Coach not ready to leave the ring

Hood Herald/CHRISTINA KRUSE - U.S. Olympic boxing coach Jesse Ravelo poses next to a heavy bag Sunday at J.R. Boxing Club in Killeen.

By Kevin Posival

Fort Hood Herald

Boxing came naturally to a teenage Jesse Ravelo living in Cuba.

It followed him when he moved with his parents to the United States and when he was drafted into the Army. His passion then, took him around the world, including the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta where he was an assistant coach on the United States' national boxing team.

Now retired from the military and too old to compete, Ravelo tells himself this year will be his last coaching the sport, but it never is.

His back hurts and his vision isn't very good, but 57-year-old Ravelo isn't ready to leave the sport.

Ravelo's been called back by USA Boxing and just returned from California, where he coached the Marines to a second-place finish and is getting ready for another trip, this one to the World Military Games.

"I get my adrenaline from teaching guys from scratch," he said. " I don't like to teach guys or coach guys that are already are made ... I start teaching them from scratch, the basics first - how to stand, how to throw a jab, how to step. That's how I get my adrenaline."

Ravelo has been teaching for the last 25 years. He takes time coaching his fighters, making sure they pick up the right techniques and disciplines. He gets a lot of guys coming into his gym in downtown Killeen that just want to jump in the ring and start boxing, but he doesn't coach like that, he said. Boxing is more than just gloves, a ring, a bell and an opponent.

"I always train my fighters the same way. I train them in conditioning and technique, basics," Ravelo said. "I stay away from everything else ... what I try to do is introduce them to the basics, the right techniques, the discipline of boxing more than anything else because they're going to need it more."

Keeps with the basics

Since a majority of Ravelo's boxers are in the military, he added that he has to keep with the basics because no one ever knows how long they're going to be in any one particular area.

And boxing in the military, he added, is harder because so many other activities and duties require more priority. That, he said, is the biggest difference between his experiences boxing in Cuba and boxing here in the United States.

"In Cuba, it's all year around. ... If you're a boxer that's all you do, you train all year around. You have camps and you stay at the camp and train, train, train, train that's all you do. It's more disciplined," Ravelo said. "Here, you have to switch between, if you're in the military, you have to switch between your military life, your personal life and your boxing."

As a boy growing up in Cuba, Ravelo said, sports - not just boxing - were a means of survival.

"You have to get into sports. You have a different life if you become an athlete down there. It was a must," Ravelo said.

Boxing didn't present itself to him until he was a teenager. At first, he was into baseball - he was a member of Cuba's junior national baseball team - and was a brown belt in Judo because he was always more into the contact sports.

He practiced his judo in the same gym where the boxers trained. He watched and learned until one day he started working on a bag and the boxing coach approached him, asked him if he wanted to join the team.

"I left judo and baseball for boxing, just to give it a shot," Ravelo said. " ... All they had to teach me was just the tough parts of boxing. The basics I knew that. ... I don't know. I was just a natural."

As an amateur, he had an impressive 107-18 record before he and his parents moved to the United States, where he was drafted at the age of 17.

Boxed while in the Army

In the Army, he was a mechanic but he still boxed.

Then, he boxed and coached the All-Army team and the Olympic team in 1996, when he became the first active-duty military selected for the Summer Games.

"Me being in the Army and being just selected was an honor," Ravelo said. "It was a dream for all the fighters and coaches to participate in (the Olympics). It was fun. We got to travel all over the United States with the team, it was great."

The experience was also a successful one - David Reid won gold in the Light Middleweight class and the Americans brought home five bronze medals as well.

The politics, though, were too much to deal with, he said, so he stepped down and opened his first boxing gym in Killeen - and for a short time in Copperas Cove - before finally landing in his current location on Avenue C.

"I've already done everything I need to do," Revelo said. "I've done everything, so I'm just here teaching, working with the kids and hoping that some day the city will decide to say, 'Let's help him out and just bring all of those kids out of the streets and bring them in here and then work with them.' We'll see what happens."

But, he's not through. Not yet.

"Boxing is my passion, so when I retired from boxing, I wanted to stay in coaching because I wanted to stay with boxing," Ravelo said. "I just like the art of boxing. I like to teach what I know. I like to teach what I was taught."

Contact Kevin Posival at or (254) 501-7562.

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