LaRon Mitchell: Balancing teaching and boxing
For a teacher, there is nothing like watching students grow up, learn lessons in life and graduate.
For a boxer, there is nothing more satisfying than earning a hard-fought win, which could include knocking someone out.
Heavyweight LaRon Mitchell has experienced both.
By day, he is an elementary school teacher, imparting knowledge on his students, while, at night, Mitchell applies his craft in the gym, working hard to get better with every training session.
Mitchell has extraordinary power, as is evident by scoring eight knockouts in as many fights as a pro. But the 35-year-old believes he can become a more well-rounded fighter, who could land bigger fights down the road.
Mitchell will fight Curtis Lee Tate in a six-round bout at Omega Products International in Corona, a suburb of Los Angeles. The bout will precede the eight-round main event bout between bantamweight contender Carlos Carlson and Pedro Melo.
Thompson Boxing will promote the card.
While Mitchell has demonstrated he can hurt and knock opponents out with either hand, he does not need to rely on those strengths. Mitchell is a 2012 United States Olympic Trials finalist, defeating the likes of Donovan Dennis and Dominic Breazeale. Mitchell also won a silver medal at the 2012 United States National Championships.
While it has taken time, Mitchell, who resides in San Francisco, is beginning to come into his own as a pro and believes he can turn heads.
“I feel like I’m getting more comfortable with every fight,” Mitchell told RingTV in a recent interview. “It’s starting to feel like sparring. What I work on in the gym, now I’m able to apply those in a fight. It was different in the amateurs because I had to score. Now I’m able to place my shots so that they’re more effective.”
While he is 35 years of age, Mitchell is not rushing himself to fight for a world title or a big-money fight. He expects these things to all come in due time.
“My coach, Dennis Lawlor, says that I’m a Cadillac in a garage with only 10,000 miles on it. I’m going to fight as long as I feel comfortable and as long as I feel healthy. I don’t have a specific long-term goal for now. I’m taking this one fight at a time.”
It is not uncommon for fighters to have a full-time job, especially those who are not signed to a promoter or manager. But there are a very few educators in the sport, especially of Mitchell’s stature, both physically and professionally.
Mitchell took up boxing after earning degrees at Paul Quinn College in Dallas, where he played football, and San Francisco State University.
“LaRon is certainly an intimidating presence,” said Alex Camponovo, matchmaker and general manager at Thompson Boxing. “He’s 6-foot-4 and when he punches you, it feels like you ran into a freight train. But when he’s not knocking out opponents, he’s actually in the classroom educating elementary school kids (at St. Elizabeth’s in nearby Oakland). He has a nurturing side not a lot of people know.”
Mitchell feeds off of each profession, blending the two in certain aspects in and out of the ring. A typical day for Mitchell during the school year is running in the morning, teaching a full schedule during the day and training between two to three hours in the late afternoon and evening.
The everyday schedule and grind have provided a structure for Mitchell, something that has helped him maintain a discipline in the classroom and the gym. It has even been passed down to his students, some of whom have traveled to watch their teacher in action.
“The teaching actually gives me structure throughout the day. I know I have to get stuff done up to a certain time, otherwise life kicks in and that’s teaching. So if I don’t get that run in, then I think about it all day long while I’m teaching. Boxing is a lot like placebos. If you don’t do something, it bothers you. Out of fear, I like having my life structured.”
With school back in session across most of the country, Mitchell is back at it in the classroom. Lesson planning, working with fellow teachers and dishing out tough love will become the norm at St. Elizabeth’s.
While it may be stable and he has done well so far, Mitchell knows he can always become a better teacher as well as a better fighter. Not only is he trying to do both, he is setting an example for his students and all young people he meets.
“I can always get better and there’s always room for improvement. I’d like to fight as much as possible, especially during the summer when I’m off. The school is totally on board with me teaching and boxing because I’m at a low-income school district. It gives the kids another out and know that education is important but you could still pursue goals and try and do other things.
“That’s always a positive for the kids.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since Oct. of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing.