A new program with punch at Marian Catholic
Enough with the physics, chemistry and biology. Some students at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights soon will be learning the finer points of the so-called “sweet science.”
Social studies teacher Nick Novak plans to revitalize a long-dormant intramural boxing program at the school this spring. The intramural bouts would begin later this month and culminate April 12 with Fight Night — an evening of amateur boxing at the school featuring all of the winners of earlier matches.
Novak, who coaches freshman basketball and varsity football, is no stranger to putting on the gloves himself. He started boxing in junior high at a gym in Whiting, Ind., and continued at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago, where he played offensive line for its 1999 and 2000 state championship football teams.
While at Mount Carmel, Novak battled his way to two Fight Nights, where he won once and lost once. Novak continued to box at Quincy University, teaching it for three years to classmates and even some faculty.
The idea to bring boxing back to Marian Catholic came to him while he was making a recruiting trip with school athletic director Dave Mattio. Marian Catholic held its last boxing event in the 1980s and used to partner with Bloom Township High School District 206 to coordinate matches. But interest waned, and intramural boxing ceased at Marian.
Novak believed that bringing it back would generate interest among the students, involve alumni, and make money for the school. Beer would be sold at Fight Night in the school’s leadership center.
“It brings a lot of people back to the building, and it’s free publicity, too,” Novak said.
When Novak first announced the project, some people had questions about it. He sent out a letter to faculty addressing any concerns they had and answered students’ questions about whether boxing had to do with mixed martial arts.
“I told them, ‘We’re not going to be rolling around on the ground,’” Novak said. “We’re going to be punching each other.”
By late January, 65 boys and 30 girls had signed up to box.
Intramural matches will begin later this month and consist of three one-minute rounds with one-minute breaks in between.
All boxers will wear 16-ounce gloves and head gear. All fights will be held after school.
“It’s not a brawl,” Novak said. “Someone once told me that boxing is like a game of tag, but instead of getting tagged, it’s getting punched.”
Chicago Heights Boxing Club trainer Pat Lewandowski and Mike Fitzgerald, who coaches boxers for the Mount Carmel Fight Night, will help train the Marian students. Clem DeLuca, father of state Rep. Anthony DeLuca (D-Chicago Heights), also will help Novak organize the new program. Clem DeLuca has worked as the Mount Carmel Fight Night ring announcer.
Novak said only boys will box at the first Fight Night since there are not yet enough girls to fill out a card. All of the girls who win their matches, however, will be recognized at Fight Night.
“If you win, it gives you pride,” Novak said. “You walk around and people know who you are. It’s cool for a high school kid. You might not be a good wrestler or football player, but you can still win at Fight Night.”