This soldier's passion for boxing is an inspiration to others
Puddles of sweat begin to form as the sound of 50-ounce gloves hitting a punching bag echo throughout the gym.
A buzzer goes off. That's the signal to the drenched-in-sweat Sgt. Larry Mays that the warmup has ended and the real workout is about to begin.
The unit supply NCO with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, used that warmup routine to help earn first place in the Colorado Golden Gloves heavyweight division in April 2019.
"It's a prestigious tournament that the state of Colorado holds on a yearly basis," explained Mays. "I've been training since October of last year and it's exciting to see that all my hard work paid off."
Even though the Lambert, Mississippi native began his training for the Colorado tournament in October 2018, his journey with the sport started much earlier.
U.S. Army Sgt. Larry Mays, a unit supply noncommissioned officer assigned to 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, hits a punching bag, May 11, 2019, at local boxing gym in Colorado Springs.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
"I started fighting (when) I was in elementary school. I started with (mixed martial arts), taekwondo and Jiu-Jitsu," said Mays. "I kept fighting as a way to stay in shape and relieve stress."
While training in those combat sports, Mays' coach recommended he try boxing as a way to help him with his MMA skills.
"I pretty much fell in love with (boxing) after that and never went back to MMA," he explained. "It's not an easy sport, but I love that there is always a challenge and something new to learn."
Although boxing was a big part of his life, Mays said he found himself working odd jobs and bringing little income into his household.
With encouragement from his coaches, friends, and family members, Mays enlisted in the Army in 2012.
"I wanted to get out of Mississippi and I always wanted to join the military, so it was the perfect time to make that change," said Mays.
He learned to adapt quickly to the military lifestyle.
"To me, my mindset with boxing and my military career are very similar," he said. "You have to stay disciplined, have a clear and strong mind, and never back down from a fight."
U.S. Army Sgt. Larry Mays, a unit supply noncommissioned officer assigned to 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, hits a speed bag May 11, 2019, at local boxing gym in Colorado Springs.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
His ability to stay committed to his passion of boxing and effectively balance his career and family life began to inspire other soldiers in his unit.
"I would see him working long hours, helping his soldiers and then still see him going to the gym after work to train — that's dedication," said 1st Lt. Wilbert Paige, platoon leader, HHC, 704th BSB, 2nd IBCT. "He is a great example, not only to the junior soldiers in the company but to everyone, from top to bottom."
Paige added that he hopes to see Mays in the "big leagues" in the future.
"He is a great example of what not quitting, putting in hard work and staying dedicated to your goals looks like," said Paige. "He is the type of person who can do whatever he puts his mind to, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for him."
With the support of his family and now his unit, Mays said he hopes to continue boxing and to ultimately do it professionally.
"This road of life I am on is kind of falling into place, I have come a long way," said Mays. "I just want to be the guy who made it from nothing. I want to be the best soldier, best NCO and best boxer I can be."
He hopes others see his journey as a way to encourage themselves to follow their dreams, Mays added.
"I want to be an inspiration to not only soldiers but to everyone," he said. "You have to look at every day like a fight. Keep pushing even when you might be falling down because you can't expect good things to happen if you don't even try."
This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.