Since their inception in 2015, UConn Club Boxing has sent 11 boxers to the national tournament, including three All-Americans, but are unhappy with the lack of funding they receive from administrators.
Coach Michael Campisano — with more than 30 years of experience under his belt — seeks drastic change to support a sport that he believes will only continue to grow and get better.
“We need financial help. I understand that we are one of 700 clubs,” Campisano said. “However, we have proven that we can compete.”
Firstly, the club seeks to address the “disaster” that is the student government, claiming their situations is not understood, according to Campisano. When preparing to go to nationals in Reno, Nevada, the club requested funds only three weeks in advance, not the typical six, because they had budgeted for the event. Despite this, funds were denied. Campisano appealed the decision, sending in their budget proposal and explaining to the organization that plane tickets could not be bought until they knew who would be
going to the tournament. Although the school admitted they were wrong, funds were still not distributed; the student-athletes only received an apology.
“We appealed the decision three times, and they did not allow it,” Campisano said. “This is due to the bureaucracy that goes on in Student Government; the administrators know you are right and still ignore you.”
Campisano sees the lack of funding as basic disregard for the skill and ability these athletes possess. He argues designated practice areas are not sufficiently able to support the 60 or 70 average attendees to the practices each week. Furthermore, designated facilities are only available a couple of days a week; the competitiveness of the sport does not allow it to thrive under these conditions, Campisano said.
“There are a lot of things I would like to see but the main thing is more space and time to practice. Boxing is actually a really popular club here, but we’re all in this small mat room,” club captain Mustafa Mumtaz said. “Additionally, it is challenging to truly prepare for bouts when only given the opportunity to practice three days a week.”
Last year, the university caused the club to host their own national qualifier in Bristol with little to no backing. The university said they would not fund anything that occurred over spring break. Campisano and his fighters argued that the competition would begin on a day when class was still in session, but they were denied.
“The qualifier had to be totally funded by the club. We ended up losing $700 in the process,” Campisano said.
Other ideas the club have pitched have been denied. When suggesting they fight UMass before the football game involving the two schools —a tradition in club boxing, especially with the Army and Navy — they were told that there was no interest on campus.
“It’s kind of disappointing when you hear something like that, because we draw thousands of people for the national tournament each year,” Campisano said. “If anything, this proves we are not ‘there’ yet, and will only motivate the fighters to make a name for themselves.”
A plethora of fighters have been recognized on the house floor in Hartford; additionally, more and more students continue to earn prestigious titles, such as returning All-American Gina Rossetti and New England Golden Glove Champion Rich Brito.
Then again the team thinks, more of an influence is needed. Nationally, the Huskies have improved steadily year by year, and they hope to do the same going into the new season.
Mumtaz and Rossetti lead the front lines as they look to lead the team into unchartered waters of success.
Mumtaz, a junior, leads his men into battle after coming off a year undefeated in all three of his bouts. Sophomores Matthew Haynes and Maxwell Landolina are not far behind, wishing to capitalize off their exceptional freshman years. Haynes — like Mustafa — was also able to go undefeated in all three of his bouts. Moreover, Landolina demonstrated his promise through his grit and toughness, ending the year at .500 (1-1).
On the other hand, the women have the highest national expectations going into the new season, with a chance at placing top three in the country. Campisano has set the bar high and expects them to have a breakthrough year.
“If they can stick together, become a family and work hard, the future is in their hands. They can truly make the future anything they want it to be,” Campisano said.
They will be led by senior Corona Zhang, a returning national runner-up who will look to use that defeat as motivation throughout the season. Not far behind is Rossetti, an All-American who has a legitimate shot at becoming a national champion. However, Campisano asserted that she first needs to recognize how good she truly is to be able to exert all of her potential.
Additionally, the club have put in a bid to host the national tournament in 2021. With this in mind, these fighters will be working as hard as ever to assure they can represent the world of collegiate club boxing.
“These are special kids,” Campisano said. “In a school of 30,000, only about sixty of them are mentally and physically able to do this sport. That says something about their character.”
They begin their campaign on Oct. 28 in Cincinnati, looking to positively jump start their 2019-20 campaign.
Sebastian Garay-Ortega is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @sebastian__305.