Standing in line on Sunday, Elliot Watson knows he has made his weight class.
He's already been to the sauna and he's been training for two and half, maybe three months. Watson, senior in Supply Chain Management, is a two-time veteran and champion of the Ace Miller Memorial Boxing Tournament.
A ravenous one, at that.
"I can't wait to eat," said Watson, a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. "... I'm really more excited about drinking a lot of water. I can't wait to down a good Gatorade because I'm a little dehydrated."
The feeling, among boxers waiting for their final weigh-ins, is mutual.
Before a swarm of eager spectators fill the Jacobs Center or a single jab is thrown on Thursday night, the Ace Miller Memorial Boxing Tournament has already begun. It started weeks, even months ago. It started beneath the lights of the Golden Gloves Gym with sweaty T-shirts and sparring.
It started with forgoing Cookout burgers and whiskey to stay trim for weigh-ins. Every match fought on Boxing Weekend is prefaced by tireless, bloody practice. Every match is won long before the boxers step inside the ring.
"I'm at Golden Gloves a lot when they're training," said Holt Edwards, senior in political science and tournament executive director. "They're not joking around. They take it very seriously."
Taylor Adkins, sophomore business analytics and member of Sigma Chi, is another of these serious boxers. For him, that training period stretches back to May, with conditioning and mastering technique. This year's tournament will mark his first year participating.
"The adrenaline you get from a sparring match is just so fun," Adkins said. "It really is. It's just ecstatic."
In January, Adkins began a low-carb diet to drop 21 pounds, permitting him to box as a Junior Welterweight. Adkins recommends "cutting." Otherwise, he believes, boxers face serious disadvantages.
"I would have to go up and fight people who probably cut and made the weight," Adkins said. "So they would be bigger, taller with longer reach and more power."
Having also wrestled in middle and high school, Will Coker, member of Sigma Nu and sophomore in finance, is no stranger to the "cutting" process. But, already in good shape, Coker did not cut any weight, choosing instead to increase his physical fitness and perfect his technique through pad work, circuit training, heavy bag work, movement drills and shadow-boxing.
"You can try to cut like 25 pounds in a week and a half or two weeks," Coker said. "But that's not really realistic. Sometimes people are able to do it, but by the time they do it they're dehydrated, their body's fatigued, they don't really have any energy. Its just not a good situation."
Most people, Coker noted, eventually give up the diet and resign themselves to a more realistic weight class. Others, however, take more extreme measures. These boxers forgo food and water before the weigh-ins, and then pack on those lost pounds immediately after weigh-ins.
"What happens is their body bloats up because they cant adapt to their diet," Coker said. "And then all that binge eating they've been doing. So they tend to get weeded out the first couple rounds of the tournament."
The fighters aren't the only ones working hard, though. As executive director, Edwards oversees a team devoted to the tournament's finances, merchandising and ticketing. Edwards estimated he has clocked in more than 100 hours work in the last year – hours that yielded an online ticketing option, more merchandise and marketing aiming to draw spectators from other, nearby SEC schools. The men behind the weekend permit themselves only about a month of rest after each tournament.
However, the sacrifice is about to yield results.
"This year our presales are actually up about 40 percent so our revenue this year will be the highest in history," Edwards said. "Which will be something great for me to leave on. A great legacy."
Last year's tournament averaged approximately 3,000 spectators each night, a drastic increase from the first tournament 33 years ago, which drew 250 attendees.
Yet, with several fraternities unable to put forward boxers, many believed the tournament would suffer a blow. However, the 57 registered boxers nearly max out the limits of Edwards' "golden number." Still, with some fighters just one or two matches away from championship glory, Coker projected "fierce" competition.
"I know there's a lot of people that have been training really hard," Coker said, "and there's going to be a lot of guys out for blood out there."
Boxing Weekend lasts from Thursday through Saturday, but even after the tournament ends, the tradition lives on. Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Golden Gloves Gym, formerly owned by much-lauded trainer Ace Miller who passed away in 2012. Today, Miller's daughter, Tracy, remains an integral part of the tournament.
Tickets will be sold from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Pedestrian Walkway today and Wednesday. Single Night Passes can be purchased for $20 while Weekend Passes can be purchased for $40.