Cherokees learning, teaching benefits of boxing People
TAHLEQUAH – There are many reasons why a kid might take up boxing.
Despite the pain involved in training and competition, the sport can nurture many positive attributes with a myriad of applications outside the gym.
Cherokee Nation citizen Anthony Vazquez, 20, said he was drawn to boxing for two reasons.
“I really needed something to stay focused on,” Vazquez said. “There was something inside me that just needed something to do. It also opened a door for me, and I took it. It gave me a path to follow, and I continue to follow it.”
Vazquez has now fought a couple of amateur bouts, winning one. He, like many boxers, enjoys the confidence-building, focus, discipline, stamina, strength and preparation required for such a labor-intensive sport. Even the most successful boxer spends little time competing in the ring, and relishes the payoff of training in the gym.
“It’s helped me as an individual and being responsible for myself,” Vazquez said. “It’s helped me connect with other people. The coaches help me, and I’ve been able to help my coach when he needs help training some of the other kids.”
For several months, Vazquez has been trained by Cherokee Nation citizen Arlow Jumper, and Jumper said many of his younger students look up to Vazquez.
“He’s closer to their age range, and I like to have them work with him,” Jumper said. “He can seem more like a big brother, while I’m just the old guy who’s the coach.”
When he was younger, Jumper found boxing fascinating, and it steered him away from potentially disruptive paths.
“I owe a big thank you to Cecil Pettigrew, who passed away a few months back,” he said. “He and my boxing coach Moe Brown really saved my life, and I try to pay it forward.”
Now Jumper runs “Too Strong Boxing Club,” and those interested in his training can reach him on Facebook at “Team Too Strong” or Arlow Jumper.
The first lesson is free, because “I may not be the coach for you,” Jumper explained.
Most of his students aren’t planning a career in boxing. Jumper said some of his students want to learn self-defense skills. Others are looking for health benefits.
“There’s more to life than sitting and playing a video game,” Jumper said. “You’re isolated by a headset. (Boxing) helps a lot of kids with their social skills. We get these kids together, and some of them just bloom. They blossom. It is one of the coolest things.”
Students also learn to persevere through adversity, aches and pains. Jumper said he wants the kids to understand there will always be challenges to meet throughout their lives.
“Life comes at you hard,” he said. “If you can deal with the hard days here (in the gym) we can help you prepare for the hard days out there.”
Vazquez was introduced to Jumper by Tahlequah High School soccer coach Greg Hall at a time when Vazquez had what he called “bad habits.”
“I was in soccer at the time, and me and my buddy were up to no good,” Vazquez said. “Greg sent us to Arlow. I wasn’t into it at first, but I saw the setup and everything involved, and it seemed too good to be true. I started, and just kept coming back, kept going.”
Vazquez said boxing has helped lead him down a more productive path, but he also credited the Cherokee Nation for helping in times of difficulty for his family – whom he also thanked for “always wanting to see me grow.”
“It was often hard, always a struggle,” he said. “But being Cherokee, we’ve always had help. I appreciate what the Cherokee Nation has done for my mom and my family. There were times when feeding us was the big thing.”