As I approach the USOEC (United States Olympic Education Center) Dome Training Facility on the campus of Northern Michigan University in Marquette, MI, I could feel the hard work and intensity in the air before I even stepped foot into the gym. The first thing I notice is the hallways leading to the boxing gym were decked out with tons of trophies, plaques, an Olympic torch, and even pictures of many famous boxers who have gone through the same program and trained in the same facility.
I walk up some stairs and in the gym, and there I see 2012 Olympic hopeful, Chris “SweetPea” Pearson warming up, preparing for a hard day of training. As I watched Chris, along with his 6 teammates go through practice, my respect for the sport of Boxing instantly increased! Just when I wanted to think that I had it bad with basketball practice, this was on a totally different level! Never had I realized the true meaning of the word “Intensity” until I watched their full practice.
Many may wonder where the nickname “SweetPea” comes from… Chris told me it was actually a nickname given to him by his teammates because of his southpaw, “slick” and “crafty” boxing style which was similar and compared to a mid 90’s boxer by the name of Pernell Whitaker. Although SweetPea’s boxing style is compared to Pernell Whitaker’s, there are two specific boxers who have truly inspired him to be who he is today; Andre Ward (2004 Gold Medalist) and Floyd Mayweather Jr. (Current World Champion).
The United States Olympic Education Center Program at Northern Michigan University is the ONLY USOEC boxing program in the country! There is another USOEC boxing training facility in Colorado, but it does not give students the opportunity to go to school for free and train at the same time like Chris does year round.
Chris actually spoke on the opportunity of being able to train at the exact same facility that his role model Floyd Mayweather Jr. trained at, stating “It’s Motivation… I think about the road that he went through to get where he’s at, and it’s so realistic for me, because I’m going through the same exact journey as him.. This is actually something that I’m really in the process of achieving..”
The rarity of the sport has allowed Chris to find a special niche in life and be successful since a very young age. Boxing is something Chris has done since he was small including a memorable experience in meeting boxing great, Sugar Ray Leonard and even winning a National tournament with Sugar Ray present to witness it! Now, SweetPea is one of the top ranked boxers for his weight class (152lbs) in the world!!!! With MANY titles and awards like, Pal National Champion, Junior Golden Glove Champion, World Ringside Champion and many more, just to name a few; Chris has managed to stay humble throughout it all. Yes, he has accomplished a lot thus far to only be 19 years old, but Chris is just getting started! He gave me 5 goals that he has from now until later on in life:
1. Be ranked #1 In country by winning world championships
2. Becoming one of the #1 fighters in the world by winning the gold medal at pan American games
3. Winning the Olympics
4. Solidify similar titles as a professional
5. Retire as one of the top fighters pound for poun