Downing wins sixth straight USA Nationals title

Jun 13, 2009 - 4:50 AM DENVER(AP) -- When Sacred Downing was 5, all she wanted to do was box, but she couldn't convince her father to let her lace up the gloves.

Then James Downing saw his daughter punching the air and moving her feet and he was convinced she had talent. Eighteen years later, she's proving she still does.

Sacred Downing jumped out to a quick lead on Rita Martinez in the featherweight title bout at the USA boxing national championships, then held on for a 14-9 win Friday night to capture her sixth straight USA nationals crown.

"It never gets old," Downing said.

Not after it took begging her father, a former military boxer, to let her try the sport.

"When I was 5 I wanted to box, but I was his little baby girl so he had me in other sports like soccer and karate," Downing said. "My mom came to him and said, 'Maybe you should have your little baby girl box."'

Instead of letting her box, James Downing signed her up for soccer.

"I told her mom I would train her in soccer, not boxing, to get her into top shape," Downing said. "When I went to the field to get her in shape I saw her shadowboxing. It captivated me."

Sacred Downing, now 23, keeps captivating her father as she racks up national titles. She was aggressive against Martinez on Friday, taking an 11-2 lead in the first two rounds before Martinez rallied. The boxer from Las Cruces, N.M., started landing punches on Downing, who acknowledged Martinez was gaining momentum.

"She's a real good fighter, and I told her she's got a heart," Downing said.

Downing's early lead was big enough, and she walked away with her sixth belt.

Downing wasn't the only boxer to repeat as a champion Friday night. Marlen Esparza won her fourth USA nationals crown by beating Marina Ramirez 21-1 in the flyweight division; Queen Underwood of Seattle won the welterweight title with a 17-9 decision over Jennifer Fenn of Cedar Creek, Texas, her third title; and Melissa Roberts of Camp Lejeune, N.C., captured her second title with a 22-9 win over Deirdre Rhodes of St. Louis, Mo., in the lightweight title match.

Chatiqua Hemingway of Pittsburgh used a strong performance in the third and fourth rounds to beat Tyler Lord Wilder from Lansing, Mich., 12-10 in the heavyweight title bout. It was Hemingway's second USA nationals title

Before the women's finals, the men's super heavyweight semifinals were decided. The men's bouts were postponed from Thursday because Michael Hunter Jr. won an appeal of his disqualification from his quarterfinal bout.

Hunter beat Lenroy Thompson 8-7 in Wednesday's match but was disqualified for using too much gauze on his hands. He appealed the ruling, and the arbitrators ruled in his favor, restoring the super heavyweight into the semifinals of the championships.

Hunter, the 2008 super heavyweight champ, was dominant in Friday's match. He swarmed J'Von Wallace from the opening bell, landing combinations and stunning Wallace. He scored a knockdown in the first minute of the bout, and moments later floored Wallace again. The referee stopped the fight, giving Hunter an opportunity to go for his second straight title.

"Not until I win will I feel avenged," Hunter said of the original ruling to disqualify him.

Hunter will face Javier Torres, a 12-8 winner over Trevor Bryan in the other semifinal, in the super heavyweight title bout Saturday night.

"I'm just trying to blow everybody out," Hunter said.

In other fights:

-Laura Ramirez of New York beat Paola Arana of Duarte, Calif., 16-4, to win the light fly crown.

-Seniesa Estrada of Los Angeles outlasted Cynthia Moreno of Phoenix, 14-9, to capture the bantam title.

-Patricia Manuel of Commerce, Calif., defeated Tiara Brown in the championship of the light welterweight division.

-In the middleweight title match, Andrecia Wasson of Centerline, Mich., beat Brittany Inkrote of Red Lion, Penn., 7-2.

-Alyssa Defazio of Peoria, Ariz., beat Qurdisha Gilliam of Fort Valley, Calif., 13-4 in the light heavyweight match.

-In super heavyweight, Traynora Locke of Lexington, Ky., won her first title with a 17-10 win over Sonya Lamonakis of New York.

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