Natchez native hopes to bring back boxing to area

Published 12:03 am Monday, September 29, 2014

NATCHEZ — At 39, Cleo Rice III is somewhere most people wouldn’t expect to find him — a boxing ring.

The Natchez native has worked his way into the professional ranks, and he is trying to keep his dream alive.

“The goal for me is a real title, ultimately it is multiple world titles and to become a successful defender of world titles,” Rice said. “I’m in it to make it to the top.”

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Rice’s boxing days date back to when he was just 6 years old.

“I was interested in boxing as a little kid,” he said. “My brother had some friends that went to the boxing club and he took me one day. I saw the guys hitting the bags and working out in the gym, and I told the guy that I wanted to join the club. He told me I wasn’t old enough, and to come back in a couple of years.”

But a couple of years was too late. The club had shut down and Rice was out of luck all throughout his teenage years.

As a young adult, Rice found himself in a bit of trouble and was serving jail time, but what he heard while he was in jail would drastically change his life outside of bars.

“A guy that was in there with me told me they had started a boxing club in Natchez,” Rice said. “He told me he was going to see about getting in it when he got out, and I told him that I had been waiting for a club to open up myself.”

When Rice was released, he headed to the club with high hopes of finally being able to get a career in the ring started, but his mind wasn’t right.

Rice said he told the trainer he wanted to train by himself for a year. Thankfully, the trainer convinced him otherwise.

“He told me to not waste my time when they could give me the skills to start off the right way,” Rice said. “You’ll end up teaching yourself things the wrong way and get stuck in bad habits.”

And so the next day, Rice began his boxing career. And within a few months, he found himself in his first amateur fight.

The training seemed to be working as Rice breezed through the amateur ranks accumulating a 10-0 record. And in 2008, Rice decided it was time to go pro.

He had yet to stumble in the ring, but he soon found out that to compete at that level, it was going to take a lot more.

“It has been frustrating at times,” Rice said of his professional career. “I’ve gone through a lot of mental barriers as far as learning experience and what it takes to be successful.”

Rice has not yet won a professional fight, and sitting at 0-10, he knows he needs a win now more than ever.

“It is very important that I get a win,” he said. “It will move my career at a faster pace. It is getting slow right now because the accumulation of losses has promoters looking over me.”

Rice will get another shot Nov. 1 when he takes on a fighter who is 10-33 according to him, something of which he hopes to take advantage.

Despite his age, Rice believes he still can have a successful professional career ahead of him.

“I’ve prepared for the long journey,” he said. “I have no aches in the muscles or wear and tear because we didn’t have a boxing club that was financially able to send us to fights very often. I’ve been preserved and stayed healthy. I do my best to keep fit.”

At the end of it all, though, Rice said he would like to see boxing make a big comeback in his hometown of Natchez.

“I would like to help others in the community that love boxing,” he said. “And I would certainly love to bring it back to Natchez. We have a Tricentennial coming up, and I’m working with promoters to bring boxing back. They want to have more fights here.”