Hicks fighting to stay alive

Published 7:00 pm Friday, December 13, 2019

Joseph Hicks (red) takes on Antonio Garcia (blue) at the Civic Center in Lake Charles, La., Thursday, Dec.12, 2019. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)

Rick Hickman

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The second verse was the same as the first for Joseph Hicks, who picked up a second win over Antonio Garcia this year to remain alive Thursday in the USA Boxing Olympic Trials.

In May, Hicks, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, beat Garcia in a narrow decision to win the Golden Gloves national title in the 165-pound division.

This time, Hicks closed strong, landing a series of strong lefts to the body and head in the third round to help seal the win via decision.

“He was throwing his jab very lazy,” Hicks said. “I noticed he was bringing it back slow and it was real easy to get into his body. So I started counter-punching with the left, first to the body then to the head.”

Hicks said the earlier fight helped prepare him.

“I learned that he was not a big puncher but was very aggressive,” he said. “I felt I could beat him to the punch.”

Hicks said he is not bothered by having to go through the losers bracket of the double-elimination tournament. He and the other winners from Thursday night will need to win a fight each of the next four days to qualify for the national team and have a chance to earn an Olympic spot at next year’s continental qualifier tournament.

“I think I like it that way,” he said. “I fight so much better under pressure. Usually our tournaments are one and done. All I’m doing is starting over and its one and done.”

Iyana Verduzco (red) takes on Melanie Costa (blue) at the Civic Center in Lake Charles, La., Thursday, Dec.12, 2019. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)

Rick Hickman

Unlike Garcia, Iyana “Roxy” Verduzco, a world youth champion from Los Angeles, was able to get a measure of revenge, beating Melanie Costa in the first fight of the night to stay alive in the female 125-pound division.

“This time I adjusted on my feints and turns to make sure I didn’t stay in the middle with her,” Verduzco said. “I just boxed her.”

Verduzco said she isn’t thinking about the stakes on the line of each fight.

“I’m in there to fight,” she said. I’m not worried about winning or losing. As long as I use my head, I am pretty sure I can make it through. I can’t worry about only having one loss left. I have to picture it like every other tournament. My previous experience in international competition helps me a lot. I know how to adjust to different styles of boxers.”

Thursday’s fighters return to the ring today for another elimination round fight. Winners from Wednesday night will meet in semifinal fights. Those winners will advance to Sunday’s final round and would have to lose twice to be eliminated. Losers of the semifinal fights will face the winners of tonight’s losers bracket bouts in elimination fights on Saturday.

Fights will get underway at noon today.