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The Boxing Years in Eugene, OR


Learning how to fight helped me be more confident in life. 

I learned from Rocky Marciano to get out of the game before you lose. With a 3–0 amateur record, I hung up the gloves and headgear and called it good. 

Actually, I didn’t even know who Rocky Marciano was when I started boxing at 21 years old. I come from a time when the internet and smartphones weren’t a thing and we never had cable, so I wasn’t a depository of information like the youth today. 

The Boxing Idea

It was around the year 2001 when I had the idea to box and started scoping out boxing gyms in the Eugene, Oregon area. I found two gyms to choose from. 

I chose the smaller gym with fewer boxers; it was located close to the downtown area yet hidden behind some commercial businesses in an old metal shed. The West Eugene Boxing Club. 

Going to community college in the area right after getting out of the Air Force, I felt the need to learn how to fight better.

 I was a security forces member in the AF (military police) so I did learn some techniques for fighting, yet I hadn’t been in many fights in my life and wanted some experience. I had a fistfight only one time in high school. 

Younger Brother Dynamics

My older brother was the fighter, not me. He never beat up on me, but he would fight people for fun and everyone avoided messing with him. The little brother dynamic was part of what made me want to fight; coupled with the nice guy character, I wanted to prove to myself that I was tough. 

The road to becoming a man is even longer for nice guys, at least, to earn respect from other people and yourself. 

My friends and I were always the clowns having fun, rather than the brutes trying to intimidate everyone. Before I went to a small high school, I was the obscure nerd at larger schools who played role-playing games with the guys in the library. 

Once you become secure with your manhood, you can divulge these types of things. This is what boxing helped me do in my early 20s.

Boxing Benefits 

Amateur boxing was a great experience for me at the time. Here are some of the benefits:

  • allowed me to stay physically fit
  • learned how to take a punch
  • learned how to fight in real situations with someone punching me
  • way to make friends
  • the excitement of boxing in a public match
  • learn your limitations (how good your chin is)
  • vent your young adult frustrations
  • gain confidence in defending self and others
  • makes you attractive to women
  • have an official amateur record to boast about later in life
  • boxing is a fun sport

Some of these benefits might be subjective to my own experience, lofty thoughts, and opinion, nevertheless, learning how to box has more benefits than drawbacks. 

Drawbacks of Boxing

The main drawback is getting punched in the head and gut. The danger of getting hurt, even for the long term, is there every time you box with a formidable opponent — even when only sparring. 

For instance, one of my boxing instructors was an amateur prodigy who turned pro for a short time. One time he fought an ex-marine who was considerably older than most boxers (in his late 20s) and almost killed him with a hard right — the man was put into the hospital and almost died. 

I can’t remember all the details, except this incident ruined the boxing instructor’s career, as he couldn’t hit as hard afterward knowing it could kill someone. This has happened to many pro boxers actually, they get gun-shy after realizing the deadliness of their punches. 

Every sport has some dangers, and with the headgear and larger gloves used in amateur boxing, these were mitigated somewhat. The main difference was we were all amateurs and not professionals. Getting into the ring with a contending professional is a different game. 

Welterweight Class

I fought at welterweight at 147 lbs. I didn’t have to lose any pounds to get to this weight, this was my natural size. It is still my natural size. Once, while in the Air Force, after getting back from being stationed in Kuwait for 4 months, I was 177 lbs. That is the biggest I’ve ever been. 

The total amount of time I spent boxing as an amateur was around 2 years; in this time, I fought 3 different bouts and won each of them. The first one wasn’t anything to brag about, as the guy was not made out to fight (TKO). The other two were decent fights, especially the last one which I won with a split decision. 

The first bout was in Portland, Oregon and the second two were in Salem, Oregon. 

Going to a small high school in rural Eastern Oregon, I was able to play year-round sports and develop as an athlete. This experience in addition to being in the Air Force helped me naturally be good at boxing. 

For a welterweight, I’m fairly tall at 5'10." Being taller isn’t always an advantage in boxing, but it does help in making people think twice about picking a fight with you. I learned this more while being a taxi driver for 4 years later in life. 

Intimidation and Physical Prowess

I’ve never been intimidating to others by my appearance; looking much younger than I am in reality has always been a bane of my manly existence. Maybe looking younger is a benefit for women, but for men, it can be a challenge when trying to get respect. 

Looking young and being a nice guy are not the easiest attributes when trying to get respect as a man. I realize that being respected as a man means more than physical prowess, yet trying to get by in a world full of insecure emasculated men trying to prove themselves means constantly having to fight for respect (metaphorically and literally). 

Being strong-minded and confident in your physical ability to defend yourself are important attributes to have as a man. Women will never understand this, as they will never be treated like a man, even if a man fights them. 

The entire subject of fighting is a can of worms. 

Essentially, learning how to box helped me feel confident in my ability to defend myself against physical attacks. I never carried a gun in my 20s or 30s (besides in the Air Force for my job), so all I had was my wits and boxing skills. 

When I was a taxi driver I carried a stun gun with me, yet one day after carrying it around for years I tested it and found it didn’t even work. It did work when I bought it, yet at some point, it became useless even though I was charging it. The lesson is to test your stun gun out every once in a while. Nevertheless, it made me feel better to have it. 

I never even owned a gun until I got married in my early 30s. I think it is important to be able to defend your home and family in case of an attack or intruder.

West Eugene Boxing Club 

West Eugene Boxing Club was a great place to be back then. With “Eye of the Tiger” music playing from an old cassette tape deck and the garage door open to the early evening sky, we would begin our workout session with the assistant boxing instructor spurring us on with routine motivational instructions.

The assistant boxing instructor was a nearly retired truck driver who had only boxed once or twice as an amateur, yet he was the heart of the gym helping us outsiders find our form and confidence in a dark and mean world with bad intentions.  

Boxing is one of the most physically demanding sports there is; three-minute rounds seemed like forever, as punching and getting punched takes a lot of energy to pull off. Once you are spent, fear sets in because you don’t have the energy to fight anymore. 

After sparring regularly, I learned how to pace myself and not flinch at every thought of being punched. I learned that getting punched doesn’t always hurt that bad. Sometimes a punch would hurt and this would take the steam right out of me. 

Those are two important lessons learned:

  • getting punched doesn’t hurt as bad as you might fear
  • when someone gets punched hard it takes the fight right out of them

The Fighting Game

I realize boxing for 2 years and in 3 matches doesn’t make me an expert at boxing, yet it does give me some insight when watching the sport and seeing people fight in real life. 

Let me say this, most people are bluffing with their toughness. They may take steroids, work out and be big, or just be the trash-talking type, yet they really don’t know how to fight. Once a person like this gets hit hard, the bluster and posturing go right out the window. 

I’ve learned that most people really don’t want to fight when you stand up to them. If you stand your ground, most people will back off (even though they might talk a lot of crap before they relent). 

Sometimes they back off because they don’t want to go to jail, other times they don’t want to fight someone who has confidence — they were just trying to intimidate. Whatever the reason, just stand your ground. 

Since boxing, I’ve been in three street fights and have stood up to many people much larger than myself. Each time I was scared, yet having the confidence that I can box helped me stand my ground. 

I give God credit for helping me in some of these instances because the odds were I was going to get beaten badly. Thankfully, there are peacemakers in the midst of the unruly. 

If you aren’t looking for trouble, bypassing trouble is much easier. I’m a defensive fighter who doesn’t go out trying to prove myself to anyone. 

That is why I wanted to learn how to fight as a boxer in the first place, so I didn’t have to be insecure and try to prove myself in bar fights, etc. 

Some people will say boxing isn’t the best way to learn how to fight, they would say Judo is better, as it is more realistic for a real scenario. I agree that most fights end up on the ground, yet boxing does help a person learn how to take a punch and fight under duress. 

Wrestling is something I practiced all the time in high school with my schoolmates, as we were always trying to throw each other around and prove our strength. 

Back to the Gym

I would go to the boxing club in the evening after school and before work. We would do our many exercises, take a long run through the back side of the city, tape our hands, put our gloves on, and beat the bags for an hour at timed intervals. Many times, we would then have sparring sessions, where we would put our skills and toughness to the test.

For some reason, I became the most prolific sparring partner in the gym during the two years attended. They would put me in there with the new guys to get them acquainted, having me take it easy on them until they maybe landed a haymaker on my nose. Then, they would put me in there with heavy weights and tell them to take it easy on me. 

The main guy they liked to put me in with was a former golden glove featherweight (125 lbs). He was older at the time, in his early 30s, and would come with his boxing family to tear it up for a while. They would put me in there with him, as my bigger size was an equalizer to his skill. I remember these were fun matches that everyone was watching. I always got the worst of it, featherweight punches in bunches do hurt — he was probably more like a lightweight then. 

Sparring at the West Eugene Boxing Club was a bit of glory in itself. I can still remember the guys I fought in that dingy old metal shop in the small ring we practiced in. Ding Ding!

It’s the eye of the tiger
It’s the thrill of the fight
Rising up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night
And he’s watching us all with the eye of the tiger
Face to face, out in the heat
Hanging tough, staying hungry
They stack the odds ’til we take to the street
For the kill with the skill to survive

 


Conclusion

The boxing years were part of my formative years as a young adult. The dicipline of learning how to fight and staying in shape in my young 20s after getting out of the Air Force was important for building a solid foundation for my life. 

Being a man is much more than physical prowess, yet we live in a violent and disrespectful society that always wants to demean our manhood. Being a smaller guy who looked young and was nice made it hard for me to get respect as a man. This is part of the reason why I learned to box, as I had to prove to myself that I was tough and had the skills to defend myself and my loved ones. 

What I learned about myself in the ring and in that old dark gym on the wrong side of the tracks was one of the most valuable lessons in my adult life; I’m thankful I bypassed all the fears of going there and fighting in those amateur matches, as it gave me the confidence needed for the troubled days ahead. 

Looking back now at nearly 44 YOA, I remember those days with fondness and can still remember the thuds, whacks, bells dinging, excited chatter, and woeful shouts. 

I wonder what happened to my boxing friends and that old gym, as the memories play clearly in my mind. I found this Facebook page with the same instructors I worked with, yet in a different location and it seems ghosted. 

At a certain point when my skills started to improve and certain mentors started to take notice of my overall ability, I realized pursuing a boxing career wasn’t something I was willing to do, although I still shadowbox nearly every day. I still wonder if I was willing to go possibly brain-dead, I may have been a decent pro boxer.

In the end, I’m glad I stuck to golf and still have my brain mostly intact. The experience helped me appreciate the sport and become a fan of its past and present boxing champs. 

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite fights featuring Marvin Hagler vs. Vito Antuofermo in 1979. What a fight!


Originally published at Medium


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