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Wilson delivers solid first impression

Boxer finds Olympic flavor to his liking after first taste

Mike Wilson's eyes were a little wide and his nerves a little frayed when he first showed up at the United States Olympic boxing training site in Colorado Springs, Colo.

And who could blame him? At 17, Wilson is the youngest of the 24 boxers — 12 Olympians and 12 alternates — — at the exquisite facility that houses America's best amateur boxers in preparation for the Summer Games in Australia.

Barring an injury to one of the front-line fighters, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Wilson will not represent the United States in the super heavyweight division when the Olympic boxing gets under way on Sept. 16. That distinction belongs to Calvin Brock, who is coming off hand surgery but is expected to be at full strength in another couple of weeks.

Realistically, Wilson is aiming for the 2004 Games, when he?ll be 21, bigger, stronger and more experienced. Nonetheless, the experience has been invaluable for the Crater High School senior-to-be.

I felt like I improved a lot in the short time I was there, says Wilson, who is back in Central Point but will return to the training site on July 10. It was a great experience. Everybody I sparred against was tough and I took my share of punishment, but I gave some out, too.

Wilson got his first taste of international experience on June 19 when the Americans fought the Ukraine in an exhibition match. He lost a unanimous decision to Oleksiy Mazlkyn, a 6-foot-6, 260-pounder who bewildered the young Oregonian with his superior reach.

The competition was much stiffer than Wilson was accustomed to as a junior boxer, where he amassed a 34-7 record. But his quickness and savvy impressed U.S. Olympic coach Tom Mustin.

That was a big step for Mike and I'm sure he was in awe a little bit, Mustin says. He had a big edge in quickness but didn't use it to his advantage. I don't expect Mike to be so tentative next time.

Mustin, who runs a boxing club in Tacoma, Wash., first saw Wilson fight a couple of years ago when the Tacoma team matched up against the Bulldog Boxing Club of Medford. The two clubs have met frequently during competitions up and down the West Coast.

Wilson wasn't originally in Mustin's plans this year, but when several fighters at the Olympic camp became disruptive, Mustin kicked them out and invited in replacements. Wilson was one of the first ones he called.

I knew he had a good style of boxing and a good attitude — and that's what we were looking for, Mustin says. He's talented, dedicated and motivated. All he needs is experience.

Wilson impressed Mustin right off the bat when he zipped through a 3?-mile run, beating many of the lighter fighters.

He ran that run faster than any heavyweight I've had, Mustin says. He didn't fool around.

Wilson is also active in the ring. He's got an excellent jab and an effective hook to the body. He can put combinations together and hurt opponents.

But he lacks power. And that's the area Mustin and Bulldog coach Joe Pedrojetti are zeroing in on.

He needs to learn how to rotate his body with his punches — to increase their impact, Mustin says. And he needs to bring his jab back higher so he doesn't get countered with a right hand.

Pedrojetti has put Wilson on a strenuous weight-lifting program since he returned to Medford, and later this summer Wilson is expected to be coached by local power-lifting guru Sam Pecktol.

While the lack of a knockout punch has been Wilson's biggest weakness, it has also been a blessing, Pedrojetti says.

Heavyweights are notorious big-time bombers, and some of them have never really learned the basic boxing skills, Pedrojetti says. But Mike has had no choice, and that's been a positive thing.

Pedrojetti's biggest problem with Wilson has been to find him good competition. Not many super heavyweights are as big or as athletic at his age, Pedrojetti says, and many fighters have chosen to forfeit against him rather than fight.

Most of the real good athletes in high school get gobbled up by the conventional sports, Pedrojetti says.

But those days are behind Wilson. He no longer has a problem finding formidable foes.

Wilson's next competition will be Aug. 15 when the United States meets Puerto Rico in an exhibition match in Tacoma.

I'm a little surprised to be this far along this soon, Wilson says.

Surprised, but no longer in awe.

Mike Wilson, an alternate on the U.S. Olympic boxing team, works on his timing and hand speed in Tuesday?s workout at the Bulldog Boxing Club. - Jim Craven/Mail Tribune