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Little Neck’s Finegan still alive and kicking

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Billy Finegan didn’t waste any time getting back on the horse.

After a disappointing showing at the World Karate Federation championships in November, losing in the first round to the representative from Greece — who went on to win a bronze — the Little Neck resident jumped right back into competition.

In January, Finegan, 22, won the open division crown at the U.S. Open Championships, an international sanctioned event held in Las Vegas, not to mention $3,000 in prize money.

He followed that win by winning all four of his fights at the national trials. The trials are part of a process that will include the best fighters from 34 nations in the Western Hemisphere that culminates at the Pan American Championships in June in Caracas, Venezuela.

“It was my first world championships actually fighting individual divisions,” Finegan said of the November competition.

“When I was 18 I fought for the team. It was disappointing. I was very ready for it, physically. I didn’t fight smart. It was a good test to kind of see where I’m at with these world class competitors,” he said. “I’m right up there with these guys.”

Said Finegan’s longtime coach and former world champion, Tokey Hill, “The guy he fought was the defending world champion. Billy is beating him 6-4 and he lost on penalties.”

Finegan was penalized more than once for using excessive force, eventually leading to him losing the decision. It was not the first time Finegan, a former Gold Gloves champion, was penalized for excessive force in a karate match.

Prior to November’s world championships, Hill had been the only American to even win gold at the prestigious event. But two Americans, George Kotaka and Elisa Au, both of Hawaii, both took first in the respective divisions.

Finegan’s aggressive style has been more successful than unsuccessful.

In addition to winning the gold in the open division and a silver in the over 80 kg. division at the 2002 U.S. Open Karate Championships, Finegan won a silver medal at the Pan American Karate Championships last July, has been a four-time national team member and won a silver medal at the 2001 World Karate Games, a bronze at the 2001 Pan American Karate Championships and another bronze at the 2000 World University Karate Championships.

“Continenta­lly, there is no one who can touch him, without a doubt,” Hill said. “I’m not happy with him going into the heavyweight division. That’s a whole different division. But that’s what he wants to do.”

Finegan campaigned most of his career in the under-80 kg. division but has made the jump to heavyweight simply because his 6-foot-2 frame simply outgrew it.

“It’s been a struggle to stay at the 175 weight class,” Finegan said. “I feel confident in my speed with these guys. The only thing I’m kind of worried about is their power. Those guys hit hard and I don’t want to take that much abuse. The less abuse I take the better. I want a long career. I don’t want to get too many concussions.”

His first test in the heavyweight division came at the national trials last month. And while he won all of his fights, Finegan noticed a significant difference.

“I’m not used to fighting in the heavyweight division, so I was taking at least some abuse,” Finegan said. “It wasn’t easy, but I won all my matches.”

Finegan will get another chance to test out his wares in the heavyweight ranks when he competes in the Titan Games, to be held Feb. 13 through Feb. 15 in San Jose, Calif. The event, being run by ESPN and the U.S. Olympic Committee, will feature numerous contact sports, including boxing, karate and wrestling. The United States karate team will take on Mexico. The Titan Games will be aired on ESPN March 29 and March 30.

“The Titan Games are going to be cool,” Finegan said. “I’m really excited for it. It’s Olympic level, sanctioned by the Olympic Committee, so I know they are going to do it right.

“I’m going to try to put on a good show,” he added. “Actually, I don’t want to sleep on Mexico. They got some good competitors. I just want to go out there, have fun and put on a good show.”

After the Titan Games, Finegan will get back on track toward representing the United States at the Pan American Karate Championships. The Continental Trials will be in March, with the top eight in each division moving on to the Pan American championships.

The U.S. Nationals follow in July with the Pan American Games in August in the Dominican Republic.

Finegan trains at Hill’s Port Washington dojo, located inside the East Coast Athletic Club, where he also works as an instructor. He has taken time off from college during this busy tournament season, but he expects to go back to school. Finegan also recently applied to the Suffolk County Police Department.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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