Boxing defines way of life for Sparkman senior
PHOTOS BY JOSHUA BERRY
Boxing can be a brutal sport, both professionally and in the amateur ranks. Sparkman High senior Obed Bartee II understands that facet of the sport, but boxing changed his life’s direction.
As a young teen, the son of Obed Bartee I and Syria Bartee had lost sight of who he was and was constantly afraid of what others thought of him. By the sixth grade, his grades slipped, and he got into trouble by hanging out with the wrong crowd. He was on his way to nowhere – until at the suggestion of his father, he gave up playing football and instead tried boxing.
“I found out all I was doing wasn’t worth it, and boxing gave me an escape,” said the 18-year-old. “I’m happy I got everything turned around, and I attribute much of that to boxing. It’s the big factor.”
His rise in the sport has come quickly: He’s No. 1 in the United States as part of the USA Boxing Youth Men’s 165-pound division. His previous yearly rankings included a spot at No. 1 in the 145-pound division and No. 4 among fighters in the 154-pound weight class. He has earned gold medals in both the Junior Olympics and the Eastern Qualifier Tournament. He’s participating in the Western Qualifier Tournament in Reno, Nevada, which is a qualifying event for the USA Nationals to be held in December.
The Senator boxer goes by the nickname “Radar,” given to him in his youth; his ears were larger than normal, and his coaches began calling him Radar, implying they were like radar dishes.
“Deep down, Obed is intelligent and a good-hearted person,” said his father. “It’s a battle with a teen child, but he stays on the path that should be success. He developed his determination to want to win and to keep going. You can’t teach those qualities.”
The elder Bartee said he saw incredible athleticism in his son early on. He said one day when Obed was about 6 years old, he saw him trip on a concrete walkway while running through the yard – destined for a terrible tumble. He saw his son do a forward roll and bounce back on his feet. “That was very athletic and intrigued me on what he could do with athletics,” said Bartee’s father.
Upon giving up football for boxing, Bartee visited the one-week WCAP Boxing Camp in Chattanooga, Tenn. He said it was there that something triggered him to think he could handle the rough sport. In summer 2015 he let his father know he wanted to box, and he had his first bout Nov. 7 in Jackson, Tenn. Bartee won that fight, the first win on the path to where he is today.
He trains at the Rocket City Boxing Club in Huntsville under the guidance of coach Larry Bright and also receives coaching from his father, who, according to Bartee, pushes him by the hour in his school work, boxing and all aspects of his life. Bartee said his father is “tough as he can be.”
“Safety is always the top priority for us and how we look after Obed,” said the elder Bartee. “The injury rate is lower in boxing compared to football and basketball, so Obed boxing is not an issue for his mother and me.”
Other than the boxing, Bartee is a typical 18-year-old teen who loves what he’s doing. He said he strives to be the most honest person, especially to his siblings, Omarie, 15, and Samora, 13. “I look out for my siblings and show them how to be better than me and not make the same mistakes I did. I have a tendency to get off task, especially at school. I’m almost rushing to get everything completed.”
A physical specimen, the 6-foot muscular Bartee turned 18 in February and has the boxing knowledge of how to size up his opponent just moments after stepping into the ring together. “I look at their feet,” said Bartee. “In boxing you must have plenty of rotational movement, and I can tell by the feet. If they seem to be flat-footed, I know they won’t have much mobility. Of course, I’m a little nervous and shaking inside when the bout is about to begin, but after the first punch is thrown, all of that goes away.”
Bartee has never been knocked out and has posted a 55-15 overall record. He trains on an almost daily basis, benefiting from a small training area in his home. He doesn’t flaunt his talents around the halls and classrooms of Sparkman High, however, but does carry a confident way about him wherever he goes. He said he has hopes of making the U.S. Olympic team or possibly the Army Boxing Team, as he’s contemplating joining the U.S. military once he graduates from high school.