Cisco Cacahua had been casually boxing at Ford’s Gym for a few years when he was asked to join in his first competition. He felt like it was time for him to try it out and be able to say he did. During his first competition, he got injured and unfortunately couldn’t continue on. Though that was his first loss, he left the ring with a newfound love of competing.
Since his first bout almost two years ago, Cacahua, 26, has competed in another amateur bout where he lost again,this time by decision. He still remembers what it was like to get into the ring the first time.
“It was scary as s*** the first time ever being in the ring,” he said. “But once you’re up there your mind just ignores everything around you and you just focus on boxing.”
Now, Cacahua, who considers himself a late bloomer, continues to train as a novice boxer at Ford’s Gym on Winnebago Street. He plans to compete in the upcoming Golden Gloves amateur boxing tournament organized by the Bob Lynch Boxing Foundation.
Golden Gloves is a national amateur boxing tournament sanctioned by USA Boxing, the governing body for Olympic-style amateur boxing in the U.S. Some of the boxers who compete at Golden Gloves are very high-level amateurs and go on to Nationals or even the Olympics. In fact, since the first Golden Gloves tournament, Wisconsin has had 19 national champions, according to the foundation’s site.
But it’s also a great place for novices like Cacahua, who was sparring with several other novices on a recent evening at Ford’s Gym.
Golden Gloves amateur boxing is different from professional boxing in a few ways, first being that while pro boxing consists of up to 12 rounds, amatuer boxing consists of only three. Additionally, professional boxing typically includes a certain level of showmanship or knockouts, whereas amateur boxing rarely has knockouts. Notably, amateur boxing is less about the typical hostility that comes from professional boxing, but more about respecting the other person in the ring.
At least, that is how the foundation has been encouraging their boxers.
The Bob Lynch Boxing Foundation is a non-profit founded in 2014 to support amateur boxers in the Madison area. In 2018, the Bob Lynch Boxing Foundation took over management of Wisconsin Golden Gloves and last year, Madison hosted its first Golden Gloves tournament. This year, the tournament will run on Friday, March 13 and Saturday, March 14 at Marriott West in Middleton. The foundation’s president, Andrea Nelson, coaches at Ford’s and helps boxers at every level.
Nelson, 53, is no stranger to the ring. She trained professionally in martial arts before moving onto boxing for more of a challenge. That’s when she met Bob Lynch, former president of the foundation. Lynch also coached two Olympic boxing teams and managed World Champion boxer Eric Morel.
Nelson worked with Lynch as an amateur boxer for two years and then began fighting professionally with Lynch as her manager. She retired from the ring in 2003 and started coaching alongside Lynch at Ford’s, where she’s been ever since. In 2014, Lynch officially passed down the program and the foundation to Nelson.
It was under Nelson’s administration that the foundation revived the Golden Gloves tournament in Wisconsin.
“We’ve divided our tournament into true novice, novice and open division,” she said. “We only divided the novice and true novice just to give people who have no bouts a chance to get in without having to jump in with someone with 10 bouts. It’s about experience. ”
In addition to hosting the tournament, Nelson coaches some of the boxers who will be competing, including Cacahua.
To compete, boxers must first take fundamental classes for four weeks under Nelsons coaching before moving onto more advanced classes. Boxers learn proper technique and even what a hit feels like. At that point, the boxers can attend open sparring sessions and train to compete in tournaments like Golden Gloves. As head coach, Nelson relies on her own training from Lynch and focuses on teaching the fundamentals.
“[Andrea] teaches everything,” said Edward Kenrick, Nelson’s assistant coach. “She’s really old school, she’s all about the fundamentals and really teaching you about the sport of boxing.
Kenrick, 45, met Nelson three years ago when he started taking boxing classes at Ford’s. At the time, Kenrick was struggling due to his physical impairment. He was born with a congenital abnormal right foot and in 2012, made the decision to amputate the deteriorating foot. The surgery and subsequent impairment had an effect on his mental health.
“I had the surgery in 2012 and afterwards, I gained a lot of weight due to lack of mobility. I became depressed, I was having a tough time with the new prosthetic. That’s when I met coach. I was 30 lbs overweight and didn’t think I would be able to box due to my lack of mobility and prosthetic. She didn’t even blink an eye, she took me in through her classes and afterwards talked me into doing my first amateur boxing match at age 43.”
Kenrick continued coming to the gym after his tournament and worked his way to become the assistant coach.
“Coach is special, she is not like any other person I met,” he said. “She literally will give her everything for you as long as you give your everything.”
Kenrick and Nelson guide boxers like Cacahua through sparring on Monday and Wednesday nights. Though this will be Cacahua’s first few experiences with Golden Gloves, other novice boxers are more familiar with the tournament.
Vlad Chubatko, 24, will be competing for the fourth time this month. Chubatko, originally from Ukraine, came to Madison four years ago and immediately started training with Nelson.
“She was a professional fighter back in the day so she knows what she’s doing,” he said. “That’s why I decided to come to this gym. It’s old school boxing.”
Chubatko started boxing out of love for the sport and the personal change that came with it.
“Boxing changes everyone’s life. They become more brave, healthy and [boxing] makes your character stronger. You can also make real friends.”
Tickets for Wisconsin Golden Gloves 2020 are available at https://www.wisconsingoldengloves.org/tickets/ and range from $15-$200. The tournaments begin at 6 p.m. Madison365 is the media sponsor of the event.
For now, Cacahua, Chubatko and other boxers will continue to train and prepare for the competition.
“Now I know what to expect,” Cacahua said after his sparring session. “I can say I’m more focused on my strategy.”