Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Mike Marshall, an amateur boxer out of San Mateo’s Westside Boxing Club, throws an
overhand right during a sparring session with Xavier Vigney. Marshall will participate in the Golden Gloves national tournament in Las Vegas next week.
Mike Marshall has trained against the likes of Xavier Vigney, who is a much bigger fighter, to prepare for the super heavyweight division of the Golden Gloves national tournament.
Mike Marshall was sparring with Xavier Vigney Wednesday at San Mateo’s Westside Boxing Club Wednesday. Vigney is a professional super heavyweight fighter out of Antioch who is 2-0 and a couple inches taller and 40 pounds heavier.
It was evident at times as Vigney hammered Marshall around the ring at times. But Marshall is no slouch in the ring. He gave as good as he got and, after climbing out of the ring at the end of his workout, Marshall was sporting a souvenir from the bigger, heavier Vigney — a small mouse under his right eye.
But Marshall was smiling. Marshall is smiling a lot these days. Who in their right mind would be smiling after mixing it up with an opponent who is not necessarily in his weight class? Marshall was smiling because the workout was exactly what he needs as he prepares to fight for the Golden Gloves national title in Las Vegas next week.
Normally a heavyweight, Marshall’s trainer Pat Ragan, who owns and operates Westside Boxing Club, believes it is easier for Marshall to move up a weight class instead of trying to cut weight to get down to the heavyweight limit.
Marshall, a 6-1 right-handed technician with a 38-6 amateur record, walks around at about 210 pounds and mostly keeps it there. To fight in the heavyweight class, he would have to lose about 10 pounds. Fighting at super heavyweight, however, he will be facing opponents who can outweigh him by 20, 30, 40 and even 50 pounds.
No sweat says Marshall.
“The thing that is going to hurt me is having a smaller frame. The thing that is going to help me is having a smaller frame,” Marshall said. “I go into this (Golden Gloves national tournament) with experience with big guys.
“I’ve never lost at super heavyweight.”
Marshall, 31, a Foster City native and 2001 graduate of San Mateo High School, moved up to the super heavyweight ranks for this latest Golden Gloves go-around. A four-time Golden Gloves champion at various levels, this will be Marshall’s first foray into the national tournament.
Marshall captured the San Francisco Golden Gloves tournament to earn a spot in the regionals. He won that and then won the California title to punch his ticket to Las Vegas.
“He’s spent a long time in development, but he’s definitely ready for this step and ready to take it to the next level,” Ragan said. “I have him at a very high level right now. Is he going to win this thing? I don’t know. We know he can take a punch and his defense is pretty tight right now. I feel if the draw comes out good and he can navigate through a couple wins, that could springboard him.”
Unlike professionals who are given weeks, if not months, to prepare for one opponent, amateurs boxing in the Golden Gloves national tournament are like college basketball teams in the NCAA tournament: single-elimination with a survive-and-advance mentality. One loss and Marshall is done.
And depending on the number of fighters in his weight class and if Marshall keeps winning, there is a chance he could fight five times in as many days. And looming large is two-time defending national Golden Gloves champion Cam Awesome — a name Ragan has, indeed, verified.
“He’s the top guy in the nation,” Ragan said of Awesome. “He’s, like, way, way above (the rest of the class). This guy just got back from Russia where he just beat the top Cuban, the top Ukrainian and the top Russian.
“I’ve seen [Awesome] fight at nationals. I know who he is — left-hander, tall, lanky guy. But that’s [the type of guys] we’ve been sparring against.”
Marshall is a late devotee to the boxing game, but it appears to have turned his life around. A self-described “burnout” in high school, Marshall didn’t like school, didn’t appreciate the structure and discipline. And while he had been involved in martial arts from the age of about 10, he never really took advantage of the life skills they can offer practitioners.
“I had a lot of anger issues when I was a kid,” Marshall said.
After drifting away from martial arts, Marshall decided to give boxing a shot. After a short time at another gym, he wandered into Ragan’s Westside Boxing Club and found a home.
Not only a home, but a connection with Ragan. Seven years after taking up the sport, Marshall’s life has been transformed. A personal trainer as well as an instructor for Westside Boxing Club’s boxing classes, Marshall credits boxing for helping him find focus in his life.
“I think boxing has helped me with everything. It helped me with goal orientation. I didn’t know how to be successful (before boxing),” Marshall said. “I like the training. I like the regiment. I like the time (spent in the gym).
“Now, I’m on the Dean’s List (at the College of San Mateo). I want to do it (go to school) now. Now I’m older. Learning is cool.”
It’s that kind of intelligence which helps Marshall in ring. Ragan said their connection is so good because Marshall is smart enough to implement what Ragan is telling him. Both said they are constantly talking to each other in the ring — even as the fight is going on.
“He’s a very cerebral boxer. He has a high boxing IQ,” Ragan said. “Me and Mike have been together for seven years. We work really well together. We work at a high level of breaking down opponents. Mike is intelligent enough to follow along with my philosophy.”
Added Marshall: “I really feel like I’m in the best shape of my life, physically and boxing IQ-wise.”
While the stakes are pretty high going into the Golden Gloves national tournament, it’s only the end of the first chapter of Marshall’s boxing life. Following this tournament, Marshall intends to turn professional. A good showing in Las Vegas could definitely help his pro future. A Golden Gloves national championship would definitely open the eyes of professional promoters.
“If he would win this tournament, it would open doors (at the professional level),” Ragan said.
But Marshall isn’t thinking about his future. He’s more concerned about his present and is champing at the bit to get going.
“I’m excited. I’m so ready. I love boxing,” Marshall said. “I’m tired of talking about it.”