A gritty life of boxing prepared Mark DeLuca for the Marines
After a year of being a professional fighter, Mark DeLuca took a look around him. He had dealt with a laundry list of injuries and many of the people with whom he had grown up in Massachusetts were joining the military to serve abroad. Parris Island is no holiday retreat but the sacrifice and discipline of which he had grown accustomed since age 3, when his father first put a pair of gloves on him, had conditioned him to the life he would have to get used to.
“Doing boxing it at such a young age, you’re faced with fear and adversity and you have that hard work and discipline,” said DeLuca (21-0, 13 knockouts), a 30-year-old junior middleweight prospect out of Whitman, Massachusetts. “It was a little bit of a shock when you join the Marines; you get very regimental and stuff like that but, for the most part, boxing prepared me for the military.”
DeLuca enlisted as a reservist in the Marine Corps and was 8-0 when his status was switched to active service in 2011. He was shipped off to Afghanistan, working as a machine gunner, and says the experience opened his eyes to the world at large, and his countrymen at home.
“I served with all different cultures and religions and races, so I drew from that experience. Mexicans from California, Jewish kids from Brooklyn, Puerto Ricans, black, white guys from Alabama. That was cool to see, different parts of the country coming together to be a part of one main cause,” said DeLuca.
“I wasn’t in the heavy combat zone. It wasn’t like I was catching bullets every day but when you are in a war zone, you have to have some sort of level of hypertension. I don’t like to fabricate my deployment service. I wasn’t in ‘the sh*t,’ so to say.”
Where he has been in “the sh*t,” however, is in the boxing ring, with his aggressive southpaw style making him a fan favorite in the region that Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Rocky Marciano once called home. DeLuca brought that approach to the ring once again, last weekend, finishing late-replacement Ramses Agaton in the seventh round, at the Marina Bay SportsPlex in Quincy, Massachusetts, in the main event of an ESPN card.
Fighting is in DeLuca’s blood. His father Mark Sr. was a police officer and ran the local Police Athletic League boxing program in Quincy, and his uncles and siblings all were involved with the sport at some point. When that program closed, Mark’s father took him to another local gym, and he began competing seriously at 11 years old. He was a standout in the national Junior Olympics tournaments but had a rough time adjusting to the open class, running into elite upperclassmen like Demetrius Andrade and Edwin Rodriguez.
After falling short of qualifying for the 2008 Olympics, his father figured his style was better suited for the pros, and moved him toward that direction in 2007. He’s had to overcome many setbacks since then, including broken hands, four shoulder surgeries and a neurological issue that cost him his license but has since been resolved.
After the Marines, DeLuca briefly flirted with another career path.
“I went to barber school for a cup of tea; I didn’t graduate,” said DeLuca. “I didn’t have too many aspirations of being a barber and I was awful at it anyway.” Did anyone trust him with a pair of clippers?
“Not unless they wanted a number zero and they wanted their head shaved off.”
DeLuca is now trained by Hector Bermudez and is promoted by Murphys Boxing, the outfit headed by Dropkick Murphys bassist/vocalist Ken Casey. Though he had headlined Golden Boy Promotions’ card last weekend, he says he’s not signed with the company and had recently gotten his release from adviser Al Haymon.
DeLuca isn’t sure where he fits at the moment, in the stacked 154-pound division, where Erislandy Lara (WBA), Jermell Charlo (WBC), Jarrett Hurd (IBF) and Sadam Ali (WBO) hold the major titles. What he does know is he doesn’t have any cuts on his face and only a bit of hand and body soreness to brush off before returning to the gym on Friday. He says he’s ready to fight again soon and awaits the day he gets his crack at the upper echelon.
“I’m being patient with my process and my development as a professional. I understand there’s levels and, right now, I’m at a certain level. At the same time, I’m grinding and my appetite is still hungry for a big name or an opportunity at a belt. I’m definitely looking forward to a big name down the road,” said DeLuca.
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at [email protected].
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