Maurice ‘Termite’ Watkins
Termite always loved a good fight.
At ten years of age and a scrawny 65 pounds, he already knew what he wanted – to be a champion. With very little natural athletic ability, he reached his goals through sheer determination and perseverance. At age sixteen, Termite became the nation’s youngest national Golden Gloves champion. He was an astounding amateur, with 128 wins and only 10 losses.
Termite turned pro his senior year in high school, and set his sights on a world title. His 58 professional wins included 48 knock-outs. In 1980, he fought in Caesar’s Palace for the coveted world title in a double main event that featured Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes. In a fifteen-round brutal fight, Termite lost to champion Saoul Mamby.
Retired from boxing and enjoying a successful sales career, Termite was settled into a suburban life with his family in Deer Park, Texas until the events on 9/11 changed his life. Termite felt an overwhelming desire – he believed it was a calling of God – to serve his country. He asked what he could do for his country. The surprising answer was pest control, the business he’d learned as a child from his father. The coalition needed someone to go into Iraq to rid military camps of snakes, scorpions and bugs. Termite headed to Iraq.
Termite’s patriotic service soon spread beyond vipers and flies – he offered boxing classes to soldiers, officers, and aid workers. News spread of this high-energy boxer with the infectious “can-do” attitude. Visionary coalition leader Mike Gfoeller presented an amazing challenge to the Texan: build an Iraqi Olympic boxing team in the middle of war and get them into the Olympics in Athens. Ousted for the unspeakable crimes against its athletes, Iraq had not been in the Olympics in decades. “It was a slim-to-nothing chance, maybe one in a million,” Termite said. Meeting his team of forgotten, rusty athletes in Baghdad, Termite was unimpressed with their skills but amazed by the hearts of these twenty-four Iraqis. Some arrived without shoes; none had headgear or mouthpieces. “It took tremendous courage for these men to show up on that soccer field to meet an American,” said Termite.
He fell in love with them and put his life at risk every day to help them reach their Olympic dreams. Termite’s incredible perseverance and total devotion to a goal was called upon to overcome daunting obstacles. The quest of this unlikely team and their colorfully charismatic coach inspired the world. At a time of tanks and the toppling of Hussein statues, Termite’s team sent the message of hope and freedom in a war-torn nation. CNN, Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and every other major news outlet heralded the triumph of spirit represented by Termite and his men. A riveting motivational speaker, Termite spreads the message of overcoming obstacles to groups and schools across the nation.