It was time to lace up the boots, strap on the gloves and hit the ring as boxing officially started Friday afternoon. All 28 boxers who participated in the inaugural subnovice class were boxing in their first sanctioned matches as amateurs.
"It takes real guts and courage to step into that ring and box in front of these people today," event director Tom Moraetes said. "These guys are true heroes."
While the first day of boxing went off without a hitch, registration at the end of the day totaled 113, already 23 more than were at last year's Georgia Games in Atlanta for the entire tournament.
At Friday's competition, boxing fans saw three championship matches and three knockouts.
"I am very pleased with the numbers that we drew today," Moraetes said. "I am also pleased with today's matches. No one got hurt, we saw some great matches and, more importantly, people had a great time."
Moraetes proposed the concept of a subnovice class to Buddy Davis, chairman of the State Amateur Boxing Commission. In past Georgia Games, there was a high school novice class, but there was little turnout. Davis approved the division, in part because he knew the ability of Moraetes and the Augusta Boxing Club.
"(Davis) had a tremendous amount of confidence in our program here and our ability to sell it to the public," Moraetes said.
Moraetes has high praises for the Georgia Games and the new subnovice class. According to Moraetes, the tournament gives aspiring athletes the opportunity to participate in sports they normally wouldn't play in.
"This part of the tournament is for the real recreational athlete," he said. "The level of play is equal between the athletes, which cuts down on the fear factor of the boxers."
The boxers had praise for the new class as well.
"It was exciting to step in there and fight," Michael Carter said. "When I saw the sign a couple of weeks ago, `Boxers Wanted,' I thought I'd give it a try. It was fun."
Carter won his match in the 147-pound weight class via knockout over Benjiman Esser.
Juan Sanabria of Puerto Rico fought a hard match against Quadur Hemphill. He is using the Georgia Games experience as an opportunity to prepare himself for a possible shot at the Olympics down the road.
"The opportunity to fight was great, and it was a learning experience," Sanabria said. "I lost and that's OK. But I'm going to continue to train and work harder."