Chances are, you’ve never been to one of the best sporting events in Maine. In fact, you may have never even heard of it.

But you’re in luck. The Portland Boxing Club is holding its annual fall tournament beginning next month.

Boxing? I know, you might think it is violent, rough or not even a traditional sport. You’d be wrong.

Of all the athletes I have worked with, the ones consistently the most dedicated, uncomplaining and sportsmanlike are the boxers.

Check out the Portland Boxing Club’s website and you get an idea why. The coach and leader of the club, Bobby Russo? His name is simply not there.

Instead, there are pictures of athletes, articles about boxing, links telling about the national championships, Golden Gloves awards and other accomplishments of Russo’s boxers.

You won’t hear Russo bragging about his role in these accomplishments or about anything else, because he keeps the focus on the athletes.

There’s information on the website about how people can get involved and learn how to box. I’ve seen athletes from the age of 14 to 40 boxing for the first time.

At either extreme and for each athlete in between, there’s always a big group of PBC fighters turning out to cheer their peers. Olympians and novices get the same enthusiastic support from their teammates. There’s no such thing as a prima donna in Russo’s gym.

On the website there’s also a section explaining that PBC is a nonprofit and that many athletes participate for free because of their financial situations. That’s no joke.

Many of Russo’s boxers are second-generation Americans or come from very tough homes. Instead of being out on the streets getting into trouble, boxing keeps them in the gym, learning about the rewards of hard work.

And boxing is very hard work. Boxers need to be strong, fast and fit. They train like NFL linemen and marathon runners — at the same time.

First-time fighters are easy to spot. In a three-round amateur match, many boxers are so tired after the first 2-minute round they can’t hold their hands up any longer.

By the end of the match, even the fittest and most experienced are exhausted. Imagine what it takes to make it through a professional 12-round match.

Russo’s no tough guy, but he commands respect. He leads his fighters by example, so these boxers are the most polite athletes you’ll ever meet. They look you in the eye when they shake hands, they’re appreciative and they are always respectful of referees, coaches and opponents.

I’ve seen Portland boxers walk out of their way into the visitor’s locker room because they wanted to congratulate their opponent after a good match.

You thing boxers are macho? These PBC athletes look up to three of the best boxers to come out of Portland: Russell Lamour Jr., Liz Leddy and Lisa Kuronya.

That’s right, at the Portland Boxing Club women are among the most respected and successful athletes. They’re knocking sexism out of the water at the gym on Allen Avenue.

Fight nights at the Portland Boxing Club are about sports, not violence. Fighters wear protective gear and the referees are on the lookout to make sure nobody gets hurt.

If there’s a mismatch or if one fighter appears to be in trouble, the bout is stopped. Athletes simply don’t get beaten up.

Instead, they try hard, do their best and win or lose, they learn to hold their heads high as they leave the ring.

So if you’re ready to learn more about a group of Portland’s most admirable athletes, check out the New England championships starting Nov. 5 at the Portland Boxing Club. These young men and women, along with trainer Russo, will remind you how sports provide a powerful tool to help children learn how to become adults.

Dr. James Glazer is a sports medicine physician for Coastal Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Freeport. He serves as a consultant for the U.S. ski team.


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