‘Nothing traditional’: Olympic boxers train in abandoned department store

Japan 2020

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (NEXSTAR) — In a typical Olympic year, the U.S. boxing team trains at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. It’s a world-class facility with all the amenities a boxer could ask for.

But as we’ve seen time and again, there is nothing normal about the Tokyo Games.

“It can affect the way you train, if you let it. You cannot let it,” boxer Joe Hicks, of metro Grand Rapids, Michigan, said.

The training center in Colorado Springs was closed around the holidays because of COVID-19. Regardless, Team USA’s boxers are determined to get ready. They were so desperate for a place to train that they started using the ballroom at the Hotel Elegante in Colorado Springs.

“It’s not your traditional boxing gym, but when you look at the last 10 months, nothing has looked traditional about what’s going on for us,” coach Matt Johnson said.

The setup was not to last.

“I don’t know if they were sick of us boxing in their ballroom, but they said, ‘We actually have a bigger space that could be a more permanent solution,'” Johnson said.

The hotel owner had a vacant property, an abandoned department store, that he was willing to let the team use. Coaches and support staff moved in all their equipment, including four rings.

“Oh man, it’s nice. When I first seen it, it was like, wow!” Hicks said.

“It’s got everything you need to train and it has really worked out well,” Johnson said. “It’s a good space.”

The time of the move was spot on. Two Olympic qualifying tournaments are about to be held in Bulgaria and Spain.

In a year when distractions have been nonstop, the fighters need to get focused and sharpen their skills, even though they know that at this point, there’s no guarantee the games will actually be held.

“It requires a lot of self-motivation because a part of you thinks it might not happen,” Hicks said. “But you have to kick that aside and keep working. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But if it does. you’ll be ready.”

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