Gym helps new boxers fight their way to success

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Old School Boxing owner Terry Buterbaugh says his gym is the only one in the city that teaches according to World Boxing Association standards.

Old School Boxing

212 E. Platte Ave.

Opened: 2008

Owner: Terry Buterbaugh

Employees: 2

Few people get to turn their passion into a business, but Terry Buterbaugh has done it — two times over.

Buterbaugh is a 32-year-old professional boxer, and four years ago he opened a gym to teach other people what he knows. He doesn’t do it for the money, he says, but because of his passion for the sport.

“I love boxing,” he says, standing in the middle of the padded floor at 2112 E. Platte Ave., in a rented space he’s turned into Old School Boxing Gym. “Not everybody can do this. It takes training. It takes patience. I decided I wanted to be the one to be training the next round of fighters.”

The gym is the only one in the city that teaches boxing the way the World Boxing Association wants it to be: old-fashioned fighting, almost the way the Greeks did it back in 688 B.C. during the Olympics.

“The only gyms are all MMA (mixed martial arts) gyms,” he said. “We just box here; we just teach boxing. And boxing’s been around for a while. It’s not going anywhere. I think people are starting to be interested in it again; it’s getting to be popular again.

Mixed martial arts are too trendy, he says, although Buterbaugh himself got started in the sport through kick-boxing.

“I liked Bruce Lee,” he said. “So I started kick-boxing. I realized that I could fight more, do more competitions, if I went to straight boxing.”

Buterbaugh fights at the lightweight and welterweight levels, and he has the wary boxer’s stance. It’s something he teaches the newbies at his gym.

“What I do first, is stand them in front of the mirror,” he said. “Put them in a stance, let them see themselves throw punch — a right, a left. It makes a difference if they can see it.”

After that, he’ll teach them footwork, and then it’s on to the punching bag and sparring. But there’s more to boxing than just boxing, he says.

“I run,” he said. “I run a mile for every two rounds of the bout I’m going to be in. It’s all about stamina.”

Buterbaugh not only owns the gym and a welding company that actually pays the bills, he also travels as a pro boxer. He’s been to Las Vegas, but he’s also been to smaller arenas. He goes wherever it takes to fight and earn the money: Denver, New York, Chicago. Next month, he’ll be boxing in Oklahoma City.

The money is the big advantage for boxing over MMA, he says.

“Those guys, they make $200, maybe $300 a fight,” he said. “If you win a boxing bout, we’re talking $1,000.”

He sets his own hours, both at the gym and the welding company, so he can fit in an active traveling schedule. He also has two old-school boxers helping him train the roughly 80 members who attend the gym. They’re there to fight, he said, both at the pro and amateur levels — and some come just to keep fit.

Jose Santiago, one of his coaches, was the Army’s coach and coached the world team “back in the day,” says Buterbaugh. Juan Ramos is a professional boxer who boxed on the national team as well.

“We’re pretty well set here,” Buterbaugh says, looking around the gym, which has a row of punching bags, a ring for sparring and mats for stretching and other kinds of training.

Buterbaugh grew up just outside of Pittsburgh and joined the Army after high school. That’s where he learned to be a welder, and that’s where he picked up the boxing. While he’d like to do nothing but box, he says that’s not realistic for most fighters.

“If you aren’t in the Olympics and have a sponsor, you have to have a job,” he said. “That’s the only way to do it. There’s a lot of guys like me, just fighting in competitions.”

Boxing isn’t like football, where there’s a direct route to the pro leagues via high school and then college performance. Instead, boxers just start fighting.

“Once you take money for a bout, then you’re a professional,” he said. “There’s not this big selection.”

He admits it can be difficult to juggle boxing professionally, running a gym and managing another company. But he says he wouldn’t change it.

“I have three careers,” he said. “It’s tricky, but do-able. You have to be able to say you love it, because you’ll spend all your time doing it.”