“Soldiers are Made, Warriors are born”

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An In-depth Look at Haskell’s Boxing Club

By L.Marie Avila

It is just before 5pmand the hustle of the University campus is slowing down. Gators are parked back in Winnemucca, and it is taillights time with students and faculty going into their night life. For Pontiac Hall, it is just getting started; for it hosts the home of the Haskell Boxing Club gym. It has since 2003.

The first time I entered the gym I seethe athletes of all shades gearingup.  I met assistant Coach Darren Jacobs of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and Haskell Alumni. After introductions I got the ‘ok’ to start visiting the gym to watch and learn.  Soon, head Coach Erik Riley of the Apache Tribearrived and the club was under way. It is a strict routine and dedication I have witnessed ever since.  A saying of Coach Riley is that “Soldiers are made, Warriors are born” and that belief is carried through the club.

Photo of Mioshia “Yosh” Wagoner watching Practice

The east wall of the Haskell Boxing Club accommodates asitting area facing the club, right at the practice zone of mats.  Attached on the south wall is a chalkboard with boxer’s name and weight class. The west wall holds the boxing ring with the Haskell Indian Head above it and the cage that holds club equipment. The north walland finishing the circle, is lined with punching bags and topped off with a mural on the wall of a massive [ba] Native with boxing gloves that was designed by Coach Riley. Ringside banners, and a banner above the equipment cage with the American flag, and an American Indian on it clearly states that this gym has Native pride all over it.

So what happens on a typical night at the gym?  It begins with hype music and a timer that sounds when to switch drill techniques set on 2 minute rounds.  These key instruments play to the end of the training session. The sound of beats and the timer start everyone in form for drills.  The first several classes as a new boxer are to test to see if you really want to bethere.It’s a repeated pattern of calculated steps and single slow punches, frontward and backward up and down the matt.  It is a test of determination and is just the beginning of the elimination process.  There are levels of drills that include how to throw punches, punching techniques and basic defense; moving your head, balance, positioning, but a lot of defense.  While the newcomers are in stance and stepping forward, at any given time in the gym there are many different drillsessions going on as well. All while the more advanced boxers are practicing sparring in the ring.

An hour into it, t-shirts are drenched.  There is no small talk in here, it’s unwritten.  Instead, a constant sound of leather hitting on leather, chains rumbling from punching bag jabs echo through the gym. And the steady sounds of the timer tell the boxers to change drillpositions.  I remember watching a new trainee once. She is walking the line, she fell down, and then got right back up, took off her ‘pink battle’ for breast cancer awareness sweatshirt and got right back into stance.

Photo of Coach Jacobs at practice

In the several visits I made to the HBC gym, I counted the female/male athletes.  There were always more males to females, but our female boxers are representing well and making more than an impression.One of the clubs female boxers is Haskell alumni, Mioshia ‘Yosh’ Wagoner (Navajo-Chickasaw).  Making history in boxing [that includes championships, traveling to China, and being ranked #2 female in the world and #1 female in the country in boxing and Native American Championship titles] this modest female boxer, says that for her“boxing gives you an opportunity to see who you are, and how facing yourself is”. Wagoner went on to say“that this time around, I am behind myself, I can get it! It is unfinished business; I’ve not won a belt yet.”  Adding to that she gives her compliments to the Haskell community for their support and hopes to give back.Her response to why the HBC is important was “It is not just getting strong;it is a hard sport, nothing compares to it. It is the hardest workouts. You push yourself past your limit and then you will ask yourself, what else I can do?”

Monica Yellowbird (Arikara-Lakota) from Minneapolis, MN, is another female boxer and a Haskell senior.She was also a first freshman homecoming queen and an all scholar athlete, 2009-2010 in cross country and track. Yellowbird proves that dynamite comes in small packages.  Just recently, shewon her boxing bout on March 2n, 2012 in Kansas City.

Another up and coming boxer is Haskell junior, Jacob ‘AJ” Stops (Crow). He was also at the bout in Kansas City on March 2, 2012, and won his fight as well.  This focused fighter is currently training for the Golden Gloves Tournament.

The Haskell Boxing Club gym is a training site for both amateur and professional boxers. It is a competitive gym, and they compete all the time.  It has taken their boxers to boxing bouts, exhibition matches, the Junior Olympics, Native American Boxing Championships, Golden Gloves Champion tournaments and even to Professional status. With that being said, Coach Jacobs expressed “that is why it is so focused in here; we do not let people screw around, if you let people screw around, they’re going to get hurt, and we can’t afford to get anyone hurt.  If someone is in here messing around, we’ll show them the door”.

Somehistory of boxing in Indian Country is on display at Haskell Indian Nations University inthe American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame currently at Coffin Complex with great boxers like, Virgil Franklin (Arapaho-Kiowa) and Nelson B. Levering (Omaha/Bannock)who was the Midwest Golden Gloves Champion in 1947.  During earlier years, boxers include Rollie Thurman Munsell Jr. (Chickasaw) who was a professional boxer from 1939-1942; Chester L. “Chet” Ellis (Seneca) with both an amateur and a professional boxing career from 1935-1939. The same for Alvin Leroy Williams (Caddo) from 1944-1960;andwearing his head dress in his photo, is Gordon A. House,otherwise known as “Chief” Gordon House (Navajo-Oneida) who fought in the 1949 Featherweight Championship of the World.  SAMWAB

When asked about how he go into boxingCoach Riley said that although he has been fighting most of his life, he took it into a career in 2003 and it was by chance [he had all the training equipment] that he was asked to fill in until there was a coach. And 9 years later he is still coaching strong.Coach Jacobs says the reason the club is so important is because “We promote health and fitness in an alcohol and drug free environment, and boxing helps to stay sharp and learn self defense.  A lot of people get to take out their aggression here rather than the

Photo of Jacob “AJ” Stops


The clubs hours at Pontiac Hall are 5-7pm Mondays and Wednesdays and Fridays.  It is open to both Haskell and Lawrence community.  These coaches arevolunteers and appreciate solemn interest in the club.  The club does have their own equipment but does encourage boxers to attain their own equipment after some point for the use of new comers.  It is a non-profit agency but they gladly accept donations and have club t-shirts for sale.


Editorial Note:

Thank you to both the boxer’s and Coaches for allowing the Indian Leader to sit and watch training at an intimate time in an athlete’s career.