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Military Boxers Seek Elusive Titles

February 14, 1996

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) _ Championships and medals are nice, but it’s the thrill and challenge of competing that drive William ``Clay″ Jenkins and Ronald Simms.

``It’s a good sport and I love it,″ said Jenkins, a 27-year-old Army sergeant competing in his 10th U.S. boxing championships in quest of his first title.

``I love the sport,″ said Simms, a 32-year-old security policeman in the Air Force trying to win his first title in his ninth appearance at the championships.

Jenkins was to box Hector Cruz of Rochester, N.Y., in a 125-pound semifinal Wednesday night at the Olympic Sports Center. His best showing in nine previous championships was a second in 1993.

Simms has finished second three times and third once in eight previous tournaments. He also has boxed in two Olympic trials, losing in the quarterfinals in both 1988 and 1992. He was to box Omar Sheika of Paterson, N.J., Wednesday night in a 165-pound quarterfinal match.

Because of a re-draw, the 165-pound semifinals will be held Thursday morning.

Any boxer reaching Friday night’s finals in the 12 weight classes is assured of a spot in the 96-man Olympic trials April 2-7 at Oakland. Jenkins has already qualified for his first trials by winning an Armed Forces title late last month.

Jenkins, stationed at Ft. Huachuca, Ariz., has no intention of quitting should he fail to win a U.S. title or to make the Olympic team.

``As long as I perform up to the potential God blessed me with I will box,″ said Jenkins, a nine-year Army veteran from Franklin, Tenn., who plans to become a 20-year man in the service.

``I’m going to stay in at least nine more years,″ said Simms, an 11-year veteran from Washington stationed at Randolph AFB in San Antonio. ``I’ve thought about turning pro in the past, but it’s a big risk. In the military I have security.

``This is my best year,″ Simms said. ``If I don’t make things happen I won’t compete any more, but I plan on being in boxing for a very long time. I definitely want to coach.″

Jenkins also said he wants to coach.

Besides Jenkins, the only boxer still in the competition to have already qualified for the Olympic trials is David Palac, the Police Athletic League 147-pound champion from Hamtramck, Mich. His semifinal opponent Wednesday might was against Fernando Vargas of Oxnard, Calif., the U.S. 132-pound champion in 1994 and a Pan American Games bronze medalist at 139 pounds last year.

Should Jenkins and Palac reach the finals, the list of 12 at-large boxers to be invited to the trials would be increased to 14.

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