Aki Sipila received his first taste of Southern hospitality this week.
"We've had an excellent time," said Sipila, coach of Finland's boxing team, which fought six bouts with area boxers Friday night at Warren Road Community Center. "This has been a great experience for us, and everybody's been so nice. This has been a good trip for our boys."
Team Finland was scheduled for a trip to New York, but officials in that state couldn't put together a team. So officials from USA Boxing called Augusta Boxing Club's Tom Moraetes, who assembled six boxers and set up the bouts in less than 10 days.
It was Augusta's first international bouts since Team Augusta played host to a team from Poland two years ago.
"This will open a lot of doors for us in the future," Moraetes said. "USA Boxing knows that we can put together a tournament in a hurry. They know everything is plugged in and that we just have to turn things on."
Team Finland boxers took five of six bouts, including three against Augusta Boxing Club members, all of whom were fighting out of their weight classes. Welterweight 147 pounds Dylon Luther was the only American winner, taking a decision over Jani Viikari.
"We were able to put together some good competition, especially with our boys fighting up a weight class," Moraetes said. "This was a good positive experience for both teams. None of the guys were whacked out in the first round."
Said Sipila, "It was a good challenge for our boys. We need experiences like this if we hope to go to the Olympics in Sydney 2000."
Team Finland will return home on Sunday, but team members hope to see more of Atlanta before they leave.
"That's where the Olympics were," Sipila said. "That was the Olympic city."
Jacob Hudson, the Augusta Boxing Club's top boxer, did not compete. Instead, he watched from the bleachers.
The 19-year-old lightweight 132 pounds took a month off after returning from the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, his second trip overseas in less than three months.
"It's good to be home for a while," Hudson said. "The food over there wasn't very good. The city was pretty nice, and we saw some castles and big churches, but we really didn't know what to eat. It was real salty. It's nice to take some time off. All that travel was about to kill me."
Hudson has gained about eight pounds since returning, but will go back to 132 pounds once he begins training again next month. He plans to box next in a state tournament in Atlanta on Jan. 22-24.
"I probably could have fought tonight, but I wouldn't have been in great shape," Hudson said. "I've been taking it too easy lately, training a little bit, but not too much."
[cf3]Team Finland-Team Augusta BoxingWarren Road Community Center
Lightweight 125 pounds: Tomi Niininen dec. Jade Ealy, 3-0; Welterweight 147 pounds: Jarno Rosberg dec. Pat Brissey, 3-0; Dylon Luther dec. Jani Viikari, 2-1; Light middleweight 156 pounds: Juha Ruokola dec. Al Jackson, 3-0; Middleweight 165 pounds: Sami Selesmaa dec. Demetrius Jones; Heavyweight 178 pounds: Ari Korhonen def. Anzio Gattrell, RSC, 2nd; Super heavyweight 201-plus: Tero Soikkeli won by walkover.