In The Ring - An Interview with Boxer Rick Welliver
Rick Welliver, a lightweight boxer with ten years of experience and more than a dozen professional fights, is the founder of Spokane Boxing, an open club in Washington. We met him several months ago and were immediately intrigued by his introduction: “The best thing you can do to take a kid who’s doing nothing and put him on the track to doing something is open a boxing gym.”
And Sons: Ok—you’ve got our attention. Why is a boxing gym the best way to get a kid doing something?
Rick Welliver: What boxing does more than anything is rip you wide open. It reveals you. If you think you’re a tough guy, you learn quick you’re not. If you think you’re a hardcore guy you realize you’re not. When you break it all down at the end of the day, it’s just about getting it done. I’ve seen guys who are violent guys, or want to be violent guys, and they get in the ring and realize within minutes, “Oh, I’m not that guy.” And then all of a sudden you want to learn. And with learning a discipline comes discipline, comes confidence. Most people who are dealing with bullying issues—they’re being bullied or are a bully—have the same problem. It’s fear. Boxing strips that all away. You can play football. You can play baseball. You don’t play boxing. It reveals you. It builds you.
AS: You talk about using boxing to combat city violence. But these people here are still fighters. Why is boxing an effective way to fight violence?
RW: Boxing teaches a kid discipline. He learns to know how to focus his violence. Nobody ever wants to be a bad kid. Nobody ever wants to be an unruly kid. I think what these kids are missing is an identity, and they think by being tough—that gives them an identity. And structure. I don’t separate the kids from the white-collar guys coming in. Worst thing I could do is separate the kids. They see people who are achieving something and say, “I could do that.”
AS: We’ve heard you talk about the importance of toughness here in the gym. How do you understand it?
RW: Toughness is how a boxer thinks about their work. You think, oh, it’s not cool to work at McDonalds? You know what’s not cool? Not having a job. Not having a life. Not having a goal. That’s what’s uncool. Tough is learning a plan. Tough is remembering that you wanted to do something. That’s boxing.
AS: What do your fighters need? What are you trying to teach them in the ring?
RW: Boxing is a little bit of everything. Mostly it’s about heart. It makes people realize they’re capable of doing more than they ever did. And focus. You have to focus. I say, “Okay, give me forty minutes of your time. You’re going to get in the ring now.” And then the person they were at 9:00 is not the person they are at 9:45. That’s the key. Focus. Most of it’s repetition. Most of my coaches—these guys are phenomenal coaches. They know: you have to get a kid to train himself to focus everything on where he is. We’ve seen it have great results.
AS: What do you ask for from kids learning to box?
RW: Have a plan. You have to have a plan. What do you want to be? You better think about it. Because I’m going to ask in a week. “Well, I think I want to be this. A welder.” I think, “Ok. Be a welder.” I’ve had kids say that. “Go be that.” Boxing is not your life. It’s not even an identity. It’s just a part of it that makes you realize, “I can do more, I can do more, I can do more.”
AS: What do you say to the guys who think they can’t?
RW: I say you’re wrong. You have what it takes. Everything about you has what it takes. This ain’t rocket science. It’s boxing. You can go to a boxing gym. How do you guys feel here being in this gym?
AS: Us? Oh—we love it.
RW: Right? It feels great. Do the math. Anybody can be in a boxing gym. Anybody can learn to jab and hook. It’s about discipline. I think most kids really want discipline, actually. But they don’t realize discipline happens when you enter a place with other people. We work a lot to build a space with the people here. You just need to get in here and learn to get it done. Most people don’t think you need to learn to finish. You do. Finishing. That’s boxing.