Being a full-time student is enough work on its own. Running from class to class, tackling hours of homework, and studying is a typical day for many college students. On top of all that, try adding a part-time job at a restaurant and a hobby on the side that requires hours upon hours of attention a week, as well as extreme mental and physical toughness.
For Mike Stanwood, a junior criminal justice major from Northborough, Massachusetts, this is the norm.
Walking into ICON Boxing Club in Bristol, the rock music playing is briefly drowned out by a loud “BEEP” followed by some words of encouragement from Trainer Bernie “The Honey Badger” Kelley.
“Leave it all here! Everything you got, leave it at the gym!”
Stanwood began his freshman year of college at Worcester State University and played for the football team. After he realized he didn’t like it too much, his roommate introduced him to boxing. Stanwood transferred to RWU in the spring semester of his sophomore year.
After experimenting with boxing for fun, Stanwood got serious with the sport last May and decided he wanted to compete. He’s had two exhibition fights so far, which have no real winner, but are designed to prepare the boxers for the bigger fights. He has officially signed up for USA Boxing and is gearing up to compete in real fights in the spring.
When Stanwood isn’t attending classes and doing school work, he’s either at the gym or at work. He trains for about 20 hours a week, and working usually adds up to over 30 hours. On top of this, he runs every single morning in addition to hitting the gym to train.
Boxing is a very tough sport, both physically and mentally. In order to excel at this fast-paced sport, a person should be in exemplary physical condition and maintain a tight training schedule. Stamina, agility, strength, and quick reflexes are all very important qualities to being a successful boxer.
Stanwood mentioned that his strengths include head movement and speed, and said that something he needs to work on is coming forward to his opponent.
According to Kelley, Stanwood is a unique kind of kid. For most people, Kelley has to tell them to get their butts in the gym, but not Stanwood.
“He’s the rare kid that you have to kick out of the gym,” Kelley said.
According to the trainer, Stanwood often trains for five hours at a time.
A typical training day for Stanwood is no easy task, and leaves him dripping sweat from head to toe within the first ten minutes. He begins with jumping rope as a warm up, then moves into exercises like shadow boxing, which helps improve his speed and endurance. When shadow boxing, Stanwood throws punches in the air, oftentimes with weights in his hands to make it even more difficult.
“It’s almost like I’m imagining that I’m fighting someone,” Stanwood said.
Training might also include an exercise called “mitts” which he does with Kelley. Other training exercises include head movement on the ball bag, heavy bag hitting, and rope work to improve head movement and ducking.
As for why he loves to box, the competitiveness of the sport is a big part of why Stanwood enjoys it so much.
“I like how it’s basically just you versus one other person,” Stanwood said.
Aside from the physical preparation, there is also the issue of mentally preparing for a fight. In the moments before, Stanwood emphasized the importance of clearing your mind and relaxing.
“A lot of people think that boxing is an angry sport, but if you go in angry you’re actually going to do terrible,” Stanwood said.
It’s a very strategic sport and he said that acting naturally instead of overthinking is a key to being successful.
Stanwood had an exhibition fight on Feb. 9 against Brandon Ross from Fall River. He said that it went great and he is looking forward to his first real fight.
“I’m just looking to dominate and get the win,” Stanwood said.