By Cary Shuman
Asa Baurle â€“ all four-feet-five and 63 pounds of him â€“ 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 â€œAsa the Eraser,â€ has been training in the sport for the past two years. Asaâ€™s home base is the Nonantum Boxing Club in Newton, situated in the Nonantum neighborhood where his father, Brett, grew up.
â€œMy 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,â€ said Asa. â€œI thought about it for a couple of days and decided I wanted to do it.â€
Asa has sparred against other boxers during training sessions at the gym, but on March 7 heâ€™ll be competing for a championship belt in his division (60-68 pounds) in front of what should be a sizable audience.
â€œIâ€™m getting ready for my tournament,â€ said Asa. â€œIâ€™m nervous about the fight but Iâ€™m excited, too. Iâ€™ve been sparring with some of the other kids at the gym.â€
He likes the sport and has an appreciation for its history, listing legendary champion Muhammad Ali as his favorite fighter.
â€œWhat 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,â€Â said Asa. â€œMy coach has been teaching me how to throw punches faster because the tournament is based on points which is how many punches you land.â€
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.
â€œMy best punches are my left hook, my jab, and my straight 1-2,â€ says Asa. â€œIâ€™m a southpaw.â€
The budding pugilist has been fighting at three-minute intervals during practices, but his â€œrealâ€ fight will be three, one-minute rounds (Professional boxing conducts three-minute rounds).
Riffe, who has been Asaâ€™s coach for the past two years, likes what he has seen in the gym. â€œAsaâ€™s my guy, my prodigy, my pupil, my pride,â€ said Riffe. â€œHeâ€™s looking great in our training sessions. Heâ€™s made some serious strides the past few months because heâ€™s upped his training and his commitment. Heâ€™s putting a little more energy into it and it shows. Heâ€™s ready for his first fight.â€
Brett Baurle said his son has adapted to the sport quickly. â€œAsa took a liking to it and showed some potential because he has a good head upstairs to absorb everything,â€ said Baurle. â€œHeâ€™s patient and he listens and those are good qualities to have in boxing and heâ€™s a tough, little guy.â€
Baurle said heâ€™s not anxious about his sonâ€™s first fight. â€œNot at all. Iâ€™ve seen him train and he has it. Heâ€™s ready to go. Heâ€™s a strong southpaw. He can punch hard. Heâ€™s sparred against some bigger and older kids and heâ€™s made them say, ‘ow!’â€
Baurle feels that the sport of boxing is a healthy outlet for his son, even at his young age.
â€œItâ€™s controlled and itâ€™s a good sport for conditioning,â€ said Baurle. â€œI feel itâ€™s a very safe sport for kids. Heâ€™s had one black eye and a fat lip, but youâ€™re protected. Boxing teaches discipline. Asa isnâ€™t allowed to come to the gym if he doesnâ€™t do well in school.â€
Baurle credits his wife, Laura, for coming up with their sonâ€™s catchy nickname. â€œAsa the Eraser â€“ heâ€™s erasing the competition. My wife picked it out.â€