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    Posted April 21, 2014 by
    La Crosse, Wisconsin

    More Than a Punch: A UW- La Crosse Student Uses Boxing As a Life Tool.


    Ruben Cisneros represents boxing and boxing represents him. His journey towards a college degree has led him to the glory in triumph and the agony in defeat. In a way, he owes much of his success to a sport that provided him a channel of opportunity in multiple facets of his life.


    Ruben at 22 years of age is the youngest of three Cisneros children. His mother, Maria Elisa, and father, Ruben, raised Angelica, Gualberto, and Ruben in Sterling Illinois, a small town two hours west of Chicago.  Growing up, Ruben made it a priority to stay out of trouble and to stay in school thanks to his parent’s corrective yet reserved methods of guidance. “They were disciplinary. But they also gave me the freedom of choice.” Cisneros shared. “Growing up it was more stay out of trouble, don’t hang out with the bad kids, don’t go drinking and smoking. Later, once they saw I was staying out of trouble, it was more like study, get your education.”  Although he was able to avoid the dangers of negative peer pressure, it was imperative for Ruben that he had an outlet not only to release his stresses but also to keep him off the streets.


    Growing up, Ruben idolized professional boxer Oscar De La Hoya for his success in the ring and also their shared ethnic identity as Mexican-Americans. At eight years old, he joined the John Russell Boxing Club in Rock Falls, Illinois, where his older brother Gualberto had been training for several years.  It was here where he met his trainer/mentor Al Silva. Al played an instrumental role in his development as a boxer. As a member of the boxing club, Silva entered Ruben into a number of boxing tournaments in the Chicagoland area. Contests included the Junior Olympics, Silver Gloves, and Golden Gloves.


    It may be an understatement to say that Chicago produces some of the best young boxing talent in the nation. Ruben spoke on the skill level of his tournament opponents. “It was hard as hell, like some of the best boxing is in the Chicago area. A lot of good prospects are from that area. I’ve seen shows here in Wisconsin and I’m like man I wish I would’ve fought here.” he laughed.


    Funny as it may have been, boxing wasn’t the only reason Ruben found interest in Wisconsin. During his senior year of high school Ruben explored colleges that would offer him a valuable learning opportunity.  Iowa State University had a club boxing team but the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse offered a strong exercise/sport science major and financial flexibility. As an aspiring first generation college student, Ruben expresses the difficulties he faced, “Going through financial aid was so frustrating. Or like figuring out how to do this whole money thing, I didn’t know and my parents didn’t know.”  As a result, Ruben spent his first year at a local community college but then decided on attending UW- La Crosse for his second year after receiving a scholarship covering his out-of-state tuition. Schooling has always been the priority for Ruben which is why he was willing to desert boxing for the educational opportunity. Ruben explained his thought process after his decision, “I told myself I’m gonna go with La Crosse and give up the boxing idea. So I kind of gave up on boxing. I said I’ll just do it in my free time on my own.”


    Ruben’s desire to succeed had as much to do with his experiences in the ring as it did his relationship with his older brother Gualberto.  “My brother had a lot of talent. He was my motivation to start boxing.” Ruben shared.  “Since me and my brother are totally different people, [boxing] was the one thing that linked us together. It was the one commonality we had. That’s why I have a strong passion for boxing because it’s also what connects me to my brother.” This sentiment offers a brief glimpse into the lens through which Cisneros sees boxing.


    His motivation, passion, and desire to succeed can all be traced back to his boxing roots. It was only fitting that an opportunity to reconnect those ties was presented before him in the form of his college roommate at UW- La Crosse. “One day, my roommate Tyler said I should start my own club and he’ll help me out.” Ruben confided. “I said great. I was like I never thought of that. And I’m like I think I’m capable enough to teach people the basics. So I said why not. They sent us to student orgs and they helped us out.”


    In the fall of 2011, Ruben along with Tyler founded UW-L Boxing Club which would allow Cisneros to coach any students willing to learn and develop as boxers. But like most start-up organizations, their resources were very limited. Ruben served as both the president and head coach as they were restricted to practicing with just pads. Soon though, Ruben received help from a few of his friends on campus. “Then luckily I got help from Marvin and then he found Kou and we made him the head coach...” Ruben noted.  Since then, they’ve seen a good deal of growth in participation. Ruben added, “Yeah it started growing. I see that there’s interest. I’m just hoping to provide more structure and a more stable room where I can have heavy bags and speed bags.”


    Ruben sees big potential in the club even after he graduates with a degree in Exercise Sport Science this December.  For him, boxing was a way to connect with his older brother and stay out of trouble but he understands that boxing can mean something entirely different for students at UW-L. He acknowledged, “For students here I think it’s more for a confidence boost and dedication and picking up a sport you would normally not think about. The meaning of it is a little different.”


    It’s apparent that the benefits boxing offers vary from person to person.  Through it, Ruben found a release for his anxieties, a connection with a brother, and a belief in himself. “There’s an art to it.” He explains. “It’s not just people throwing punches. It takes dedication to learn.”  The power in boxing is often explained in the terms of its physical elements such as a quick left jab or a strong right hook. It is true that boxing leaves an indelible mark on many but it is a mark that penetrates far deeper than a 1-2-3 combo. The sport is much more than that. Ruben’s story is an embodiment of its power.


    UW-L Boxing Club meets in the mixed martial arts room at the Recreational Eagle Center.

    Friday: 8:30 p.m. & Saturday: 2:00 p.m

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