Boxing Coming to Your Local….High School???

By Darren Nichols


Boxing Coming to Your Local….High School???

Taft High School of Woodland Hills Puts on First High School Boxing Show This Friday

Some thought it could never be done - boxing in high school.  When you could letter in almost any other sport - football, baseball, basketball, and even badminton, why not include the Sweet Science as a sport students could enroll in?  It is not as though schools don’t approve of combat sports.  They do have wrestling teams, right?  The problem goes back almost a hundred years ago when boxing was banned from becoming a legitimate sport within the walls of California’s high schools, and no one fought for the fight game’s survival.  In addition, with the American Medical Association’s continued call for the ban on all amateur and professional boxing, school administrators are not exactly thrilled with the idea of having their site be the place for lawyers to possibly loiter.   The tide is turning, however, thanks to the diligence and determination of Marvin Columbus, a man who was homeless as a kid growing up, and saw the need for boxing in today’s teenagers as a way out of drugs, violence, and jail, finding self-esteem and discipline just as he did many years ago.


“It’s bad out there, and I’m tired of seeing it,” says Columbus, speaking about the violence he sees between races amongst high school students.  “Black and brown violence is getting out of hand, and I am trying my best to get them focused, disciplined, and in shape with self-esteem.”


Columbus’ “I’ve-had-it-up-to-here” attitude forced his hand into action, causing him to do something about the dire straits some students are going through today, and using the Sweet Science to teach valuable lessons that will not only make them succeed at the sport, but also in life.


With the help of Mark Pierce, the Dean of Students at Taft High School in Woodland Hills, California; Columbus filed all the paperwork required through the Los Angeles Unified School District.  “The principal had to okay it first,” says Columbus. “Once she did, we ran with it.” 


Eight months later, with Pierce, Columbus, and Goossen Tutor’s Rachel Charles using their own personal funds to get the ball moving, Columbus had hundreds and hundreds of students signed up at eight schools in the LA area to be part of this ground-breaking high school boxing program.  “We broke every sports’ record by signing up as many students as we did, and a lot of them are girls,” says Columbus.


Columbus’ and his boxing program are not only breaking records for enrollment, but they are also helping to break down what seems to be impermeable barriers caused by years of racial and socioeconomic tension.  “I have every race signing up to box,” says Columbus.  “Black, Brown, and White, and I am hearing the students say things to each other like, ‘If I wasn’t in this boxing program, I wouldn’t have talked to you.’”  What teachers, counselors, and parole officers have not been able to accomplish after years of trying, Columbus’ boxing program is doing in matter of days.


Columbus also wants to ensure that those involved with his boxing program not only stay out of trouble, but see to it that their dreams come true, when the environment around them makes it difficult to achieve.  “My goal is to not only keep kids out of trouble,” says Columbus, “but I want to see these kids’ dreams come true.  I have students in the boxing program who have no parents, who have been involved in drive-by shootings, and who have been in jail, and they’re turning their lives around.”


So how was Columbus able to bring boxing into a high school when they do everything in their power to prevent fights from happening during normal school hours?


“We made it a high school club, not a CIF sport,” says Columbus.  “The students don’t receive a grade, and they don’t get credit towards graduation for being part of the program.”

Even though Columbus and his boxing program may not directly coincide with standards-based curriculum that seem so popular in schools these days, Columbus still motivates and provides support to his fighters to make sure that they are just as successful in the classroom as they are in ring.


“I encourage all my students to achieve and maintain at least a 2.5 GPA,” says Columbus.  “I bring in a couple tutors every day after school to help them out with their assignments, then from 4:10 to 5:30 we work out using the track and two bungalows as our gym.”  The facility at Taft High School is still getting set up, but so far Columbus has the equipment needed, including punching bags and boxing rings, to be considered a full-fledged boxing gym.  Furthermore, Columbus has utilized the help of Joe Zanders of LA’s Police Athletic League to bring in real referees and judges to officiate the fight nights.


And unlike most high school sports where only the first string players get play time, almost every member of Columbus’ boxing club get the opportunity to fight come fight night.  “In football and basketball, do you get a chance to play?” Columbus asks rhetorically.  “With my boxing club, if the students work hard, they’re going to fight.”  Columbus adds, “I don’t make cuts.  I tell all my fighters to stay in the program, because if one fighter doesn’t make weight, then someone else will be able to slide into their place.  All the kids get the opportunity to fight.”

The fighters of Taft High School’s Boxing Club get their first chance to show the fruits of their labor when they put their skills up against Crespi High School this Friday, March 9th.  “There will be ten bouts on Friday night,” says Columbus, “and we are giving back 5% of what we make at the door to the school to use for books and supplies.”


Thanks to Columbus’ desire to make a positive change in his community, the students of Taft High School’s Boxing Club get to see firsthand that their parents, teachers, and counselors were actually right when they said all those times that if they tried their best in life they would succeed.


To come out and see the hearts of these promising teens shine in the ring this Friday, March 9th, Taft High School is located at 5461 Winnetka Ave. Woodland Hills, CA. 91364.  First bell is at 7pm with ten fights scheduled in Taft Hall.


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