All boxers face obstacles they must overcome to reach their personal goals. U.S. Coast Guard Academy First Class Cadet Josh Surgeon knows this better than anyone. His setbacks would have stopped many less-determined men long ago, but this weekend Surgeon will join three of his teammates at the 38th National Collegiate Boxing Association Championships to compete for a national title.
While on leave back in 2009, Surgeon was involved in a jet-ski accident that resulted in a compound fracture in his leg. He was told by the surgeon that he would most likely never run again. This had little effect on Surgeon's determination.
"I didn't know what was going to happen," said Surgeon, "but I did know that I was going to run again."
To get to that point, he would endure intense pain and incredible challenges.
"The Academy medical clinic put me through a very rigorous and challenging rehabilitation process," explained Surgeon. "They would break the scar tissue up by applying pressure with various tools around my injury and scrape the scar tissue and bone build up away."
The progress was slow, but steady.
"I went from crutches, to a cane, to wobbling like a penguin, to walking," said Surgeon.
Soon the day came when Surgeon's trainer told him it was time to run.
"I started off by running on a treadmill, giving the handrails a death grip," said Surgeon. "I started to increase the times and before I knew it I was cleared by the medical staff as fit for full duty."
To have a doctor tell you that you will not run again must be a devastating thing to hear. Most people would believe it and accept their unfortunate condition. Surgeon is not most people. This last fall, he ran the Marine Corps Marathon in three hours and twenty-seven minutes.
After beating the odds and making a full recovery, Surgeon's next goal was to learn to box.
"Many doubted me," said Surgeon, "because at the time I was still on crutches with a new goal in life to compete in boxing."
Surgeon overcame the odds once more and among many other victories, he won the National Collegiate Boxing Association Eastern Regional title, and went on to become the national runner up.
The U.S. Coast Guard is relatively small when compared to the other service academies, and the many universities represented in the NCBA. While there may be bigger schools out there Surgeon could be boxing for, he wouldn't have it any other way.
"The most rewarding thing is representing an under-credited service," said Surgeon. "When I am in the ring wearing the Coast Guard colors, I am representing something bigger than myself and when I go out there and win I feel as if I gain respect for the Coast Guard as a whole."
This May, Surgeon will graduate and receive his commission as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. He draws many lessons from boxing that will help his development as a leader.
"With boxing, you can't run from your fears," said Surgeon. "You must face your own battles and most importantly, you can never become complacent. Being an officer, just like in boxing, when complacency takes over, the tasks you once managed successfully will change and you will be hit with multiple haymakers that will cause you to fail."
Surgeon will join his teammates First Class Cadet Norberto Perez, Second Class Cadet James DesCartes, and Third Class Cadet Taylor Tennyson to compete in the NCBA Championships April 4-6 at Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Connecticut.
The finals can be seen on E3/ESPN 3 April 6 at 7 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to www.ncbaboxing.org.