In my time away from day job as a Pittsburgh Firefighter I perform stand-up comedy and I compete as a professional boxer. Not at the same time, though, trust me. Other than writing books these are the two most difficult things I have ever done as an adult. Stand-up comedy and boxing are challenging tasks which continue to help me build strength, courage, resilience, self-awareness and humility- so much humility!
Believe it or not but standing up in front of people and trying to make them laugh is far more intimidating than facing another trained boxer in a ring., I have only done my comedy routine 8 times in public as compared to the 43 sanctioned boxing matches that I have competed in (7 professional and 36 amateur), so that might change as I get more experience with the comedy thing. I truly love boxing, and fighting people in general, but it’s a pretty dangerous thing to be passionate about being that I don’t exactly have a style that minimizes potential brain damage. Hopefully, you can see why I hope to do more comedy and less boxing in my future.
For now, both my boxing career and my stand-up comedy are on hold as I have too much other stuff going on in my professional life which takes up much of my time and energy. I will, however, return to the ring at some point, and I will undoubtedly hit an open-mic night again with my refreshing, upbeat comedy act!
Why Did I Start Doing Comedy?
The idea to do stand-up comedy entered into my mind in mid-2013 for three reasons: one was that I thought I was hilarious (I still do!), two was that I needed an outlet for my creativity at the time, and the third reason was that pretty girls like to laugh- particularly the confident, self-aware, fertile ones that I prefer. Over the course of maybe 6 months I developed what I though was an intriguing on-stage persona and just enough material that revolved around my on-stage persona to try it out at open-mic nights.
In early 2014 I started hitting open-mic nights with my routine that included absolutely no jokes because of two reasons: jokes are for cowards, but mostly because my routine was “talk therapy” for a self-diagnosed disorder I have by the name of maladaptive behavioral personality disorder. So, I would just stand up in front of people and tell them about what it was like to be a single man who lived in a world where nearly everybody else was (seemingly) more normal, or less maladaptive than myself.
As I talk about the many signs and symptoms of my life-changing illness I discover that much of the audience was able to relate to me and my situation, and laugh with me despite my lack of jokes. My act is all about the confident, positive persona that I bring. When my professional career slows down in the future I plan to hit the stage again, or maybe I will just go anytime. Only time will tell.
Why Did I Start Boxing?
Now, boxing is my favorite hobby. Back in April 2005 when I was 231 lbs., out of shape and with little direction to my life boxing was the primary motivator for me to turn my life around. Thankfully, boxing did more than just motivate me to get in shape- it also helped me, through my many losses and injuries among other things, learn many life-lessons and ultimately discover some fundamental things about myself. Through boxing I found out who I am, found some meaning in my life and found my purpose in life. Without the sport of boxing I would not be in the personal training and health-fitness consultation field, I would not have written a book that has potential to help so many others, and I would not be the man I am happy to be right now.
It happened that in April of 2005 I went to watch my friend, Mark Daly, a top local amateur at the time; I had no idea who his opponent was or what to expect. Luckily for me he had a spirited fight against a younger up-and-coming opponent which inspired me so much that 5 minutes after the fight I had to find Mark’s trainer, whom I happened to already know since I was 10, and tell him he was going to train me so I could win the Golden Gloves the following year.
Here I am, in 2014, with Sammy Vasquez, my friend’s opponent from the 2005 golden gloves. Sammy is now a top professional welterweight with an 18-0 record! He’s also a great dude.
Well, I kept my word and one year later, 53 pounds lighter, I won my division of the local Golden Gloves with Bob “Muscles” Healy as my trainer. I went on to fight for 3 more years as an amateur, about 1 fight per month. I even lost another 10-15 pounds and got to 165 lb. middleweight division. I was lucky enough to participate in 36 amateur fights, totaling a 24-12 record, with my last fight on March 28, 2009 when I won the Western PA open class middleweight Golden Glove Championship. Three weeks later I turned professional. Shockingly, I lost my debut by stoppage by stoppage in the 2nd round to an out-of-town opponent whom I bulldozed in the opening round.
Here is some clips from my amateur career:
Why Did I Continue to Box?
At that point in my life, after my first professional loss I was broken as a man because of two reasons: I knew that I blew a big opportunity because of my carelessness but more so because I was a fragile person. You see, at the time I thought of myself as a ‘tough boxer’, a barbarian with a bright future in professional boxing- that was my identity when I lost my professional debut. Not only did I lose the fight but I also lost my identity.
Years later I would learn that it was faulty to tie my identity to something so impermanent, like my status or my physicality- but at the time I didn’t know better. Looking back, I can see now that losing that fight, especially in the humbling way that I did (I got knocked down onto my face while I was going ‘in for what I thought was my chance to knock the guy out) was exactly what I needed at that point in my life.
At the time I was not very concerned with developing myself as a person- I was not looking for ways to help people or contribute something valuable to the world. Instead, I was overly into myself and into what I could get from the world. In hindsight I can see that I lacked both a meaningful identity of myself and a meaningful purpose to my life. After the loss in my pro debut I had some soul-searching to do- but I didn’t truly do it!
In my next fight, more than a year later I lost to an opponent I was expected to flatten. It was entirely my fault because I failed to bring the best version of myself to the ring- I was weak, lethargic and my ability to withstand punches deteriorated greatly. I lost by decision in a 4-round fight.
That was in August 2010. Once again, I had some soul-searching to do. This time I did it. Over the next 3 years or so I learned some meaningful lessons about myself and about life while working full-time as a personal trainer. During that time I also stayed away from the local boxing scene- I worked on my mentality, my body, the way I identified with myself and my overall health and happiness. I put in the necessary work to grow stronger in all ways and develop into a more well-rounded person.
Why Did I Return to Professional Boxing?
Then, one day I go to talking with my friend, Chris Williams who is a trainer at the Southside Boxing Club, and we organized a boxing training session for him to put me through. I showed up, worked hard, and kept coming back to his gym across the town from me for a few more months in which he kept stepping the workouts up for me; and then BOOM one day I found myself back in the ring sparring with good fighters. Chris took me to a sparring session where he linked me up with Michael McSorley, a well-respected figure in the local boxing community who owned and operated the ConnGrebb boxing club (named after Pittsburgh legends Billy Conn and Harry Greb) which happened to be just a few miles from my house, so I could go to a gym closer to my residence and work with someone who also knew how to build fighters.
Michael, acting as my manager set me up with a boxing match for the night before Thanksgiving- November 20, 2013- almost 39 months after my previous match. I prepared adequately, showed up to fight my best, and once the bell rang I did- but my opponent did not. He tackled me a few times, and put fort no legitimate effort to fight fairly. I won by No Contest. Not the way I wanted it to go. I wanted more.
So did Michael, so he set me up with another match, three weeks later; this time against an opponent who would come to fight. Well, he did, and so did I, right outta the corner with a huge haymaker….that landed and led to me winning by first round TKO.
Why Do I Still Compete As a Boxer?
After that fight I had an even professional boxing record of 2-2, but I still was not satisfied. Partly because of the way both of my fights went, and partly because I still believed that I had whatever it takes it to be an above-average professional boxer. So, I continued on. Fortunately or unfortunately I got my nose broke just over a month after that, which pushed my next match back somewhat, but I went on to fight in July of 2014 against a quality fighter, and despite losing a competitive decision I felt great about myself, and decided to continue on with my career. . My identity was no longer wrapped around my boxing or my physicality, in fact after that loss I began to see myself in a much more personally meaningful way, one that readily promoted my personal responsibility and helped me live a more balanced, truly healthful and happy life.
So, on the night before Thanksgiving, 2014 I competed in another professional boxing match, against another opponent who came out to take my head off. Thankfully, I was able to win that fight by 1st round KO which evened-up my record at 3-3, which is how my record currently sits.
At present time I continue train pretty aggressively, and I happen to spar pretty regularly as I am involved in the ConnGrebb Boxing Club ran by Mike McSorley in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh. I plan to fight sometime this year, but I have a lot going on with my professional life so there is no timetable or planned date. Now, I see my boxing career as a complement to my purpose in life which is to inspire people to be the best version of themselves. Through boxing I learned how to become the best version of myself, I found my purpose in life, I formed a meaningful identity and I met so many interesting, helpful characters. Here I am, with a professional boxing career, living with purpose and generally happy and healthy 10 years after I was originally inspired by that Golden Gloves boxing match to take up the spot of boxing.