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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    A smash hit on campus

    Physiology seniors Nick Sutton, left, and Ryan McGrath spur during a boxing session at the Student Recreation Center on Tuesday, Jan. 29.
    Physiology seniors Nick Sutton, left, and Ryan McGrath spur during a boxing session at the Student Recreation Center on Tuesday, Jan. 29.

    It’s about 7:30 p.m. on a Tuesday and the Arizona boxing club is open for business. A couple guys bounce from foot to foot in a corner loosening up, others put in mouth guards, wrap their hands, get head gear on. Team president Michael Williams gets ready to pop in this practice’s mixtape into the sound system.

    “”Mick, are we going to jazzercise today like you promised?”” someone asked.

    “”I actually brought some oldies, the classics,”” Williams said.

    For the stranger, it takes a moment to figure out that this is total sarcasm. Thirty seconds later Busta Rhymes is blasting over the multi-purpose room’s speakers.

    “”I make a mix of things, but it’s usually in the same vein,”” Williams said over the music.

    A few minutes later the tunes are pumping and so are the punches. Team members get warmed up by throwing the jab into their partners’ glove held near their faces. This is how practice starts.

    “”I wanted a club that emphasized actual sparring,”” Williams said. “”Actual boxing. Not just people hitting bags.””

    Despite the emphasis on one-on-one boxing, he insists newcomers shouldn’t be intimidated.

    “”It’s not intimidating at all,”” he said. “”We are wearing protective equipment and in a sparring environment it’s understood that if you catch someone with a good blow, you let up. It’s more gentlemanly. In a sense, we are a group of friends.””

    Junior Monica Garcia hasn’t been scared away yet. A relative newcomer to the sport, she said she had taken a few classes but was interested in doing something more.

    “”I’m just kind of starting, I’m not really in shape or anything,”” said Garcia, who is one of just two women on the team. “”I’m trying to find different ways to exercise and also learn self defense.

    “”The first day was kind of strange because I thought there were going to be more girls than there are, but the guys are very kind. It’s fine,”” she said. “”The first day I didn’t know what to expect and then you have to review some basic punches. It’s awkward at the beginning, but I’m liking it very much.””

    Williams himself is a relative newcomer to the sport. He picked up the hobby in October 2006. He documented his preparation for his first exhibition fight in a series of quirky YouTube videos, “”The Vicious Vegan.””

    When he saw the highlights from the National Collegiate Boxing Association championships on a television screen in the Student Recreation Center last summer, he knew that he wanted to bring college boxing to Arizona.

    “”This has been long in the works,”” he said.

    In that time, Williams has gone from earnest student to earnest teacher. In fall 2006 he was someone who essentially decided to give boxing a shot, one year later he became a certified boxing coach. Williams, however, insists that doesn’t mean much.

    “”There are four levels (of coaches) going all the way up to the Olympics. The first level is basically meant to protect your boxers, keep them safe, that sort of thing.””

    To get the certification, Williams had to attend an all-day seminar covering basic safety, nutrition and the rules of boxing, as well as pass a written exam.

    What he might lack in coaching experience he makes up for in enthusiasm; Williams floats from boxer to boxer with instructions and encouragement.

    “”Good power, good connect,”” he told one pair.

    “”His teaching is definitely different from what I’m used to,”” said freshman Paul Savine, “”but I think the way he runs it, the sparring, is good for getting good fast.””

    Savine is a four-year kick boxer, but a recent convert to boxing. He helps out Williams and gives pointers when he can, but like most of the team, he’s still relatively new to the sport.

    “”We have some guys who are pretty good and hopefully everyone is going to get better,”” he said. “”It’s mostly beginners, but some of those guys are pretty big and strong so they make up for it.””

    Unlike Garcia, who is mostly interested in fitness, Savine said he is interested in eventually competing against boxers from other schools. Since the team has become a member of the National Collegiate Boxing Association, members will have the opportunity to box against other schools in the region.

    Williams said he hopes to send boxers to a regional qualifying event in March where the best two boxers in each weight class will earn a berth in April’s national championships. Team members can set their own goals.

    And it’s a cheap thrill. Savine said he was drawn to the fact that membership is only $35 a semester. Members do provide their own equipment, however, which includes gloves, mouthpiece and headgear.

    “”For a bunch of Joes, there is an opportunity to go pretty far, pretty quick,”” Williams said.

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