Two USF students were the first women ever to be crowned national champions in collegiate boxing at a first-of-its-kind tournament hosted by USF in April.
More than 80 male and female fighters from 24 colleges participated in the tournament, the first of the newly formed U.S. Intercollegiate Boxing Association (USIBA). It made headlines in The New York Times and on National Public Radio.
USF’s Adrianna Boursalian ’13 won the women’s 119 lbs. division and Nargis Shaghasi ’12, MoPA ’15 claimed the 141 lbs. division. “Women have never been given the opportunity to compete for a championship title until now, so I’m honored to have been one of the first,” said Boursalian, an economics major, who beat the U.S. Military Academy’s Jocelyn Lewis.
On the men’s side, Connor Morgan ’15, a biology major, won a national title, claiming the men’s 165 lbs. beginner division. Three other men also made it to the finals.
Because of her reputation as a heavy hitter, no one would fight 22-year-old Shaghasi. She won her division unopposed. “We think some of the coaches were scared by the media coverage of her,” said USF Boxing Club Coach Angelo Merino.
Coach Angelo Merino buckles Adrianna Boursalian’s championship belt.
Although Shaghasi didn’t fight, she was thrilled that the tournament gave women an opportunity. “There’s a lot of history happening with this event, and to be able to say that I am a part of that—it just feels amazing,” she told KQED Public Radio. Shaghasi is captain of USF’s Boxing Club and is working on a graduate degree in public affairs.
Merino was instrumental in making the tournament happen. “Boxing has no gender. It’s for everyone. Why shouldn’t women be allowed to box?” he said.
Having boxed along side the U.S. Navy Reserve team while in the service, Merino has welcomed and trained women since starting USF’s Boxing Club 16 years ago and was frustrated that women had no nationally sanctioned tournaments. But the 2012 London Olympics inspired him, and he sat ringside as women boxed in the Olympic Games for the first time and watched as American women won a gold and a bronze.
Merino joined forces with Luke Runion, coach of the University of Maryland Boxing Club, to create USIBA, whose goal is to become the country’s leading intercollegiate boxing league. The USF tournament was the first to give women the chance to win a national boxing title.
Twenty-nine college boxing clubs and organizations across the country have joined USIBA, including the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and Georgetown University.