Fight Club: How the community helping to revitalize the greatness of boxing at SJSU

By Ryan Barnhart (@ryan_barnhart):

In the late afternoon, students are running laps around the track and throwing their fists frenetically in the air in 100-degree weather. It may seem physically demanding during a record-breaking heatwave, but for members of the boxing club at San Jose State, it’s about overcoming challenges to better themselves.

Boxing at SJSU was first founded as a club sport in 2001. Since then, the club has seen four of its members win national championships in the National Collegiate Boxing Association (NCBA).

“Every year, we have a lot of people going in competing at the regionals, nationals level and we have real talented fighters,” said club president Ariya Toroghi. “San Jose’s always been known, even back during the NCAA days, for the good boxers that we had and we still continue to produce great boxers out of this area.”

The history of boxing goes even further back within the school, dating all the way to the middle of the 20th century. The NCAA sanctioned intercollegiate boxing among 55 different schools, including SJSU, from 1932-1960. In that time, Spartan boxers would go on to win three straight national titles between 1958-1960.

Strangely enough, SJSU also played a part in the end of boxing within the NCAA. The final matchup in NCAA history came between Charlie Mohr from Wisconsin and SJSU boxer Stu Bartell. After Mohr took a hard punch and fell to the floor in the second round, the referee ended the fight abruptly. Mohr would later fall into a coma, passing away a few days later in the hospital.

While boxing may never a part of the NCAA again, the legacy of the sport still lives on at SJSU. Much of this is thanks to coach Candelario “Candy” Lopez.

“A couple of students approached me as a San Jose PAL coach if i would be interested in assisting them in their endeavor to become a boxing club,” Lopez said.

Lopez has been coaching the club since it was first founded in 2001, with many of the members and officers praising him for the club’s success.

“One of the greatest coaches of all time,” Toroghi said. “We’ve been working with him ever since then … we’ve had multiple national champions at San Jose State.”

The coaching methods of Lopez can be rigorous at times, but the benefits have shown during his tenure.

“It’s a step-by-step process [that’s] very extensive, very time consuming,” Lopez said. “But everybody that puts the effort … we’re here to help them and we’ve been very successful.”

Not everybody will attempt to compete in regional and national championships and even fewer will actually win. But joining the club is about more than victories.

“It’s a good self-esteem builder,” Lopez said. “A lot of self-discipline is involved in boxing.”

Phrases like self-esteem and self-discipline are frequently used within the club. Most of the members feel like those phrases, along with physical fitness, are among its biggest benefits.

“[You’re] channeling your stress after school in a destructive manner and learning new skills and meeting a couple good people” said club member Marquest Anderson.

Anderson has been a member of the club for two years now, honing his skills and improving his form. Boxing has been in his life ever since high school and that shows in his commitment to the sport.

“I always look at it this way,” Anderson said. “You could be at home from 5-7 watching YouTube and probably not get anything done or you could be here, getting in shape, learning a new skill.”

Anderson may be a bit of an outlier. It’s hard to expect everyone to be willing to run laps when the temperature reaches triple digits or commit to a sport as physically demanding as boxing.

For the members that do however, they’ll gain the physical and mental discipline that one could only get from boxing. They might even just get a shiny gold medal in the process.

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