CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — When thinking of Marines, one of the first things that comes to mind is training for combat overseas, but a select group of roughly 18 active-duty Marines is now going toe-to-toe in the boxing ring.

What You Need To Know

  • Any marine or sailor with a boxing background can participate in the MACE program

  • Half the team is elite open class, the rest are novice boxers

  • The North Carolina local boxing council was the first to open in the U.S. since the COVID-19 shutdown

  • Opening up has allowed the boxers to participate in four events up to this point

Inside the Camp Lejeune Martial Arts Center of Excellence, also known as MACE, they have been training for the past six months.

One of the boxers is Liam Grogan, a Corporal who spent the first couple of years enlisting in an infantry unit. After joining the Marine Corps, Grogan thought his boxing days were over. 

That all changed when Grogan’s boxing skills were noticed by a retired Sergeant Major, who introduced him to the program. Since he gets out of the Marine Corps within a year, Grogan plans to make the most of this opportunity.

“When I get out, I’ll be looking for a couple of professional fights in the state of Florida, and we’ll see where it takes me,” Grogan said.

Corporal Grogran ultimately wants to be a football coach, and he thinks this program, plus being a part of the boxing community in general, could help with that career plan. Until then, he plans to exit the program with a bang as he participates in the roughly dozen events that the MACE teams have scheduled.

“I’ve got the Golden Gloves coming up in the middle of May, so I want to make sure I win that, be the best in the state and take it from there,” he added.

While Grogan is planning for his future after the Marine Corps, others are just getting started. Corporal Anissia Thompson is one of four females who is part of the team. She says the program makes her feel stronger. Since joining the program in November of 2020, Head Coach Joe Higgins told her to get a little better each day.

Marine Corporal Anissia Thompson trains in the Martial Arts Center of Excellence.

“Every day, I try to do this much or as much as I can,” said Thompson.

The team has been incredibly helpful in her journey, and the tight-knit unit works to help each other out. 

All of the teammates live in the same barracks and advise one another whenever it’s needed. That help and the guidance from the multiple coaches helped Anissia get a victory in her first-ever match at the US Championships in Shreveport, LA, where the team recently completed.

“I just came in really aggressive, and I just kept going until she fell,” Thompson said.

That victory made her feel confident in her abilities as a boxer. Although she loves boxing for the program, she eventually wants to get back into her original military occupational specialty.

As for the team's long-term goal, Coach Higgins believes anything less than national champions and possible Olympic hopefuls is a failure.