Boxer and Army Reservist Todd Bacon Prepares to Trade in his Headgear for Body Armor

Windham Independent – November 17, 2005 - Shawn French

Some guys are just natural warriors. Todd Bacon, a Portland Police officer and a 1996 Gorham High grad appears to be one of them. He played high school hockey, started boxing while in the Army and picked up his fourth amateur heavyweight title in the main event of Saturday’s Northeastern Regional Championships at the Portland Boxing Club. But a little over a year ago, Bacon signed up for his biggest fight yet when he re-enlisted in the Army Reserves. He was recently activated and is awaiting word on when he’ll be heading to Iraq. 

“I knew when I re-enlisted that I would be going,” Bacon said, “It seemed like the right thing to do. I’m a young, single guy with the experience. The country’s at war, I’ll do my part. It’s not volunteering to go so much as putting myself in a position that if they needed me to go, I’ll go. If not, I’d continue to serve the community as a policeman.”

Bacon said his introduction to boxing came in a tough-man contest during his initial four-year stint in the Army. “I got my ass kicked by a 165-pound Golden Gloves fighter. I was hooked, because I was 215 pounds at the time and he beat me like I was a 5-year-old kid,” he said, laughing.

In 2001, he stopped by the Portland Boxing Club and after a short chat with trainer/promoter Bobby Russo, got right to work. In the four years since, Bacon has racked up a 15-3 amateur record, winning the Regional Golden Gloves, the New England Golden Gloves and the Northeastern Regional Championship as a novice before moving up to the open class, where he picked up his first belt in a brutal battle on Saturday.

Bacon said he was comfortable against the ropes, using his arms to ward off come colossal punches by Rich Gingras, then countering with sharp inside shots. “Every bomb he threw wen m y arms,” Bacon said. “He only threw three at a time, then he’d have to take a little rest and he was full of holes inside. In the third and fourth round, he was gasping and groaning when I’d land those body shots, so I knew they were getting to him.”

Bacon said the heavy punches were wearing him down but he stuck with his game plan. “In no way do I compare myself to Muhammad Ali,” he said. “But it was like the Ali/Foreman thing. I was comfortable inside and knew that if I stayed in, he wasn’t going to pound me. It looks vicious from the outside, because he’s going to town trying to chop down the tree. But he was so wide with his punches that there were holes in the middle and I was landing well.”

The composure he displayed in the fight shows how far he’s come in the past four years. “I’ve got that 1930’s-style ??? fighter syndrome, where you slug ??? and it’s the last man standing,” he said. “I’ve really tried to improve, being a better boxer. In probably one out of five fights for me, I go out there and do everything right. The rest of the time, I resort to banging. It’s a great test of character and a great test of heart, but it wears on you.

He learned that lesson in a slugfest against a former sparring partner following last year’s Golden Gloves. Bacon said he absorbed some heavy punishment, but refused to go down. “I pride myself on being able to dig deep and not go on the canvas,” he said. “I’ve never been down, nor do I want to.” He suffered a concussion in the bout and had to take some time away from the ring.

He said Russo’s training has been integral in his evolution from a brawler to a fighter. “In every aspect of the boxing world, from Olympics to pros, all over the country, he’s been there and knows everyone,” Bacon said. “It’s very inspiring to have that knowledge in our corner.

Bacon said it’s the crowds and spirit of competition that keep him in the fight game. “When I hit that ring apron and had all those people cheering for me, that’s the addictive side of it,” he said. “You put yourself through so much hell beforehand, your guts are all in a knot and you wonder, ‘Why do I do this to myself?’ Then you get in the ring and all that goes away when the first bell sounds. Afterward, you’re on such a roller coaster of high emotion, you look back and say, ‘This is why I do it.’ Even the next day when I can’t eat anything solid because my jaw hurts so bad or my nose is broken, it’s still worth it.”

When not pummeling opponents in the ring, Bacon said he uses his boxing training to help prepare officers in the Portland Police Department. He said he and four or five colleagues with backgrounds in Muay Thai, boxing and kickboxing are working on a video to help teach defensive tactics, and are developing a curriculum for the officer-training program.

Russo said Bacon is a big asset to the club as both a fighter and teacher, and his decision to re-enlist in the Army should come as no surprise. “I told him if he went back into the Reserves, he was going to get called,” Russo said. “But that’s just who he is.”

“The way I look at it is, if I go over, someone else gets to come home to their family,” Bacon said. “Hopefully in a year or so when the tour’s up, someone will come over and replace me so I can come home too.”

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