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Bengal Bouts: Despite missing frosh bouts, Stypula still captain

Eric Retter | Friday, March 2, 2007

Senior captain Stu Stypula’s friends didn’t box his freshman year.

As a result, neither did he.

“I kinda wussed out and decided not to do it,” Stypula said. “I didn’t really want to do it alone because I didn’t know anyone doing it.”

By the time boxing season rolled around the next year, Stypula was ready to put on the gloves.

“I remembered I had thought about doing it freshman year,” he said. “I decided to go for it just for the heck of it, see what it was all about.”

In that one-year interim, Stypula was also able to recruit some of his buddies, including Steve Hansen and Mike Hennig – both of whom are also now captains – to at least check out the program.

They all liked what they saw.

“[When] we started going over, it turned out to be pretty awesome, so I stuck with it,” Stypula said.

That year, Stypula advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to graduate student Doug Bartels in his second fight.

“He reminded me of Drago from Rocky, and he took it to me,” Stypula said. “I prided myself on that fight on being pretty much the only opponent of [Bartels] that didn’t get knocked out other than his finals fight against [champion Jim] Christoforetti.”

Since his opening fights, Stypula has worked extensively on his technique and ring strategy. A self-described “brawler” in his novice year, Stypula has focused his efforts on improving his presence of mind in the ring.

“My focus is on my boxing technique and trying to become a better boxer,” he said. “Not necessarily a stronger boxer or a faster boxer, but what you would call a smarter boxer, being able to pull off combinations and have a repertoire of punches.”

Toward that end, Stypula feels that he has made serious strides.

“Sophomore year, I used to … throw punches and kind of hope not to get hit as much as the other guy,” Stypula said. “Now I feel like I can plan out my fights a little bit and go in with a few tricks up my sleeve of things I want to work on during the fight.”

One of those tricks was for Stypula – a natural lefty – to teach himself how to fight right-handed. In his quarterfinal bout against Andrew Lorenz, Stypula briefly switched from his southpaw style and fought from a traditional stance.

“I actually feel I have a stronger jab right-handed,” Stypula said. “If I can switch [stances] quickly and get some punches off, they’ll have to take some time to re-adjust their entire defense and offense and hopefully by that time, I can switch again.”

However, Stypula feels that the major advantage from his ambidextrous efforts has come in practice. Being left-handed, he would get turned around while trying to demonstrate proper technique to righties.

“It turned out that the biggest advantage for me was when I was working with other guys,” Stypula said. “I could hold targets in a right-handed stance, and it helped me not get quite so confused.”

Among other things, holding mitts and working with younger boxers is one of Stypula’s roles as a captain. He feels both of those things have helped him grow as a boxer.

“It poses a sort of challenge, but at the same time I’m exposed to a lot more, as opposed to being a little more isolated as an individual boxer,” he said.

The work has helped him improve over last season, when he advanced to the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Jeff Golen. And this season, he is the most confident he has been.

“I sort of got stuck in the middle of losing the fights I was supposed to lose and winning the fights I was supposed to win, so I never really broke out,” he said. “[Monday] night was my first fight where I felt good about it.”

In addition to getting his daily workout in, which is often upward of three hours, Stypula spends another hour doing administrative work. As a result, the captain said he doesn’t do much else outside of school and boxing.

“I was going to do Swing Club, but I ended up not getting to as many meetings as I wanted to – a la zero,” he said.

In a way, his singular focus has helped Stypula prepare for his ultimate objective – advancing to his first Bengal Bouts finals and winning the tournament.

“It’s a pretty big deal for me,” he said. “I’m excited about a chance to get to the finals, and I think this is probably my best chance, and obviously it’s my last chance.”

A contingent of his family plans to be on campus this weekend, and Stypula anticipates fighting in front of them Saturday evening in the finals.

“It’s sort of a lot of pressure, but I like the challenge,” he said.

In striving toward his goal, a part of Stypula wishes he had ventured to the Joyce Center alone as a freshman to begin his boxing career.

“It’s not that I regret [not boxing], but I feel like if I had done it, it would have been a lot different,” he said. “I feel like I definitely would have benefited from competing freshman year … at least my progression would have gotten me to the point where if I was junior year where I am now, I feel like my senior year would have been a lot stronger.”