Nevada’s highly-accomplished boxing team takes the ring this Friday, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m. in the El Dorado Hotel and Casino ball rooms. The first 100 students with a Nevada I.D. and the first 50 army reservists will be allowed to watch the Wolf Pack take on Army and the Washington Huskies for free. Any other students or community members must purchase a $15 ticket at the El Dorado box office.
Three-time National Champion Garret Felling and bronze medalist Zach Smith will lead the Pack into battle. Felling will take on Edgar Cortes from the University of Washington in the 195 lb. weight class. Cortes had fought heavyweights in prior seasons but cut down to Felling’s weight division during his current quest for gold. Although many would see this as an advantage for Cortes, Felling’s training and conditioning coach Pat Jefferson would say otherwise.
“There is nobody in all of collegiate boxing that can box straight-up with Garret. If he boxes (referring to Cortes) he gets knocked out. If he runs, it takes longer,” Jefferson said.
While Jefferson believes Felling has his match in the bag before the first bell ring, Smith might have a bit more to worry about. Smith is fighting against Josh Melendez from West Point, in the 165 lb. weight class, who head coach Dan Holmes says will be a hard-fought bout for Smith.
“Zach Smith is going to have a real tough challenge against Josh Melendez. They both have around 15 bouts and he is a seasoned guy,” Holmes said.
Smith is squaring off against a huge competitor in Melendez, but according to Felling they know how Army fights, so they have been preparing properly.
“Army is always in great shape and they always come forward throwing a lot of punches. Part of that is being able to match that by being in just as good of shape. Working on strategies to stop their momentum, regardless of the volume of punches they throw,” Felling said.
Felling is expected to pulverize his opponent, according to Jefferson and Smith is expected to face a few obstacles. But the true test will come when Britt Brown and Dustin Congdon take the ring this Friday, as both boxers will have fought a previous match six to seven days prior. Brown (0-2) fought in Seattle on Jan. 28, losing a close split decision to Washington’s Adan Rangel. Congdon (2-0) fought the following day in Washington against Cal State’s Eric Pan, winning by unanimous decision in the 136 lb. weight class. Granted, this could be perceived as an insufficient amount of time for fighters to rest between bouts, but this is not uncommon.
“There are plenty of times where we have to fight back-to-back weeks or days. For the regional and national championships, you have to fight 3-days in a row. So it’s a good experience for them to build for that. Especially for the younger guys being prepared to get right back at it,” Felling said.
Congdon and Brown face the difficult task of overcoming the adversity of sparse relaxation time. Felling endures the struggle of living up to lofty, but worthy expectations and Smith must weather the storm of a host of punches from his Army opponent while finding a way to dictate the pace of the fight. Nevada boxing will have its training and strategy challenged this upcoming Friday.