New NU boxing club continues to grow

Four years ago, Gabriel Williams and Jamaal Shaw called President Anarumo of Norwich University at 2 in the morning, hoping to discuss food and quarantine but ultimately led to the creation of the Norwich Boxing program.

“I wanted something more applicable. I wanted something more high energy,” said boxing team captain Gabriel Williams, a senior cadet political science major at Norwich University. “So, I chose boxing. We’re four years out, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.”

Norwich Boxing is a young program, having both a club and a team, but it is quickly growing larger and larger as more people become aware of and interested in the sport. New faces show up daily to the club for various reasons, ranging from self-defense to aspirations for competition; as more people show up, doors open for those ready to put in the work and learn what it takes to become a member of the Norwich Boxing community.

At the start of the spring semester of 2023, tryouts for the team took place, and a fresh batch of new fighters showed up, ready and willing to be taken in. They were put to the test, being pushed through various exercises that caused the recruits to question how badly they wanted to be on the team. The answer: they were determined to get on the team, gritted their teeth, and made it to the end.

With the start of February came the start of the competition season. The team began training for fights, putting their moves together, and working on their technique. Sparring matches every week exposed every fighter’s strengths and weaknesses.

When not sparring, the fighters work together as a team to hone their skills by doing work on the punching bag or grabbing a partner and practicing combinations. “The team is more competitive,” said Hector Aponte, 18, a freshman civilian political science major and a new fighter on the team from Massachusetts. “The team allows not just a competitive environment but also a learning environment.”

With the club, each meeting sees new people as well. Fighters on all levels work with one another to figure out the basics before moving to the next step. There they’ll learn stance and movement and get familiar with certain combinations.

The entire program started with a phone call early one morning four years ago when Williams and Shaw called President Anarumo. Their conversation started with the food quality at Norwich but then shifted toward student participation and engagement. From there, the two of them mentioned their combined desire to start a boxing program at Norwich, and Anarumo pointed them in the right direction to get the ball rolling.

“I came from a rich background in terms of martial arts,” said Williams. “My dad and uncle had multiple different styles with multiple degrees of black belts. I got started with kung-fu, but then I got into boxing around my senior year at high school.  I wanted something more applicable and high energy, so I chose boxing and stayed with it.”

From there, the club started the spring semester of 2022. Since then, the program has been able to send fighters to the National Collegiate Boxing Association regional tournaments. It was there that Norwich claimed its first victory on the college boxing stage.

Aside from the competitive team, the club trains new fighters and prepares them for the team. “It acts as a pipeline to the team,” said Brynn Lecakes, President of the Norwich Boxing Club and a sophomore cadet criminal justice major at Norwich University. “It’s where we can teach basic boxing techniques so they can be better developed in the team.”

Since then, the club has done nothing but grow, and Lecakes hopes it will continue. “I hope we can get more space. We’d be able to have more bags, more resources, and more equipment, and I hope more people can express their interest. It provides a great workout and gives you great life skills, like self-defense and healthy coping mechanisms.”

It’s not just the club’s growth but also the competitive team. “What I want this to look like in five years is that I’d like to see us have a ring on campus, I’d like to see us sponsoring tournaments, and I’d like to see more wins against other teams under our belts. I’d also like it to be recognized as a varsity sport on campus, so then we can get the advocacy that we need,” said Williams.

“There are not many things else on campus that I can say I’d like to continue to the depth in which I want to continue with boxing,” said Aponte. “There’s always something new to learn, and hopefully, I can keep learning, and the boxing program is one of the best opportunities to do that.” So, as the program continues to expand and reach new people, it hopes to get the recognition and sponsorship it deserves to keep up with the growing interest.

“It’s about showing up and putting in the work. It’s about getting those reps in. With each rep, you start to get better and better and keep improving as long as you’re willing to put in the effort for it,” said Williams.