For the first time in school history, KU has established its very own boxing club to compete with schools like Lock Haven and East Stroudsburg University. Founder and president of the boxing club, sophomore Patrick Ball, is a transfer from Lock Haven University. Ball came to KU with one goal in mind: bring boxing to KU.
“Never got in a fight, never been punched, and I fell in love with the sport,” Ball said.
When Ball came to KU, they had no boxing club, and he knew that in advance. He began boxing at Lock Haven University under coach Kenneth Cooper. It just so happens Cooper is president of the National Collegiate Boxing Association. With Cooper’s help, Ball began setting things in motion before he even came to KU.
“All summer long, I planned this,” said Ball. “From getting accepted by the NCBA to starting a club, I looked it all up.”
It may seem strange to some that a boxer with just two years of experience would take such responsibilities, but Ball has an absolute passion for the sport. As a former football player for Achbishop Ryan, the 5’ 6”, 140 lb. fighter is not your typical college football player. However, his interest in combat sports has compelled him to begin this long and trying journey.
Ball is swamped with obstacles in his way to making boxing a club sport at KU. These problem include lack of equipment, a lack of funds, poor recruitment, limited time and spaces to train, limited coaching and experience, not being a fully sanctioned club and, overall, an unsettling view on the brutal sport itself.
Women’s golf and wrestling coach Robert Fischer is the advisor for the club. He has recently admitted the club to train in his wrestling room, considering the season has just ended. Before that, he gave the team a great deal for his gym, American Top Team. He only charged them $15 a month, which is a deal by any standards.
Despite Fischer exhausting all efforts to help the club, transportation is continually a problem. American Top Team is a half hour away in Allentown. Being able to practice in the wrestling room is great for now, but Ball is looking for a permanent place for his team, and not one that revolves around the wrestling schedule.
“Every school I’ve talked to says it has practice on campus,” Ball said.
Other than location, funding is the biggest problem. Without funding, the team can only travel to so many places. In addition, the team has no equipment to really work with right now. Cooper donated a few pairs of training mitts, but otherwise fighters must buy their own equipment (hand wraps, gloves, shoes, headgear, etc.)
The only funding as of now comes from the members. There is a $20 fee for the club, a $20 fee for initiation and a $55 fee for any competition. With more funding, the team can buy equipment and overall have a more organized club. The two ways to get additional funding are fundraisers and ultimately becoming a sanctioned club.
The process to become a club has been difficult for the boxing club in particular. It seems safety and overall interest is coming into question. Having just nine members on the team, the inherent stigma that boxing is too violent is evident. Junior Sam Moyer was interested in the boxing club, until she realized how much violence was involved.
“They think it’s an underground fight club,” Ball said. “But there’s less injuries in boxing than there is Rugby. Train for self defense if you want, it’s not as violent as one would suggest.”
Because of the low funds, bizarre fundraisers have been suggested. The typical bake sale is one suggestion, but an even more intriguing one is an Avon makeup sale (no, that is not a misprint). Yes, a makeup sale for the boxing club, or “hide your black eyes with this fantastic new cover up.”
Regardless of funds, equipment and practice space the team manages to compete and practice daily. “90 percent of the time” Ball is running the practice. He sought out the help of faculty member Dr. Louis Rodriguez for help. Dr. Rodriguez was a former professional boxer, and Ball feels his help along with their current trainer would be crucial.
The other trainer helping out the club is the father of one of the finer fighters on the team. After attending a couple of junior colleges for basketball, Kelvin Nance came to KU with boxing experience and an interest to fight for the program. Helping in the good fight, his father and former professional boxer Jeff Nance.
Coach Nance is formerly from Ohio, but came to Philadelphia to box. Recruiting him was none other than Philly fighting legend Joe Frazier. He trains his son and even Ball occasionally out of Costello’s Gym. The expertise that he brought to the table has really improved the Golden Bears as a whole and their performance at Lock Haven justified that.
Ball and company traveled to his old stomping grounds for one of their first competitions of the season. Of the 26 bouts, there was only two knockouts. Both knockouts came at the hands of KU fighters. The first being Kelvin Nance and the second came at the hands of senior Wes Hebrew.
This was virtually a tune up fight for Nance, because he was going to be fighting in the well-renowned Golden Gloves boxing tournament in Philadelphia three weeks later. He simply smothered his opponent, giving him no chance to escape any blow, even though his opponent outweighed him by nearly eight pounds.
“Boxing, to be honest, strength carries you a lot. But my dad would never let me fight someone I can’t handle. I looked at my guy and said ‘bring em’ on.’”
Hebrew had the other knockout in convincing fashion. The two fighters stood in the center of the ring trading blows for a while, but Hebrew was simply relentless. In the end, despite his opponent wearing a headgear, Hebrew was covered in the opposition’s blood after his TKO victory.
“I was nervous at first like anybody,” Hebrew said. “Then I got punched a couple times and felt confident. It was weird, but felt great. We had the only two knockouts in the event and we just started.”
The KU boxing club gets stronger by the week. Now with an official training area, the team can make a solid schedule to abide by. Ball plans on acquiring several training props including heavy bags, speed bags and wraps for the team. Funding is necessary for this, but he is confident it will be done.
Ball is on a never-ending quest to become better. His record may not reflect his talent and hard work, but he realizes two years experience is not enough. He plans on training with Nance’s father at Costello’s Gym over the summer. He trained the past summer at Rocco’s Gym, but liked the atmosphere in Costello’s much better. There are more trainers and better opportunities to learn the sport inside and out. Every fighter has his own style, but Ball wants to know all of them.
Nance plans on continuing his boxing after graduating this semester. Training with his father over the summer hopefully will get him closer to the professional dream he has in mind. Ball hopes learning from the Nances will elevate him and the club to a gold glove standard.
“If you look at me a year ago,” Ball said, “I’m leagues ahead of where I was. I have to thank Coach Nance and Cooper and anyone involved. This isn’t it for me. I’ll learn the styles and bring them to Kutztown. I consider myself a true student of the sport.”
By Frank Lippincott