Boxing fights its way into FIU students’ hearts

Tropical Park’s boxing gym isn’t flashy, but it holds everything a grassroots boxer needs. Walking up the ramp and into the gym, one can hear the sounds of a jump rope gracing the ground on every swing, a heavy bag being worked on and a single loud voice. Every punch emits a vibration felt throughout the concrete walls of the gym. There are men and women of any age in the gym—a little boy not even nine years old found his way into the gym and to the heavy bag, with a smile as wide as the boxing ring he stood next to.

FIU’s intramural boxing team is a club founded by students. Since beginning in fall of 2012, the team has had its leader in “Coach” Ricky Piedra. He is the voice booming throughout the gym.

“When I was 12 I lost my dad, so I didn’t have a father figure. I would get into fights a lot…and one day, when I was in junior high, a security guard came up to me and asked, ‘Why don’t you box?’ I said, ‘Box? Boxing is soft,’” said Piedra.

Little did Piedra know that boxing would become his passion years later. Piedra has been boxing since 1987 and believes it has saved lives, including his own.

“You know, boxing saved my life. Boxing became my dad,” said Piedra.

Boxing at FIU is slowly growing and with coaching from the likes of Piedra, it is heading towards a positive direction.

“We have around 30 club members signed up…but we normally have 15-20 members at training sessions,” FIU Boxing President Kittiya Harris said.

A new influx of boxers is sure to come after recent successes at the U.S. Intercollegiate Boxing Association competition that was held on April 3-5. At this competition, student boxers from across the country met at the University of Miami to compete for different belts in their weight classes. Kareim Scott, a senior at FIU, competed.

“All of my matches have [taken place] in the intercollegiate competition,” Scott said.

Scott has been boxing for two years now, but has been a fan since he was a kid.

“I had a roommate who I used to argue with a lot. We got real close to coming to blows. I had four roommates and he ended up getting on everyone’s nerves. We bought some boxing gloves, did some light sparring and one day I did something Mayweather had done in a video…My roommate said, ‘Whoa, man, that looks just like Mayweather!’ From there, I said, ‘You know what, lemme give this a shot,’” Scott said.

Unfortunately for Scott, he did not get the winning decision at the USIBA competition, but him and his coach plan on winning before Scott graduates in the fall.

“The next time [Kareim] fights, we will train so that the opponent will have to give up. His opponent will tell the referee that there’s no way he can win this thing. That’s our goal and Kareim will be ready,” Piedra said.

As a whole, FIU’s boxing club brought home two national championship belts. According to the USIBA official website, Josh Ortiz won in the men’s 132 division and Malaki Barbee won in the men’s 141 division.

“I’m very, very proud of those guys,” Piedra said.

To breed champions, training must be rigorous. Piedra abides by a strict regiment that his boxers know is not to be taken lightly.

“We run four-five times a week and on Saturdays, we put in 10 hours of work on the clock with only an hour break,” Scott said.

He has made it a point to attend every training session on Saturdays.

As for the direction of the club in the future, Scott hopes it will continue to move in a positive direction. FIU’s own Colonel Vo was a longtime coach for the club, but decided to hang up the gloves recently. Now, the club is run mainly by students, according to Scott.

Piedra was a professional for two and a half years and has been coaching since 2004 and spoke of his best career moment that sums up the leadership of this club.

“When I train somebody and I see them growing, competing and winning, that’s when I know it’s worth it,” Piedra said. “When they come to me not knowing anything [about boxing] and I see them compete, that’s my shining moment.”

With leadership like this, any club would be destined for a positive learning experience.

“I train a lot of kids every day,” Piedra said. “but when they put their faith in me, that’s when I find faith in myself.”

1 Comment on "Boxing fights its way into FIU students’ hearts"

  1. Mahmoud Mustafa | September 21, 2017 at 3:14 PM | Reply

    Is this still on?

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