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Billy Finegan gears up for busy schedule

This year hasn’t started as planned for Little Neck native Billy Finegan. The 21-year-old Queensborough Community College student spent one recent Wednesday getting roughed up by one Curtis Stevens — the top-ranked 178-pound amateur boxer in the country — in the semifinals of the New York Golden Gloves.

Finegan, who won the Novice class title in the annual boxing event a year ago, was simply outmatched by the more experience Stevens when the two met at the Brooklyn PAL on March 13. Still, Finegan isn’t that broken up about it.

“He has something like 70 fights under his belt and I’m coming in there with just about 15,” Finegan said. “I was banging with him in the first round. In the second he caught me with a good shot and I was dazed and against the ropes....he was tough. It’s hard when you’re doing two sports.”

Finegan has been fighting in one way or another most of his life and this year he plans to do more than usual. Having put down his boxing gloves for the remainder of 2002, Finegan is now ready to concentrate on his first love of karate.

With major meet after major meet slated for later this season, Finegan had but two weeks to recover from his bout with Stevens before heading up to Lake Placid Monday to begin training for a slew of tournaments, beginning in June with Pan American Union Karate Organization championships in Bogota, Colombia. More than 40 nations will be represented at the meet and Finegan is one of the favorites to medal.

“I feel I’m in pretty good shape because of the boxing,” he said. “It was difficult. It’s really tough doing karate and boxing. You really have to give up a lot of your time. I’m so busy, I never had much time to myself, but it’s all good.”

The Little Neck native was recently informed he will also be named the United States Olympic Committee’s athlete of the year in karate, with an award to be presented to Finegan at the United States National Karate Federation national championships and team trials, to be held in July in Norfolk, Va.

That meet, more than any other year, is crucial for Finegan this year. The United States team will only be selecting one representative from each weight class, forcing Finegan to win gold in his classification if he is to represent the country in the major international events to follow. He did not win his weight class a year ago, settling for gold in the Open division.

The University Games follow in August in Puebia, Mexico and Finegan’s busy itinerary culminates in November with the World Union of Karate-Do Organization’s world championships, to be held in Madrid, Spain.

“Clearly Billy has shown his ability to medal internationally,” said Finegan’s karate sensei, Tokey Hill. ‘“He’s already beaten two world champions. He’s beaten numerous continental champions. As long as he stays healthy, he’s got a good shot to medal at the world championships. He’s going to be fighting the same type of people.”

Hill, who was the first American to ever win the WKO world championships, doing it in Madrid 23 years ago, has trained Finegan for his entire competitive karate career, leading him to several gold medals at the national championships, as well as international success, most recently at the World Games in Germany, where Finegan claimed a silver medal.

And while success may have eluded him in the boxing ring this year, karate has always been Finegan’s forte. Hill is confident Finegan will succeed this year.

“He’s going to win [the world championships] in the same place I did,” Hill said.

The one problem facing Finegan now is money. Spending his time between Hill’s Port Washington dojo and as a part-time student at Queensborough Community College, Finegan, like most other amateur athletes in the United States, relies heavily upon donations. For information on how to donate to Finegan’s and other amateur athletes’ training expenses, please visit www.TokeyHill.com or contact the National Sports Training Foundation at Citibank, 1075 Northern Blvd. Roslyn, N.Y. 11526 or call (516) 365-9649.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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