Lace up the gloves

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 11, 2000

Boxers obviously aren’t afraid of a fight. When Adams County Boxing Club coach Robert Smith was diagnosed with bladder cancer nine weeks ago, he laced up his gloves and got in the ring.

Ding ding.

Smith, a lifetime Natchez resident, has endured six weeks of weekly treatments that left him too weak to stand, and now has the same treatments every six weeks.

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Through it all, he has continued to coach — and sometimes spar with — the 16 members of his fledgling boxing club.

&uot;The gym helps me,&uot; Smith said. &uot;It gives me more energy, keeps me in shape, keeps my weight up.

&uot;Without boxing I’d probably sit there and dry up,&uot; he said. &uot;It keeps me fit to handle it better.&uot;

Smith admitted he has toned down his coaching approach since his treatments began.

&uot;I try not to get in the ring like I used to,&uot; he said. &uot;I just walk around and boss them around, try to show them things.&uot;

However, &uot;Sometimes I work with the younger boys in the ring,&uot; he said. &uot;But they really stepped it up before our last match.&uot;

Understandably, considering their last match was in Natchez, the first time the local club has had a home match in it’s four years of existence.

And it wasn’t just the young boxers that stepped it up, either. Both 25-year-old Cleotha Rice and 20-year-old Joseph Rabotte scored knockouts, helping the club win the team trophy away from the 12 other clubs represented at the match.

&uot;It was actually a four-way tie,&uot; Smith said, but three correctly-called coin tosses made the difference.

Smith, 42, began his boxing career in high school with the Natchez Boxing Club, an organization run by George Hogan. Hogan eventually had to stop coaching because of poor health, Smith said, and the club closed its doors.

However, Hogan started the Adams County Boxing Club four years ago.

&uot;I actually heard about it in The Democrat,&uot; Smith said. &uot;I decided to go by and see if I could help out.&uot;

When Hogan’s health again forced him to leave coaching, Smith took on the role.

&uot;It’s a tough job,&uot; he said. &uot;It gets old, it gets aggravating. But it has it’s rewards when the boys do good.&uot;

Smith said the encouragement of his boxers has been invaluable as he has fought his illness.

&uot;They look out for me like I look out for them,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s a team effort.

&uot;When they lose in the ring I lose in the ring,&uot; he said. &uot;When they win, I win.&uot;