Ellison said juggling work and boxing is difficult but he has been blessed that his leadership gives him time off work to compete at the Air Force level.

With an amateur boxing record of 36-9, with seven fights being referee stops contest, Captain Ellison is a seasoned veteran but that doesn't mean he isn't still learning.

"In the past three years I have had eight losses," he said. "Every loss pushed me to work harder and I have watched the tapes of the fights to improve.

"I have looked hard at things I am weak at and done what I could to eliminate those weaknesses," he explained. "And I have analyzed the things that people used to beat me and understood why they did. I would say I have become a student of boxing."

A strong work ethic is important but having a good coach helps, and Captain Ellison said that he has had some of the best.

"As far as coaching, I have been blessed to be coached by some of the top coaches in amateur boxing," he said. "Ed Weichers, the head coach of the Air Force Academy, has been inducted to the Boxing Hall of Fame; Tomas Pacheco, Cheyenne Boxing Club head coach, has coached three National Champions; and Coach Ed Rivas, All-Air Force Boxing Team coach, has coached amateur to professional and has been asked to prepare guys for top ranked competitions.

"Every coach brings something new to the table," Captain Ellison said. "You just have to be willing to learn and take everything in. Boxing comes with experience."

Captain Ellison said it's his work ethic, great coaching and a never-say-die attitude that has gotten him to where he is today.

He has been the best boxer in the 178-pound category in the Air Force for the past three years and plans to keep it that way.

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