UCR’s Highlander Gloves women’s team won the USIBA (United States Intercollegiate Boxing Association) team title this past March, the first in the school’s history. The school’s official boxing club sent a team of male and female boxers to compete at the 11th annual edition of the tournament at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia.
The club and team, which is coached by Joab Corey, an associate professor of economics at UCR, promote boxing as both a great workout and a safe space for students to develop positive qualities in one another. This is on clear display by the interactions between members as well as resources provided by the club to promote a healthy lifestyle for its fighters. The club holds practices two days a week and offers shuttling to and from their off campus gym where members and fighters can learn and utilize the fundamentals of boxing, developing their skills.
Towards the end of every academic year the club sends an official fight team consisting of student boxers to the national USIBA competition, first formed in 2012 to promote a safe, competitive and exciting league for their teams. In this edition of the competition UCR walked away with three belts won by Haley McCreery (Female 119 Beginner), Jacob Castillo (Male 132 Open) and Carlos Rivera (Male 154 Beginner “A”) as well as a fourth belt won by the club via UCSC’s Matthew Goldschmidt (Male 154 Beginner “B”). These four belts in addition to the women team’s team championship is an incredible result for Highlander Gloves who came away with five belts in last year’s iteration of the competition.
Despite the incredible achievement of these student athletes and the effort and dedication they put on display throughout the year to achieve these results, their accomplishments were not promoted nor celebrated by the school. Highlander Gloves has consistently been relegated to less publicity and appreciation in comparison to the school’s other sports teams which is incredibly disappointing given the incredible impact the club has on its members and the community.
This is in no way saying that any other of UCR’s sports teams and clubs should receive less appreciation for their efforts and impact, but rather an indictment on the school for consistently relegating its athletics programs to the back burners. Just around three years ago did the athletics program as a collective face cuts to their budget, and the termination of many of its teams including the now wildly successful men’s soccer team which won a double Big West title this past season.
The hiring of athletic director Wessley Mallette is a great move in the right direction for UCR’s appreciation of their sports program but the school’s higher ups still undervalue the importance of athletics on student life. While many other schools in the University of California system champion athletics and benefit greatly from its profits, UCR fails to capitalize on its large student population to drive interest in its athletic programs and clubs.
If UCR wishes to follow their core values of “integrity, accountability, excellence and respect” then it must place a much higher appreciation in sports which teach athletes every one of those values. Highlander Gloves clearly imparts this knowledge on its members yet it receives little love from the school’s administration. It is now up to UCR’s higher ups to improve its appreciation of its athletics including Highlander Gloves by providing them with more funding, facilities and publicity to improve both student life and culture at the school while increasing the school’s allure. In the meantime, however, it is up to the student body to seek and appreciate the students who fought at USIBA, and Coach Corey for their efforts this past year.