By Timothy Cox
Photos by Chris Thelen
Executive administrator of the Augusta Boxing Club (ABC), Tiffany Cannon, has a soft spot in her heart for the club’s current director Rayonta “Stingray” Whitfield.
Several years ago when the Augusta Commission was set to decrease its annual budget — ultimately impacting the boxing club’s future existence as a stand-alone, independent entity — Whitfield was simultaneously preparing for one of the biggest fights of his professional boxing career.
Not only was the fight significant for his profession, says Cannon, Whitfield also was looking at the largest purse (payout in boxing lingo) of his career.
A longtime member of ABC, Whitfield suddenly felt compelled to fight a different fight, one that would ensure his hometown boxing club would still exist for future student boxers like himself who grew up in challenging childhoods, void of economic advantage and educational opportunities.
News of budgetary cuts to the boxing club came on the heels of the retirement of ABC’S founder and former director, Tom Moraetes. “The timing was not good, but I feel that Tom had unofficially been preparing me to be his successor,” says Whitfield.
“In the past few years before he retired, he pretty much took me under his wings and taught me everything he could about how to keep the boxing club successful,” adds Whitfield, who joined the club as a youthful boxing prodigy, at age 10, thanks to his uncle Ivory Whitfield.
“Tom took me to important meetings, had me filling out paperwork, all the necessities and valuable traits needed to be a successful director of ABC,” Whitfield recalls.
Throughout his affiliation with ABC, Whitfield enjoyed high success as a Golden Gloves champion and as the club’s most successful member, second only to his former mentor and two-time world boxing champion, the late Vernon Forrest, who was tragically murdered in Atlanta during an attempted car-jacking in July 2009.
In addition to winning numerous fights, Whitfield toured the world and met some of boxing’s most iconic champions, including his idols, Roy Jones Jr., Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Atlanta’s own Evander Holyfield. “I met Muhammad Ali in Colorado Springs, just before he died,” he adds.
In March 2010, the ABC celebrated its 45th anniversary. Thanks to Tom Moraetes’ foresight and commitment to the boxing club, Whitfield has been able to carry forward the former director’s mantle. Under his leadership, ABC continues to grow, but it is now a nonprofit organization and no longer reliant on the auspices of Augusta Commissioners’ budgetary decisions.
Fortunately, the Augusta Commission approved a $300,000 windfall in 2020 to help with the ABC’s ongoing sustainability. Bill Fennoy, a former District 1 Augusta Commissioner, was a major supporter of ABC and helped convince his fellow commissioners of the club’s civic value and importance.
“First and foremost, I liked the fact that Mr. Whitfield put forth so much energy and effort into the club. He could have been doing any number of things, including developing his own boxing career, but he saw the need and how much the ABC would have [an] impact on so many of the young people in the community. He stepped up and did a great job. Not only did I appreciate what he was doing, but my colleagues on the commissioners’ board also realized the positive effect Mr. Whitfield was having on so many young people. Regardless if the club was in my district, or not, the entire city of Augusta could easily realize and recognize how we all would benefit from what he did,” Fennoy says.
For the full article pick up a copy of our June/July 2023 issue on stands.