By Cary Shuman
Asa Baurle – all four-feet-five and 63 pounds of him – will step in to the ring and make his competitive boxing debut at the 56th Annual Silver Mittens Boxing Tournament on March 7 at the UMass Convention Center in Lowell.
Baurle, a 10-year-old, fourth-grade student at the Cummings Elementary School whose nickname is “Asa the Eraser,” has been training in the sport for the past two years. Asa’s home base is the Nonantum Boxing Club in Newton, situated in the Nonantum neighborhood where his father, Brett, grew up.
“My dad told me that some of his buddies who he grew up with had a boxing gym and he asked me if I wanted to try it out,” said Asa. “I thought about it for a couple of days and decided I wanted to do it.”
Asa has sparred against other boxers during training sessions at the gym, but on March 7 he’ll be competing for a championship belt in his division (60-68 pounds) in front of what should be a sizable audience.
“I’m getting ready for my tournament,” said Asa. “I’m nervous about the fight but I’m excited, too. I’ve been sparring with some of the other kids at the gym.”
He likes the sport and has an appreciation for its history, listing legendary champion Muhammad Ali as his favorite fighter.
“What I like about boxing is how you learn so much when you train – and how you progress through the years and get better and better,” said Asa. “My coach has been teaching me how to throw punches faster because the tournament is based on points which is how many punches you land.”
Asa takes boxing lessons and trains under the tutelage of coaches Phil Riffe and Jose Barrios. At a training session this week, Asa was dressed in his customary boxing uniform. He wears black headgear, a protective boxing belt, a black tank top, black trunks and black boxing shoes inside the ring. A la former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson who also dressed in black, Asa does not wear socks when he boxes.
Asa does jump roping for seven minutes as part of his three-times-a-week workout regimen and practices his punches on a boxing bag and pads held by his coach.
“My best punches are my left hook, my jab, and my straight 1-2,” says Asa. “I’m a southpaw.”
The budding pugilist has been fighting at three-minute intervals during practices, but his “real” fight will be three, one-minute rounds (Professional boxing conducts three-minute rounds).
Riffe, who has been Asa’s coach for the past two years, likes what he has seen in the gym. “Asa’s my guy, my prodigy, my pupil, my pride,” said Riffe. “He’s looking great in our training sessions. He’s made some serious strides the past few months because he’s upped his training and his commitment. He’s putting a little more energy into it and it shows. He’s ready for his first fight.”
Brett Baurle said his son has adapted to the sport quickly. “Asa took a liking to it and showed some potential because he has a good head upstairs to absorb everything,” said Baurle. “He’s patient and he listens and those are good qualities to have in boxing and he’s a tough, little guy.”
Baurle said he’s not anxious about his son’s first fight. “Not at all. I’ve seen him train and he has it. He’s ready to go. He’s a strong southpaw. He can punch hard. He’s sparred against some bigger and older kids and he’s made them say, ‘ow!’”
Baurle feels that the sport of boxing is a healthy outlet for his son, even at his young age.
“It’s controlled and it’s a good sport for conditioning,” said Baurle. “I feel it’s a very safe sport for kids. He’s had one black eye and a fat lip, but you’re protected. Boxing teaches discipline. Asa isn’t allowed to come to the gym if he doesn’t do well in school.”
Baurle credits his wife, Laura, for coming up with their son’s catchy nickname. “Asa the Eraser – he’s erasing the competition. My wife picked it out.”