Maui Boxer Gets Ready for Beijing

MARQUETTE, Michigan (KHNL) -- The world will be watching and thousands will be gathering in Beijing, China, exactly a year from Wednesday for the summer Olympics on 8-8-08. Among the thousands of athletes representing the United States, some are from Hawaii.

So far, close to 20 Hawaii athletes have qualified for the Olympics, in a wide array of sports such as volleyball, wrestling, and judo.

For Keola McKee, his venue is a boxing ring and he's ready for an international stage.

McKee has spent his free time in a boxing ring since he was five-years-old.

"Well before the match, I mean, I get a little nervous," said the 18-year-old Kahuku, Maui, native. "But as soon as that bell rings and the first punch is thrown, then it's over."

He's now at the Olympic training center in Michigan, getting ready for the most important event of his life.

"The Olympics," said McKee. "It's big. I mean you get to represent not just Hawaii, but the whole United States."

His dad Jeff is proud of his son's accomplishments.

"I think he's going to do real good this year," said Jeff McKee. "If he doesn't make this one, I guarantee he'll make the next one."

Mckee and Bruno Escalante are the only Hawaii boxers on the team. They may not be the most experienced, but they're dedicated.

"They just work hard," said Olympic boxing coach Al Mitchell. "The weight room. The teachers like them. Good academic skills. They stay in their class. They work hard."

Working hard to fulfill a dream and make his family proud.

"My dream for how many years to make the Olympic team," said McKee.

And now, training to make it to the podium to hear that familiar song: the Star Spangled Banner.

McKee credits his dad for getting him into boxing, and thanks his family and friends for their support and aloha.