"Hey Junior, come over here and shadow box with me."

It was around 1993. I was a big twelve year old who could not get enough of full contact Tae Kwon Do. It was the cure for a hyper kid who could not sit still. My parents wanted a “natural” cure to keep me focused and not so jittery. So with some pestering from me, I recommended I try martial arts since my days consisted of watching Bruce Lee and Jean Claude Van Damme movies. My Mom would later describe my discovery as a “Santo Remedio” or “Holy Remedy.” She at last found the medicine to keep me calm. But Mom, Pop, and my older brother sacrificed big time for the antidote. Several days out of the week my Mom and Pop would have to get off the couch or out of bed from working all day to pick me up. My brother would have to stop being a teenager to get his little brother. “Time to pick up David…UGGHHHH.“ I was a Junior black belt and was on my way to becoming a pretty decent fighter. I would spar everyone. Kids my age to grown men. I would at times get pounded by the older guys, but I enjoyed it. I kept bouncing back wanting more and more. But one day, my mentor Mike had some sort of epiphany and wanted to have an amateur kickboxing match. The guy had two kids, one my age and the other a couple of years younger than me. It was kind of weird. See, when you’re twelve years old and you see the father of someone your age want to do a kickboxing match for the first time, it was something sort of out of the ordinary. Well, at least in the atmosphere I was used to. You never saw jabs, right hands, or sledgehammer kicks. My reality was point fighting or free sparring without the vicious blows to the head or even the body. We wore chest protectors for crying out loud. That was all about to change… I remembered being in the “back room” of the Tae Kwon Do studio, walking towards the main area where all of the guys wearing gis and black belts were getting ready to train. Mike said, “Hey Junior, come here and shadow box with me." With a perplexed look on my face, I got in front of the mirror (full gi and all) and shadow boxed. It was really awkward. I was the kid who threw jump spinning wheel kicks in the air. I was also as flexible as “Mr. Black Silk Underwear” himself (Jean Claude Van Damme, in case that was before your time), hitting the splits at the drop of a hat. Making hissing sounds while you punch was a foreign concept. Keeping your hands up, chin down, and elbows in was flat out strange. What was the point of all this?? Mike had a couple of trainers during his training camp. One was JR, a two hundred plus pound guy with legs as big as tree trunks. The man used to turn heads slamming kicks into pads Mike would hold for him. And then there was Keith. A big muscle bound hulk looking guy who was missing a front tooth. He was also two hundred plus pound beast who had fantastic boxing skills with impenetrable defense. Both guys used to rock Mike during training camp, giving him the occasional shiner with consistent bumps and bruises. These cruiser/heavy weights would give Mike the business. Did I mention Mike was about one hundred and sixty pounds and about to embark on his FIRST amateur fight? Mike decided to recruit me in this haven of unforgiving combat. And I was PUMPED! The tip tap of my front and round house kicks I acquired from point fighting started becoming a little sturdier. I’ll never forget what Mike recommended during one of our training sessions. "Looks like your getting good with your legs. Now let’s focus on your hands." And that’s all she wrote. It was also the first time I was exposed to holding mitts. I was the backup when Keith or JR couldn’t make some training sessions. I started working mitts on a consistent basis and getting really good in my boxing. I began sparring grown men more and more and getting hit a little harder more often. Again I loved it. I wanted to compete. But I didn’t end up competing at that point in my life. I went to high school and played four years of football and did four years of wrestling. But I always went back to my roots and did combat sports in the offseason. I even went on to wrestle a year in college. After an ACL and meniscus tear to my knee, I decided to do something that I did not even think I would do. I went to Las Vegas to box for the University there. And box I did. I had my you know what handed to me my first year. I thought I knew a little something. Working mitts and sparring different people throughout my adolescence gave me some confidence to get in the ring. No sir. Busted lips, black eyes, and brutal body shots came my way from pros and top amatuers. I was surprised at first. But like anything else, the harder I trained, the better I got. I ended up winning a couple of medals at the Collegiate Boxing Nationals. I went on to fight some USA boxing amateur bouts and had some success. I then went on to coach boxing for ten years.

To this day, I’m still an active fighter in the Public Safety/Military amateur boxing circuit. At 34 years old, I know my time is limited. But I’m still having fun. Just like the “back room” of that Tae Kwon Do studio. Thanks to my parents, Julio, Mike, Sam, JR, Keith, and whoever first created the monster. You are all very much appreciated. I hope I made you proud...

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