Tag Archives: Boxing

USF’s Joe Riley (left) taking on fellow USF boxer Joshua Zydonis (right) in the only intra- club matchup of the night. (Photo by Shawn Calhoun)

Three USF Boxers Win at Hilltop Cup X, Biggest Boxing Tournament in California

Starting an hour and fifteen minutes later than scheduled only seemed to increase the tension and intensify the atmosphere of USF’s Tenth Annual Hilltop Cup Boxing Tournament on Oct. 18 at the Koret Center. In the hour before the event finally started at 7:15 p.m. — late due to the BART strike holding up one of the boxing clubs — more and more people joined the crowd of enthusiastic supporters who gathered around the ring in the center of Swig Pavilion to watch 15 bouts of elite collegiate boxing.

USF Boxing Club took home three victories from their home tournament. Matthew Rodriguez earned a champion’s belt in the co-main event, defeating USC’s Francisco Montinegro in a grueling bout of three two-minute rounds (the format for all the fights). Despite the slightly slower pace of the 185-pound matchup, it was one of the most aggressive and crowd-pleasing bouts of the evening. Rodriguez felt his typical nerves before the fight but still kept a winning mindset.

“Every fight I always have nerves, regardless of the amount of fights I have, but I think that feeling should be there,” Rodriguez said. “That being said, I was ready physically and mentally. I always expect to win, nobody should be thinking of losing.”

The matchup between Rodriguez and Montinegro became the co-main event at the last minute after the opponent of USF’s Nargis Shaghasi dropped out with an injury. The co-main and main events are typically big fights between rivals or matchups that are set up well in advance, according to Rodriguez. Even though it wasn’t a rival matchup, the high expectations surrounding Rodriguez’s fight made it next in line to fill that role.
“I knew nothing about my opponent, I never do and I would rather not know,” he said. “If the person has barely any fights or is a world champion, I don’t care—it really means nothing to me, I’ll prepare and train and fight them like any other person.”

The Hilltop Cup’s main event featured USF’s No. 1 Katrina Nahe against Azteca DF Boxing Club’s Iris Contreras. Nahe came away empty-handed in a seemingly evenly-matched fight. It was difficult to see a clear winner in the 119-pound matchup, and the revealing of Contreras as the victor left Nahe looking disappointed and frustrated.

The sixth bout of the night was a fast-paced, aggressive matchup between USF’s Jason Cabugos and Zach Harvey of UC Davis. Cabugos came away with the victory amidst chants of “U-S-F” from the sidelines. Fans had first gotten loud two fights earlier, when two USF boxers, Joshua Zydonis and Joe Riley, faced off in a heated threeround bout, with Zydonis eventually taking home the win.

“Our recruits, raised the ante and show their potentials in coming into this program,” USF coach Angelo Merino said. “Our senior boxer, Joseph Riley, showed maturity and impressed me the most in facing adversity — although he lost by a decision, he came back strong in the end and gave his all.”

The Hilltop Cup is the largest boxing event in California, drawing participants from all over the country. Athletes from San Jose State University, UC Davis, UC Berkeley, UC Los Angeles, University of Southern California, East Carolina University, University of Maryland and USF participated at this year’s tournament. USF is one of the elite clubs at the event; coaches Merino and Jay Gonzalez have led members of USF’s boxing club to Golden Glove championships, regional titles and three national championships. The three national champions are all still members of the USF club, but none were able to secure a matchup for Hilltop Cup for various reasons.

The next event for USF will be the UCLA/USC Boxing Invitational on Nov. 22 at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. USIBA national champion and 39th Adidas Nationals bronze medalist Shaghasi will be fighting a rematch against Jasmine Singh, also a former national champion. It will be decided the second week of November which other USF boxers will participate in the competition.



USF’s Adriana Bousalian is Victorious in First Ever Female Collegiate Boxing Championships


After hundreds of punches were thrown, countless fights were completed, and resilient champions were crowned, the three long days of boxing at USF had come to an end, and regardless of the results, the university was proud to host this historic event.

On April 11, 12, and 13 the United States Intercollegiate Boxing (USIBA) First Annual National Championship took place at the Koret Center and War Memorial Gym. Schools from all around the country participated in the tournament, including Georgetown, North Carolina, Syracuse, Michigan, Miami (FL), West Virginia and more. The past weekend marked first time in history that a collegiate boxing tournament included championship fights for female boxers.

The first USIBA National Championship was fought by men and women aged 17 to 34. All contestants entered a specific weight class division, with the classes ranging from 106-201 pounds for men, and 106-178 for women. If more than eight contestants entered a division, the top eight competed in the National Championship Tournament Bracket, while the others placed into the National Invitational Tournament Bracket. All bouts, or fights, included three two-minute rounds. The boxers received a score for each individual round, and whoever had the highest score after three rounds won the bout.

Participating in the National Championship was the USF Boxing Team, which enjoyed an advantage in fan size and support.

“It is a great honor, especially since this is the first UNIBA tournament,” USF co-head coach Jay Gonzalez said of hosting the boxing event. “It shows that USF is trusted in a situation like this, and so far we’ve heard a lot of good feedback from people.”

On the women’s side of the tournament, the bouts were dominated by the United States Military Academy (USMA). The school from West Point, New York boasted champions in four different divisions and had so many contestants that multiple matches found USMA boxers fighting against each other. However, they would have had even more success if it was not for USF’s own  Adriana Bousalian, who defeated USMA’s Jocelyn Lewis to win the championship for the 119 weight class. Also winning a championship was North Carolina’s Michelle Kern, who beat Victoria Rao from USMA in the 125 weight class. Overall, it was a groundbreaking tournament for women’s boxing, as female boxers moved closer to achieving equal opportunity in the sport.

“The London Olympics last year were the first time that women’s boxing was recognized as an Olympic sport,” Gonzalez said. “So now, the next step is to recognize it at a college and club level, which is exactly what we are doing here.”

In the men’s championship, the winners were more evenly divided as boxers from many different schools took home titles. In the 125 weight class, UC Davis’ Mac Pham bested Shawn Sullivan of Virginia Military Institute, and Maryland’s Konrad Ptaszynski was victorious in a closely contested bout against Drew Chin from UC Davis. Other winners included Courtney Jackson of Miami over USC’s Aaron Goldwyn, in a physical bout filled with aggressive attacks.

For the USF Boxing Team, the USIBA National Championship offered a valuable learning experience. While Bousalian was the champion in her weight class and other USF boxers Jack Ryan, Connor Morgan, and Sebastian Doerner reached the championship for their class in the Novice, NIT, and Open Divisions, even the boxers who had less success left the tournament wiser and stronger. The National Championships gave the team a chance to compete against some of the best collegiate boxers in the country, and showed them what they needed to do to reach the top and develop their image as a winning program.

“Like any coach, I had very high expectations for my team going in,” Gonzalez said. “Some have risen to these expectations and some have fallen short, but that just means that there is room for improvement. I am still very proud that we had five different boxers who won fights and advanced.”

Now that the inaugural USIBA National Championship is over, the boxers will return to their respective schools, some with championship titles and some without. Either way, these three days of boxing set in place a new standard for collegiate boxing — one where participants from a diverse group of schools are given the chance to win at a national level, and one where women’s and men’s boxing are both viewed as equal.

Building a Boxer Out of Nothing:the account of an ordinary student experiencing USF’s boxing club

For the past two weeks I’ve been toiling with members of USF’s boxing club in their lonely little gym, sequestered, as it is, at the very end of the hall on the very bottom level of Koret. The thrust of my incursion into this obscure athletic realm was not to be one of vain glory, personal aggrandizement or frivolous journalistic hope; I sought to put my finger on the pulse of the boxing program. Or, better yet, to embody that pulse: to intuit the heartbeat of the boxer.

Two Mondays ago, on the 1st of October, I began this grievous journey by entering the awe-inspiring Koret Health and Recreation Center, a foreign place to me that I had frequented, in the course of my still-young academic career at USF, for the sole purpose of accessing its delectable sandwich-crafting deli. But this would no longer be so; as a boxer, I would have to consider Koret my second home.

Descending the flights of gray-tiled steps whilst gripping the green hand rails leading down to the main level of the Center, I see students galloping on treadmills, tugging on ergometer handles, ceaselessly stepping on StairMasters®, and I’m struck with the scene’s eerie similarity to Dante’s descent into hell. If the world outside Koret, with its flowing availability of freedom and pleasure, is Paradise, the ground level with all these individual exercise machines might be Purgatory, each person cleansing him-or-herself of the day’s sin (perhaps a cheeseburger which proved blasphemous to one’s diet, or other transgressions of that ilk) here.

But if this pattern has any validity at all, it bodes most ominously for what’s in store for me as I plunge down the final stairwell to the lowest stratum of the Koret Center…

The sight of persons pumping iron on either side of the narrow base-level hallway, which I must pass before reaching the boxing program’s secluded training locale, seems vaguely reminiscent of the Second Circle within Mr. Alghieri’s Inferno, Lust: men and women gratuitously sculpting their bodies, lusting after some illusive ideal body image, instead of respecting their natural body types. So maybe that last door on the right, the entrance to the boxing gym, is really the entrance to the Circle of Violence, where aggression-addicted brutes are condemned to punish each other for their belligerent tendencies… I gulp down my anxiety and plod on to my fate.

Wait a minute — I see calm young women clad in spandex tights performing intricate breathing exercises and graceful body stretches, and my fear fades. There’s no yoga in hell. Thus, my cynical suspicions might indeed be misplaced. This might actually be a good place after all.

Through the double doors of the boxing gym is an establishment familiar to anyone who has seen Rocky or any other hackneyed Hollywood rendition of a fighter’s struggle: body-sized leather punching bags swinging on chains from the ceiling and big-shouldered individuals jump-roping, pounding bags with padded gloves, and cautiously sparring inside of the gym’s centerpiece, the elevated square-shaped platform, bound by elastic ropes, known as the ring. There’s a subtle stench of sweat, and the percussion of punches goes along with the deliberately intense hip-hop beat blasting from an antiquated stereo system.

At the sound of this alarm, whose source was a red metal box next to the ring with three lights on top of it, everyone uniformly stops what they’re doing to take a break.

The tough, resolute visage of Head Coach Angelo Marino, who is teaching one of his boxing and social justice classes, yields to a (relatively) friendly grin as we recognize each other. As I would soon find out, this commanding red box is the round timer; reminiscent of the color scheme found in traffic lights, green means that the round is starting, yellow that there’s only thirty seconds left in the round, and red is stop. The fighters of true dedication do not anticipate the red: they can’t wait for the green.

The first step of my initiation into the world of boxing was learning to “wrap my hands,” that is, reinforcing my hands with two five-foot-long strips of cloth, one for each hand. Easy enough, I assumed. But one can’t just swaddle his or her hands any old way; there’s a precision to this process which ensures a person’s wrists, knuckles, and metacarpals are appropriately padded and supported, so as to best support the frail anatomy of the hand during a punch.

My first day of practice was nothing more than an awkward reality check. After the deceptively complex application of my hand wraps, I started off, as per the instruction of my friend Trenton Stonerock, a sophomore with a year of experience on the team, with jump rope. Three three-minute rounds of jump rope… I hadn’t jumped rope since 6th grade. I did the task dutifully, watching my reflection in the full-wall mirror in the gym fade into a flustered, exasperated image of its former self. Each round, I begged the timer to beep orange when it was green and for it to beep red when it was orange. By the third round, I began to curse the impetuous adolescent instinct which compelled me to start smoking in high school.

Next came the real instruction: learning the form of the particular punches. For this my teacher put on “mitts,” leather pads worn on both hands, which function like a baseball mitt for boxing gloves, and I wore the gloves. The teacher would extend the mitts to distinct positions, each corresponding to a specific punch. Under the supervision of Coach Marino’s experienced eyes, I started out with the two most basic ones: the jab and the straight cross.

These are merely straight punches, the jab using the left arm and the straight cross the right (“south paws,” individuals whose dominant fighting hand is their left, do this oppositely). Despite my pride in having prevailed in a number of teenage scraps during my more rebellious years, my first punches were gawky and impotent. In boxing, as in every other life skill, the difficulty comes from trying to blend the technical mechanics of the punch with one’s energy.

The hooks and uppercuts came into play after I seemed to grasp the technique of the simpler punches. The left hook is an especially powerful lateral blow, which can have devastating consequences on one’s opponent if delivered properly. As Emiliano Alizoti, an assistant boxing club coach, put it: “If you can land a left hook early on, the other guy won’t forget it.”

Contrary to the beliefs and practices of many boxers with whom I worked, as well as whatever wisdom informed EA Games’ “Fight Night,” Coach Marino adamantly insisted that there’s no such thing as a right hook — or there ought not to be, at least.

“The mechanics of it are all wrong, you leave yourself completely unprotected with a right hook,” Marino averred, much to the bemusement of my instructor, Stonerock, who until now had considered the taboo punch fair game.

For the peculiar technique of uppercuts, Coach Marino suggested, “act like you’re scooping ice cream up with your fist.” Despite the appetizing imagery this advice provided me, translating it into a muscular intuition still proved puzzling.

Throughout the rest of my training sessions, I practiced what I’d learned through a number of skill-building exercises: shadow-boxing, in which you watch yourself throw punches in the mirror to reflect on your technique; hitting the heavy bag to work on power and endurance; the double-end bag, a particularly vexing device, consisting of a stuffed leather bag suspended in the middle of two elastic chords, designed to hone one’s precision and coordination with its moving target; and, of course, more work with mitts. The only thing missing, a fight with another boxer.

I appealed to Ed Fu, another sophomore with a year of competitive boxing at USF under his belt, to determine when and if I could go toe-to-toe with one of the experienced boxers. I felt that I’d improved, which he ceded, but he maintained that I still had quite a ways to go until I could confidently hold my own in the ring.

“You have to grasp as much of the technique and strategy as possible before you start throwing punches at another person,” Fu said. “It’s like school— you have to go to class, study, and do homework for a certain amount of time before you can hope to do well on a test.”

To polish my punches, Fu even suggested that I try boxing in the shower – so as to remove any sense of self-consciousness and insecurity that naturally arise when we’re around other people.

In the end, I’m left with the knowledge that my boxing prowess is only beginning to sprout, and that for it to bloom, I must cultivate it accordingly. In addition to a respect for my health and fitness, as well as a newborn urge to jab at my shampoo, my experience has engendered in me an appreciation for the boxer —not as a specific athlete, but as a human engaging in a struggle with no definite end.

Several Dons Victorious in 9th Annual Hilltop Cup Boxing Tournament

This past Friday, 32 fighters from 17 different clubs descended upon War Memorial Gym for the 9th Annual Hilltop Cup, the largest amateur boxing tournament in California. Boxers from all corners of the United States turned out to test their mettle in the ring for three furious two-minute rounds. As the host, USF Boxing was well represented with nine fighters donning the Green and Gold on Friday night against challengers from Santa Clara University, Emory University, the University of Hawaii, the University of Maryland, Old School Boxing Club, West Coast Boxing Club and the United States Navy. While USF fighters went 4-5 on the night, the fight of the night belonged to USF’s Nargis Shaghasi and Valeri Lo from the University of Hawaii in the night’s 14th bout.

Shaghasi, fighting out of the red corner, was under duress early as her opponent Lo threw twice as many punches in the first round. Nevertheless, Shaghasi was able to counter and jab her way to a slim lead after the opening round by throwing more disciplined punches than Lo. Continuing her all out assault against Shaghasi, Lo stayed true to her first round performance and pressed early in the second round. After trading blow for blow in the evenly matched bout, Shaghasi gave the crowd what they wanted halfway through the second round, courtesy of a vicious uppercut. The quick, powerful strike sent Lo to the floor and the crowd to their feet, cheering thunderously for the local favorite, who was victorious by knockout.

Shaghasi’s knockout of Lo was the second USF victory by way of K.O. on the night, as Mark Cabreto defended the Hilltop against Ronald Manuel of Santa Clara in the night’s fourth bout by knocking the Bronco to the mat and out of the fight. USF also tallied wins against the University of Maryland and the Old School Boxing Club, as Daniyar Tuyakbayev and Sebastian Doerner, respectfully, won on the judge’s score cards after exchanging blows with their challengers for three grueling rounds.

Friday night also saw one championship contest between defending champ and USF fighter Adrianna Boursalian and Leanna Racine from Emory University in Atlanta. Both fighters drew blood in what was the evenings most closely contested bout , and after four rounds, the judges scorecards were not kind to Boursalian, who lost the fight that, judging by the hail of booing from the crowd, many thought she had won.
The two smallest boxers at the Cup, 11-year-old Adrian Ramos of the 415 Boxing Club and 10-year-old Dante Kirkham of the B St. Boxing Club, sparred to the soundtrack of righteous cheering from the crowd, marveling as the pint sized fighters engaged each other with frightening ferocity in the opening bout. The older, heavier Ramos won by judges decision and had everyone smiling as the big kids stepped into the ring, with the biggest of them fighting in the 10th bout of the night. Weighting in at 193 pounds, Matt Rodriguez, fighting for the home team, touched gloves with Jesse Grano, the 190 pound sailor fighting on behalf of the U.S. Navy. The two amateur heavyweights exchanged deafening blows as gloves met flesh, but after three rounds, Grano had bested Rodriguez.

Along with being an excellent exhibition of amateur and collegiate boxing, Hilltop Cup IX had a charitable aspect to it. Proceeds from the event went to help the West Bay Filipino Multi-Service Center, a San Francisco based non-profit helping ethnic minorities with health care, education and day care. With over 1,000 attendees, Hilltop Cup IX was an overwhelming success for all parties, no matter which corner they stood in.

A Day of Reckoning: USF Boxing Team Takes on Tough Competition at 2012 Koret Invitational

USF Boxing by Alex Crook

Members of the University of San Francisco’s boxing team faced a veritable judgment day this past weekend at the school’s annual Koret Boxing Invitational as their skills, training and experience were put to the test inside the ring against some of the biggest names in West Coast collegiate boxing.

For the fighters, ‘judgement day’, Saturday, March 3rd, began around 2:00 in the afternoon, the hour stipulated for competitors to complete their official weigh-in and pre-fight health examination. And so it was around this time that I met two of the USF boxers, Trenton Stonerock and Jaren Hayashi, at the intersection of Parker and Golden Gate to accompany them to this preliminary clearance event and hopefully catch a glimpse of the competition that had heretofore been identified by name alone.

My companions are casually clad in sweatshirt, polyester basketball shorts and flip-flops, evidence of their attempt to keep their bodies as comfortable as possible before they must endure the strenuous effort of a match.

“So you take it easy yesterday?” Stonerock nervously asks Hayashi.
Hayashi smiles, “Yeah, just basically watched tv all night and ate more than I think I’ve eaten the entire semester.”
Stonerock laughs, admitting to his similar indulgence: “Me too. I’m glad I gave myself some leeway on my weight so I could eat whatever I wanted these last few days and not have to worry about it.”

“For real. I’d been thinking my weight limit was going to be 120 so I was a little anxious about what I was eating. But last week coach told me the limit for my weight class was actually 125, so I just started stuffin’ burritos in me after I heard that… You nervous?”

Stonerock pauses, opening the front door of the Koret Gym for a fellow student before he answers, “Yeah, but if I’m not at this point, there’s probably something wrong with me.”
Hayashi nods in concurrence as he walks into the gym.

Then, walking down the stairwell leading to the lower level of Koret, we ran into the head coach, Angelo Merino, who humorously inquires as to why Trenton is smiling when he ought to be exhibiting a more stern “Game Face.” Trenton got serious as we entered the boxing gym, completely empty save for the landscape of bulging black-and-red punching bags chained to the ceiling, the elevated boxing ring that dominates the space, and the other sundries of exercise equipment with which Trenton, Jaren and the rest of the team had been preparing for this day of reckoning. When the referee, medical officials and sea of other schools’ fighters pour into the tightly-packed gym, I am told that only boxers can remain in the room for the weigh-in, so I step out into the hallway with the coaches and other assistants. Here, I discover not only the age advantage of our team but also the superiority of our school’s facilities in comparison to the other schools attending the invitational.

“We’ve been a guerilla program since 1995, first practicing on basketball courts and using whatever equipment we could afford out-of-pocket, and eventually gaining an official status when the word got out that we were winning fights,” Coach Merino informs the other coaches.

“Programs are born, not made,” responds the coach from the University of Washington. “Our program’s only in its second year and UC Davis is barely into its fourth.”

I ask the UW coach how he thinks our facilities compare to his own, to which he ironically retorts, “Well, the main difference is that you guys actually have facilities and equipment. We, and a lot of other schools, have to rely on off-campus amateur boxing gyms for practice.”

After all the boxers were cleared, they disperse from the gym to get something to eat and find a comfortable location in which to ensconce themselves and mentally prepare for their fights, now only a few hours away.

The actual event began promptly at 6:00 pm inside the often-neglected Hagan basketball gym. The crowd was slim and only a few skinny arms of chairs and bleachers hugged the centralized red-white-and-blue-roped boxing ring.

The first thirteen bouts preceding the intermission were a mixed bag of success. Starting our team off on a positive note, Adrianna Boursalian adroitly attacked her opponent, Hanah Sisley of the University of Washington, in the first and second rounds, finally dominating her in the third round for the first of what would only be a total of five Dons wins.

After this, USF’s luck seemed to go downhill. Three of our competitors, Louis Amparado, Jaren Hayashi and Nora Frazier, lost their bouts by retirement, meaning they were so ostensibly out-matched that Coach Merino had no choice but to throw in the towel. In a sport like boxing, it’s best not to take the risk when your fighter seems to be aching, especially when it’s his or her body at stake.

Nonetheless, three other fighters, Trenton Stonerock, Arthur Ghaus, and Ed Fu, though ultimately being defeated, demonstrated impressive feats of perseverance as they relentlessly pursued their opponents with their heads – some of them bleeding – held high.

Then, as an intimation of the success that would come after the intermission, Sebastian Doerner battered his opponent, a well-toned, mean-faced Russian from the University of Washington named Igor Cherney whom I’d met earlier at the weigh-in, through each of the three rounds and left no room for remorse. By the end of the round, Cherney’s face was reduced to a bloody pulp and USF received a much-needed boost in morale.

After the not-so-spectacular intermission performance by local alternative-rock band Oceanroyal, our final three fighters brought USF’s own performance at this event to a crescendo. First, Carmen Fernandez effortlessly pummeled her opponent from UC Berkeley, Jewell Fix, tiring her quickly and achieving an undisputed win. Next was Carlos Green, a senior, whose adversary was a hulking member of the University of Washington’s boxing team, Shadain Akhavan. Both threw vehement punches that seemed to shake the floor of the entire gym when they were landed. But, unlike Akhavan, Green endured without wearying much at all, scoring many well-placed punches in the third round when Akhavan could only seem to defend. With Green announced as the winner, USF’s hope was peaking.

In a climactic final rumble, two tall, lean fighters, our school’s own Max “Lights-out” Haffner and UC Berkeley’s Robert Watts, went toe-to-toe in what was perhaps the most outstanding display of athleticism of the night. Both pugilists seemed utterly invulnerable to each other’s power-packed punches. The fight’s intensity was palpable when Max flipped Rob onto his back during a lock-up and Rob’s family audibly protested from their seats. Indeed, this fight was a true toss-up, which only made Max’s eventual victory all the more savory.

Thus, with the announcer advertising Coach Merino’s co-authored book, From Pancho to Pacquiao, and then introducing Oceanroyal’s post-tournament performance, to which I had no interest in listening after what they had to offer during intermission, I took my leave of the event. On my way out, I ran into Trenton Stonerock as he was leaving. Having been diagnosed with a rib contusion after his fight, he left me with perhaps the best words to conclude and summarize the events that had just transpired:

“Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. And sometimes you break your damn rib. But you always keep fighting.”

A Pugilist’s Portension: USF Boxer Forecasts Outcome of Upcoming Koret Invitational

As attention fades from our school’s fizzling basketball season, many USF students will spend the coming weeks crossing off days on their calendars leading up to the nine-day-long hiatus demarcated by an exclamatory statement of this sort: “SPRING BREAK!!”. But for Trenton Stonerock and a handful of other resolute members of the University of San Francisco boxing team, a daunting hurdle remains to be overcome before the final X’s can be drawn and inhibitions fully relinquished. And it’s this obstacle, the 2012 USF Koret Boxing Invitational, which, if successfully hurdled by the pugilists, will ensure the sweetness of their breaks is complemented by a satisfying taste of victory, rather than an unsavory lick of loss.

Less than a week away, the invitational is scheduled for 5 PM Saturday, March 3, 2012 with bouts commencing around 6 o’clock. The tournament will feature a number of impressive competitors from UCLA, USC, Stanford, UC Berkeley, San Jose State University, UC Santa Clara, and University of Washington, to list a few prominent schools.

Despite this enormous sense of pressure looming over his head, Trenton Stonerock seems surprisingly unfazed. I’ve pulled Stonerock, a freshman boxer and close friend of mine whose relentless devotion originally inspired me to shed some limelight on this purely voluntary, albeit rigorously demanding club sport, away from his native environment – the isolated Koret boxing gym which he calls his “second home” – to share a few words of prophecy concerning the team’s upcoming tournament.

Instead of a padded glove, his hand clutches a non-threatening cup of french-pressed coffee. Nothing in his calm, congenial countenance suggests the more brutal side of his character that’s more attuned to pummeling man-sized punching bags. Within the scope of the following interview, I go toe-to-toe with the man behind the beast…

Q: Compared to some of the bigger names attending the invitational (i.e. UCLA, University of Washington, etc) and given that you yourself are scheduled to fight a member of the historically successful Berkeley boxing team, how do you think the USF team will fare?
A: Well, it’s not really something you can gauge according to a standard measurement. What makes a “big” team isn’t just the equipment or the number of trainers or how much money the school has set aside for the program. While these things doubtlessly help, and will probably be to some of the bigger schools’ advantages, the winning team is going to be the one that put the greatest emphasis on the individual. I mean, the one that made sure its members were fully aware of their responsibility to get better and condition themselves both in and out of the gym. And this means being able to balance school, too. So in this sense, I think we’ll be pretty solid competition.

Q: Surely, this is the case with other sports. Have you found that boxing requires something extra of the individual?
A: Without a doubt. I used to play football in high school, and the sense of responsibility is so diffused there. I could show up to a game a little out-of-shape and some other kid who bulked up a bit would cancel it out. In those sports, you’re a piece of a team. If your coach notices you’re off, he can just switch you out. But not when you ARE the team. In boxing, if the coach notices you’re off, the most he can do is pray for the best and remind you of what you are probably already aware of… or throw in the towel if you really can’t fight.

Q: How does this sense of autonomy affect your – and your teammates’ – relationships with the team’s coach, Angelo Merino?
A: Overall, it makes us closer. I mean, instead of some guy just barking orders for you to follow and expecting machine-like compliance, Coach Merino understands that it’s our choice to be there everyday. He lets you establish your goals and advises you of the best means of pursuing them. Sure, he still yells, but only when our safety is really in danger. And that’s something I think has given Coach Merino such an established reputation, his ability to produce fighters who might not be capable of Tyson-esque knock outs but who will surely hold their own. He’s made it clear that we could “lose everything” in a round (though the possibility of death is overwhelmingly slim) unless we learn to defend ourselves appropriately. Anyway, I think this intense self-preservation will prove to be a huge advantage for me and my teammates on Saturday night.

Q: With all this talk about the individual, isn’t there an incommensurable amount of pressure weighing down on you and every other boxer as this fight approaches?
A: (Stonerock chuckles). Yeah, yeah… It’s the stuff that is on the mind of every boxer from the littlest 8-year-old novice to Floyd Mayweather… The pressure starts when you realize that it’s just you and one other person in a match. The next step compounds the pressure because you understand that one of you is going to be beat (literally) so you might as well make sure that person isn’t yourself. And that’s when the anxiety starts to build. That’s when you start determining what you, as a boxer in a particular weight class, need to do to be successful, to kick the other guy’s butt. This sense of worry is only natural. Have I run enough? Have I swam enough? Am I FIT enough to fight? It all piles up to a cumbersome sense of obligation. But it’s how the particular fighter handles these worries once they’re in the ring that truly determines the winner. Because, though the responsibility might seem daunting, it’s actually quite empowering. You realize you are the best that you can possibly be at the time of the fight and HOPE – without the slightest expression of doubt – that you trained hard enough. You don’t start imitating the other guy just because he’s using some fancy technique. Ultimately, you know what you have to work with and, even if you’re out-conditioned and out-muscled by your opponent, at least you’ll be in control of yourself. And this self-control and self-knowledge is powerful, especially since you then know exactly what you need to improve.

But what my friend overlooked in factoring the innumerable variables of success is the invisible hand of a cheering crowd, subtly lifting the boxers’ morale as they battle within their physical limits. So, USF students and faculty, come out this Saturday to the USF Koret Swig Gymnasium (entrance on the corner of Turk and Stanyan streets) to give these fighting men and women the extra spirit-boost they need to transcend themselves and bring their opponents down.

There will be free parking available at USF’s Koret parking structure. Presale admission prices are: $5 for students, $10 for faculty, $20 for general admission, and $50 for ringside seats. So, to avoid the embarrassing feeling of spending $5 more than you needed at the door or for additional information on the event, visit: usfca.edu/koret.

Adding to the entertainment value of the spectacle, the invitational will feature the following student intramural bouts: Science vs. Nursing; Education vs. Arts; Business vs. Law. In addition to these less-formal fights, there will be a live music performance by the San Francisco-based alternative rock group Oceanroyal following the matches.

So come one come all, and share in the relish of local fighters, local musicians, and (hopefully) some Dons’ wins.