Athletes from around the area came to participate in this year's boxing event for the Georgia Games. For one local athlete, having the Georgia Games in Augusta was more of a homecoming than a boxing match.
"It's been great to be home," Augusta native Frank Durst said. "I feel fine today, and I'm looking forward to getting back into the ring in front of the home crowd."
Durst, 21, a 1997 graduate of Richmond Academy, is a 139-pound boxer who last fought in Augusta in 1995. He won Saturday and fights for the gold tonight at Bell Auditorium.
In the mid-1990s, Durst, Jacob Hudson and Brandon Mitchem were nicknamed "Triple Threat" for their successful youth boxing exploits.
Mitchem is a professional who will fight on the Vernon Forrest undercard at Bell Auditorium on Aug. 27. Hudson is one of the nation's top amateur 132-pounders and is eyeing a spot in the 2000 Sydney, Australia, Olympic Games.
Durst is looking to gain similar acclaim in the next year, overcoming an injury and time off.
In 1998, Durst had tough draws in the U.S. Championships and Golden Gloves, drawing a high-ranked fighter and losing to the silver medalist.
"I'm here to get a couple of fights in before getting back to the qualifying matches in September," Durst said. "I lost a lot of ground the last few months, and I'm ready to get fighting again."
Durst suffered an elbow injury in international competition at Turkey last year. During one of the fights, Durst felt the equivalent of a pinched nerve after he threw a left hook to his opponent. After the match, doctors checked him out and confirmed damage in his forearm. The injury sidelined him and prevented him from using the arm for four months.
After a year of rehabilitation, Durst is ready to continue in his goal to reach the 2000 Olympics.
"I want to be impressive in my fights," Durst said. "I've got the confidence to throw my hook again, and I'm ready to win."
The other obstacle Durst has had to overcome is the loss of his coach, Ace Miller. He suffered three heart attacks in April and underwent triple-bypass surgery and will not be cleared until Aug. 12.
"It was rough not having him at ringside, but he's doing better and knowing that he will be in my corner in (competition at) Orlando later this year is a definite plus," Durst said.
The University of Tennessee junior has maintained a 3.25 grade-point average while juggling his training. Durst credits Miller, longtime coach Tom Moraetes of the Augusta Boxing Club and former teammate Forrest for his success.
"Tom is the foundation of Frank Durst," Durst said. "I owe him all the credit in the world for raising the money for the boxing club and allowing me to travel around the world and compete.
"As for Vernon, I looked up to him because of how hard he worked. He helped mold my work ethic. He was my role model and still is."