HILL AIR FORCE BASE — 388th Fighter Wing Senior Airman Kamryn Dungy competed with the Air Force Boxing Team this year and recently became the 2015 San Antonio Region Golden Gloves Champion in his weight class (152 pounds). But his journey to success was laden with roadblocks.
When the 22-year-old entered basic training in the Air Force four years ago, he announced to his family and friends that his dream was to one day be on the Air Force Boxing Team. They laughed at him, remembering him as the small kid on the block who was picked on and bullied as he grew up. “I was small, so I couldn’t really do anything about it, and if I did try to fight back, I usually got overpowered by the bigger people, so that kind of struck a nerve in me,” Dungy said.
Dungy began studying martial arts and got his black belt before he turned 12, but his true love was boxing.
The only problem was that, where he grew up in Meridian, Mississippi, there were no boxing gyms nearby. “I enjoyed martial arts at the time, but I kept thinking: This is not boxing, not the same at all, and I got bored with it.”
Finally, at the age of 17, he picked up some boxing gloves and went to a public gym with access to a heavy punching bag and started mimicking moves he had seen from boxers on TV.
After high school, Dungy decided to join the Air Force, knowing it was probably his only option for creating a better life for himself. “Growing up, my neighborhood slowly progressed into a drug and violent area, and generations of my family never left the area, so I wanted to break that chain and create an opportunity for myself, knowing there was more out there,” Dungy said.
Dungy became a weapons loader in the Air Force and was first stationed in Alaska, where the odds were still against him. Alaska is one of only a couple of states without a sanctioned body for boxing matches. Miraculously, he was vouched into the 2013 Air Force Boxing Team by one of his commanders who had seen him training on his own in Alaska. But after losing his first fight on the team, he was sent home.
“When I lost, I was upset at first, but then I realized I wasn’t doing enough to win because of my lack of experience and confidence, so I stopped boxing for a while, thinking I wasn’t cut out for it,” Dungy said. A month later, Dungy realized he couldn’t stay away from the gym any longer, so he found a coach to work with him and began working harder, more determined to make it back on the boxing team.
“I started getting better and better, and my coach helped me keep trying,” Dungy said. “I finally had someone who was in my ear, saying I had the potential to become a good fighter.”
Dungy started posting his training videos online, not realizing the Air Force boxing coaches were watching his progress. The Air Force Boxing Team invited him back for the 2015 team for a trial run. The coach’s decision to bring Dungy back paid off when Dungy walked away as the 2015 San Antonio Regional Golden Gloves Champion in his weight division.
There were only 10 members of the Air Force Boxing Team this year, and only two of them placed at the regional championship. The head coach for the Air Force Boxing Team, Bobby De Leon, admits he didn’t make things easy for Dungy.
“He fought day in and day out to get that championship jacket, which says a lot to who he is and how hard he trains,” De Leon said. “I did not make it easy for him and it wasn’t a walk in the park. He took his beatings during training while sparring with more advanced fighters, and he held his own.”
After winning the championship and reflecting on his life back to the days when he was picked on as a kid, Dungy realizes he has come a long way.
“It just proves that hard work and determination pays off when it comes to the end of the day,” Dungy said.