Ring leader

Mike Martino

Photo By David Robert

University of Nevada, Reno head boxing coach Mike Martino runs the UNR boxing club out of a gym at 415 Fourth St. Trim and athletic Martino presides over a club that’s produced 28 different national champions and 43 titles overall. The boxing club will compete at the Eldorado Hotel and Casino on Feb. 2, and it will host the 2007 National Collegiate Boxing Championships at the Eldorado in April.

How many kids do you train here?

We recruit twice a year, once in the spring semester and once in the fall semester. The comps are in the spring, so we try to do a heavier recruitment in the fall to get the kids in to do some instructional programming. There are some invitational bouts on the West Coast, and we’ll try to get kids some experience. We get about 20 kids each fall and 10 kids in the spring.

What kinds of people join UNR boxing?

We get lots of kids who don’t have any boxing experience but were probably pretty good at sports in high school. They come up to the university and realize they aren’t going to be able to participate in a division I sport; they’re not big enough, or they’re not tall enough, or they’re not quick enough. This gives them an opportunity to participate in a collegiate level sport.

You guys have been pretty successful recently.

Oh yeah, we’ve had a number of student athletes … who’ve won national championships. Most recently, we have David Schacter from Las Vegas. He’s a two-time national champ, and he’ll be going for his third national title. Lawrence Tam won three titles, Joey Gilbert won three titles, and so we’ve been pretty successful in individual championships. It’s our goal to win a team championship.

What’s the training like?

The training is pretty grueling. We get kids in here who are pretty surprised at the intensity and what we expect from them. This is a club sport, so the kids have to volunteer, and they don’t get any scholarships. When they’re here with us, they have a pretty tough training program. We expect them to do their aerobic, running or swimming, on their own to build up their endurance. We go through a pretty solid two hours of shadow boxing, hitting the bags, jump rope, working the mitts and sparring. For every 10 kids who come in, we lose half of them after two weeks. I think the closest thing is like a wrestling workout in high school.

Do any of the boxers get seriously hurt?

We’ve been real fortunate at the collegiate level. We monitor it pretty close, and we’ve had no serious injuries in college boxing in 20 years. We’re real conscious of safety, and that’s our No. 1 concern. We don’t mismatch kids. We try to give them a good experience in competition against someone at their level of ability.

The people who go through your program, do they enjoy it?

Absolutely, they have to. This is a thankless sport. It’s very demanding, and you’re not getting any scholarships for it. It takes a lot of discipline for these student athletes. Some of them are working full time, some of them have families, and they have to balance that with their schoolwork. I tell them their education is number one.

Boxing is such an individual sport. Do you guys get a team concept?

We develop a team camaraderie, but when you’re out there, it’s a very, very individual sport. You’re by yourself.

Do you guys get pretty close?

Yeah, we call it the six-minute fraternity because we fight three, two-minute rounds. Whether or not you’re fighting from UNR, UNLV, Army, Navy, Penn State, all these kids have something in common—friendships and bonds. I’m an example of that. I’ve got friends from my boxing days.