From boxing ring to classroom

Published 10:22 am Monday, May 18, 2009

CHESAPEAKE — Zack Bartrum may just be 10, but already he knows the value of discipline and how it brings about a sense of accomplishment. Those are lessons the Chesapeake Middle School fifth grader has picked up in the boxing ring.

And if Zack has his way, he will take his sport to the Olympics and beyond.

It all started when he was 4 and his stepfather, Noah Kirk, a local boxing club coach, took him to a gym in Ashland, Ky.

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“When I was really little, I saw what they were doing in the ring and got up and started doing it,” he said. “I thought it was cool. They were not trying to hurt each other, but it was fun to do.”

Right now, Zack has 42 fights under his belt with 22 wins. All are done under a point system and fought according to weight classes.

Zack started out in the 55-lb class and now boxes in the 65-lb class.

Most fights are on Saturdays with Zack training about three hours a night Monday through Friday in the gym. He runs two miles each training session; and does five or six 3-minute rounds on the heavy bag, speed bag and double-end bag each.

As can be imagined one of Zack’s heroes is the famous, but imaginary fighter Rocky Balboa, brought to life by Sylvester Stallone in a series of films.

“I love the shows,” he said. “You know how he went into retirement in the last movie and then came out of retirement. I want to do that.”

The young boy easily demonstrates all the major punches, from hooks to upper cuts to japs, which he shows off with his right hand, then switches quickly to southpaw. And when Zack slips under the ropes before a match, he’s all business.

“I’m usually kind of focused on what I am going to do and seeing what kind of boxing skills (his opponent) has,” he said.

In school, Zack’s favorite subjects are math and science.

“And I love gym,” he said.

And it’s come from giving his all in the ring that he has learned to appreciate the commitment of those around him.

“I like the teachers and how they dedicate their lives to be here every day,” he said.

This Saturday Zack boxed in his club’s junior Olympics, but looks forward to when he can compete in the international Olympics — that is one of his major goals, along with turning pro and fighting for awhile.

“When I retire, I want a pair of gloves with my name on them hanging on a wall,” he said.