December 5, 2003

Local Fighter Seeks Spot on U.S. Olympic Team

By Derrick C. Goode

SAN ANTONIO, TX — With adrenaline pumping through the fighter’s veins and the electricity emanating from the crowd watching over him, the son of an Oceanside couple enters the brilliantly-lit boxing ring fit and ready, thinking to himself, “Let’s get ready to rumble!”

It may not be fight night at some extravagant hotel-casino in Las Vegas, but it is a monumental moment in the life of Air Force Senior Airman Richard Mora, son of Graciano and Roselia Mora, Ave. Marguarita, Oceanside.

And while the pre-bout hoopla rated well below a Tyson-Holyfield match up, Mora and fellow boxers in blue took their bouts seriously since their quest for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team began at the 2004 Air Force Boxing Championships at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

Mora, an aircraft pneudraulics systems specialist out of Tinker AFB, Okla., is one of the fastest rising amateur light welterweights (141 lbs) in the United States.

“I really got serious about being a boxer after my first match about a year ago,” he said. “It was a life-changing experience -- physically and mentally.”

Mora, a 2000 graduate of El Camino High School, is now a member of the 22-person U.S. Air Force Boxing Team.

“I think the reason I’ve been successful is because I hate the bitter taste of defeat,” he said. “The strong support I get from my family, my squadron and my coaches fuels my desire to win.”

Mora is now focusing that desire on helping the Air Force team win the Armed Forces Championship and he’s after his first Armed Forces gold medal. The Air Force team has finished third for the past five years, but officials with the South Texas Boxing Association said this is the best crop of Air Force boxers in 15 years.

The boxers come to camp in San Antonio every year to train for three months. Mora said the long hours of early morning roadwork, hitting the heavy bag, shadow boxing and sparring to improve techniques takes a lot of discipline and dedication.

“Being an airman and a boxer is quite a challenge, especially when I’m also trying to be a student,” he said. “But, lucky for me, all my supervisors are encouraging, and give me the flexibility to train and compete.”

Mora successfully fought his way to the Air Force Championships in San Antonio and was matched up against Airman 1st Class Robert Luna from Dyess AFB, Texas.

Before a near-capacity crowd of enthusiastic fight fans, Mora fought a courageous four rounds for the Air Force light welterweight gold medal, but lost a close decision to Luna.

“My ultimate goal in boxing is to reach the top,” he said, undeterred by the loss. “I want to be the best and the military can only set me up for that success.”

The 10 boxers that advanced will continue to train at Lackland until the Armed Forces Championships at Camp LeJeune, N.C. Airmen who win there qualify for the USA National Championships in Colorado Springs, Colo. The last stop would be the 2004 Olympic Trials in Tunica, Miss.

“My goal in the military is to take advantage of the educational opportunities the Air Force offers, the boxing program and, most importantly, to serve my country honorably,” he said.

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