Former Tiger forward Luke Owings is closing in on five years since he graduated from Princeton. I recently stumbled on the news that in an attempt to both reprove himself as an athlete and develop washboard abs prior to Reunions, Owings would be stepping into the boxing ring for the first time next month.
This upcoming fight is for a good cause too, one that I'm more than happy to help spread the word about. Owings is raising money for cancer research as part of a pugalistic fundraiser titled Haymakers For Hope.
I caught up with Owings on the phone today and he told me more about his imminent bout and detailed training that has taken him from the basketball court to business school into the squared circle.
You can support Owings’ quest by making a donation here. I hope visitors to this site will help Luke exceed the financial goal he's set.
A transcript of our conversation can be found after the jump.
Luke, tell me more about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
I’m five years out right now. This is going to be my fifth reunion. Kind of wild. Over the last couple of years when I went back to school I got back into playing some sports and doing some competitive stuff. I had been looking for something since I started my job last year.
I met a friend for lunch one day and she introduced me to her boyfriend who had started the charity Haymakers For Hope. He devised it with the premise that there are people who train for marathons and they train for different types of events. They raise money for charity, they have a secondary cause for doing it, everyone rallies behind them and it is a fun event.
Why couldn’t we do that for boxing? Why couldn’t we add on top of that the opportunity for real amateurs to actually box?
He was sketching out this idea for me and telling me about it. He ran a smaller event in New York City in 2011. He was telling how it was a success and they were looking to grow.
He asked me if I knew anybody. I was thinking about it.
I don’t know if you know this about my family but we have a little bit of boxing history in it. My dad was a lumberjack and a boxer in college.
It was one of those family stories that’s half mythology. We all heard about it but we didn’t know much about it.
There’s also the story in my family that my granddad’s uncle was a heavyweight champ in 1933, a guy by the name of Primo Carnera.
There were always these two stories about him: One was that he had accidentally killed a guy in the ring – they would fight with little to no gloves on – and the other was that when my uncle was born, Primo had hands so big he could hold his child in one hand.
I’m sitting here, I have a job so I don’t have a ton of time to do competitive outlets, but I would love to train for something, learn how to do something and on top of that I have this family mythology rolling around for a while I’d love to explore.
When I went out to lunch with this guy and he brought it up, after I went home I thought “Golly, this is as good as a time as ever to try it out.”
I got back in touch and told them I’ll do whatever I need to do. That was in December. I started training as soon as I got back from Christmas break.
What is your regimen like?
I do boxing four or five days a week. Then I’ll do one day of either weight training or road work. I usually go six days a week.
It is funny, because I never realized before that boxing is a very strong community. It is really an amazing undertaking. I do it at the Cambridge YMCA. It is a place where they have many social programs for low income people and for people who are trying to get back on track.
The two guys who do the training for me actually do it for free for the local community. They just provide an alternative place for people to go, to train, to fight, to work out and to have a community to be a part of.
These guys are amazing. One is a guy named Dan in his early 30s. He played soccer at Springfield College. The other guy is named Jeff Leggett who was a professional boxer for years and he had an accident where he got hit by a train and lost his right arm. He’s still the best boxing trainer in the Boston area. If anyone does boxing in Boston they know Jeff. He’s there, he’s helping them out, he’s always giving a positive word (and a negative word) to tell me what I need to do better.
Being a part of their group, being a part of their community and working with them has been an awesome experience.
Do you know who you’re going to be fighting on May 17th?
It is all amateurs. People who have never fought or only fought once. I’m fighting a guy named Frankie who is 6’1” and 205 lbs. He owns a bunch of bars locally. He’s probably 34 or 35. He just joined because he loved the cause.
They match you up with people who are about the same weight and I’m at 201 lbs right now. I have a few inches on him but we’re about the same weight. He’s a really good guy. I’ve actually gotten to train with him a few times and sparred with him a few times. We’re getting to be buddies.
How many rounds is your bout?
We’re going three rounds, two minute rounds. A short little fight. There are going be 10 fights on the card or so. It is at the House Of Blues on Landsdowne Street.
Please let people know how they can get involved.
I’m writing a few blog posts to tell people more about the boxing training. If you want to get involved or learn more, drop me a line. I love to talk about it. A lot of people seem to have had that itch to learn more about boxing but have never had the opportunity.
Haymakers For Hope is actually coming to New York in the next year. They’re going to do another event in Boston. If people want to be fighting when it comes to their city or help out in some way, I’m more than happy to connect them and share the stories I’ve been learning.
In the piece I first was directed to by your roommate about what you’re doing, you wrote about how "Boom is…the word that escapes my lips when something feels right." In your training, can you pin down one specific “Boom moment”?
I got hit the other day in my face. Let me give you some context: The guy I spar with is 6’3” and 230 pounds, an ex-Boston College defensive end. This is a strong guy. We continually give each other bloody noses and black eyes. Things like that. He hit me so hard in the face that I felt the electricity go down my spine and all the way down to the bottom of my feet. I remember thinking to myself "This is what is like to get hit. You’ve got to get your hands back up to protect yourself."
There’s nothing more raw than being in that ring. It kind of becomes real those times you get hit.
To tie this around to basketball, is there a former teammate or opponent from your college days you’re confident you could have taken in the ring?
I think you know who I’m going to have to say. If Steve Danley from Penn was in the ring I would totally take him down and I’d love to box him at some point.
Who do you think would have your number?
I wouldn’t want to fight Will [Venable], to be honest.
Finally, the Fight Club question: If you could fight any celebrity living or dead who would you fight?
Max Baer, heavyweight champ in 1934. Just to get him back for KOing my uncle.
Good luck, Luke. I hope you'll keep everyone posted on how this goes! If you want to see a photo gallery of "El Gigante" in action, click here.