Boxing Back Then

Those who knew Charlie Mohr during Madison’s NCAA boxing championship run in the 1950s were privileged indeed [News & Notes, “Fighting Back,” Summer 2014]. There was no better example of humility and sensitivity on campus. His popularity actually embarrassed him. [He was a] shy, sensitive, lanky, deeply religious boy most people would never identify as a fighter. He wasn’t — he was a boxer, a cat-like dancer who avoided most punches and who earned the 165-pound championship in 1959.

We roomed together for a while and we worked together at Paisan’s. I also was high up in the Field House stands when he caught a right cross that put him into a coma for days — later to die on Easter Sunday 1960.

A web search will provide numerous articles on this painful and far-reaching story of a college sports death. The best was written by Sports Illustrated’s Michael Weinreb (April 16, 2010).

Don Bruno ’59

Contrary to “Fighting Back,” boxing was, in fact, a university-sanctioned club on campus in the [early] 1980s. I know because I was president of the boxing club.

We trained in the Natatorium under former professional fighter Joe Jones, who not only taught us boxing, but also how to live honorable lives. Bob Lynch, one of the coaches of the reincarnated UW Boxing Club, was also a coach in the 1980s.

We boxed in National Collegiate Boxing Association tournaments and in the Wisconsin Golden Gloves. (Curt Exum ’85 was a Wisconsin state champion.)

In 1986, a few months after the National Collegiate Boxing Association tournament in Cincinnati (where I took second place), UW Risk Management decided boxing was too dangerous (although the club’s members had never experienced an injury), and rescinded our club-sport status. With no voice in the matter, we lost our club and all our equipment.

In this ending, we learned important life lessons — that decisions will not always seem fair; that sucker punches can come from anywhere, whether in the boxing ring or out; and that no matter the outcome, one’s life is always richer for stepping into the ring and giving it your best.

Michael Exum ’87, MS’95

Evansville, Wisconsin

It is true that UW–Madison has not had a competitive boxing team since 1960, but during the mid-1970s, boxing was offered for credit as Defensive Boxing, and there was a boxing club that met once a week, coached by Vern Woodward, who had been the head coach of the U.S. Olympic boxing team. Joe Machtell, who coached some of the local clubs, was his assistant. He often brought in local boxers to work out with us in the Nat.

Mark Piette ’78

Published in the Fall 2014 issue

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