When Georgetown sophomore Adan Gonzalez was 9 years old, his father brought him to a boxing gym for the first time. The younger Gonzalez had been getting into fistfights with other children in the apartment complex where the family lived in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, so his dad figured some punishment in the ring would do his son some good.
“He wanted to teach me a lesson,” Gonzalez said. “It didn’t work. I did very well in my first match.”
More than a decade later, Gonzalez is a co-captain of the Georgetown University club boxing team, which Saturday hosted and participated in the school’s inaugural boxing showcase at Yates Field House. The event featured seven teams from the United States and England competing in the first boxing matches on Georgetown’s campus in 50 years.
The Georgetown boxing club is among 29 schools comprising the U.S. Intercollegiate Boxing Association. The USIBA is one of two organizations that conducts college boxing after the NCAA dropped it as a sport in 1960.
But what in part separates the year-old USIBA from the National Collegiate Boxing Association, founded in 1976, is more emphasis on female and novice competition, according to Maryland Coach Luke Runion.
A member of the U.S. national boxing team in 2006-07 while a student at Maryland, Runion was one of the driving forces behind the formation of the USIBA, which conducted its inaugural national championships April 11-13 at the University of San Francisco. The championships consisted of 12 weight classes for men and 10 for women competing in novice and open divisions.
College boxing matches consist of three rounds each lasting three minutes. Fighters are required to wear headgear, much like in Golden Gloves competition and other amateur boxing events.
“We’d like to be the organization to capture that growth,” Runion, also the president of USIBA, said of club boxing’s rise in popularity, “and help a college campus like Georgetown which maybe doesn’t have the space to put a boxing ring in their facility but partner them with the local boxing community. We go off-campus at Maryland to train, but we’re engaging with our community. Students say, ‘I didn’t know Maryland had a boxing club,’ and they start to pay attention. It’s good promotion, I think.”
Most fighters with college boxing clubs have little previous experience in the ring, Runion said, although at Georgetown, interest has been so high in the sport that participation has expanded more than six-fold since the club team was founded in 2007. Then the Georgetown boxing team consisted of six members. These days that number has swelled to 40.
Junior Blair Vorsatz was among those without in-ring experience before joining the Georgetown team. Vorsatz did grow up a loyal fan of the sweet science, and the excitement from watching fights on television as a youngster compelled him to take up the sport soon after he enrolled.
“It’s a sport that’s growing and has become much more popular at Georgetown,” said Vorsatz, who received an ovation when he was introduced with Gonzalez in the ring before the playing of U.S. and British national anthems.
Gonzalez was one of seven members of the Georgetown team that traveled to the national championships. Fighting at 165 pounds, Gonzalez claimed the school’s only title and dedicated his victory to his family that immigrated to the United States from Mexico in the 1980s.
Saturday, as his family watched from Dallas via live stream over the Web, Gonzalez entered the ring draped in the flags of the United States and Mexico for his 170-pound fight against Joe Stray of arch-rival Syracuse. Gonzalez won the bout in a three-round decision.
“I feel when I’m in the ring, I’m not just fighting for myself,” said Gonzalez, who as the first member of his family to attend college wants to inspire others to pursue higher education. “More importantly I’m representing my family and my community. I’m a proud American. This is the best country in the world, but I do always remember where I came from and my parents.”