Mike Bockovich, Third Time’s a Charm
Sometimes life gives you a second chance; rarely does it give you a third. Don’t tell Mike Bockovich that. The Hermantown, MN man has experienced it, and luckily lived to tell about it.
In the 1970’s Bockovich was lucky enough to have a metal shop teacher who was a boxing fan. One day he brought in some gloves and had Bockovich and another student spar around a little after class. The boys enjoyed it so much that they started a boxing club at school. That was it; he was bitten by the boxing bug.
The teacher found himself stretched too thin and knew he had to step away. Dale Bockovich, fresh from graduation at Bemidji State, had returned to Grand Marais and was living at home with his family. It was an easy choice for Dale to jump in and help keep the boxing club going. When younger brother Mike entered the ring in Hibbing for his first Golden Gloves fight he wore Dale’s letter jacket as a robe.
Their mother approved of the boxing but felt her son needed to look more the part. She gave him an old green and white robe. The boxer was not a fan of the robe or the colors, but he wore it. After she passed away a couple years later, Bockovich always fought in green and white, just for her.
After two failed previous attempts, he made it count when he won the Upper Midwest Golden Gloves Championship in 1979. Just to prove his point he won it again in 1980. Coached now by his brother Dale, there was talk of turning pro but it just wasn’t in the cards. Mike had a good job up in Grand Marais and Dale didn’t want to coach him as a pro because he didn’t want to be responsible if Mike got hurt in the ring.
But Bockovich was good, and people noticed.
In 1980 a future Canadian Welterweight Champion boxer named Donnie Poole was just preparing to enter the pro arena. He wanted one more amateur fight before he moved up, and he wanted Bockovich. Happy to oblige, he prepared and worked out very hard. In the second round of what Bockovich calls his toughest fight, Poole landed a blow so hard that Bockovich to this day does not remember the rest of the fight.
Fast forwarding a few years, Bockovich found himself in Hermantown, a single parent with four children. But he didn’t throw up his hands and quit, he focused. He knew what he had to do and he did it. The kids grew up and he became step-grandpa to a young boxer who worked out at Jungle Boy Boxing.
When the child asked him for help, Bockovich jumped at the chance to get back into the gym. His body had other thoughts. As pro boxer Al Sands saw him as a guy in the gym to work out, Sands began to put him through his paces. Bockovich dropped, literally. Sands and a woman at the gym administered CPR until the ambulance arrived. Bockovich was heading for a quadruple bypass.
At the hospital he waved his fist in the air yelling that everything was going to be great as they wheeled him down to surgery. His now-wife was there, he knew he needed that second chance.
He got it and a full recovery.
Slowly and surely Bockovich regained his focus. He knew what he had to do in order to stick around, and he did it. When the doctor gave the okay he was back at Jungle Boy Boxing Gym. It was a little difficult doing the workouts and Zach Walters, gym owner, was a bit nervous.
That’s when that third chance came around.
When you’ve got a two-time Golden Gloves champ with over 50 fights working out in your gym you want to take advantage of that experience. Bockovich began a coaching career about a year ago and is definitely hitting his stride at Jungle Boy Boxing. He brings knowledge and focus to the young students. He’s enjoying the appreciation the fighters have when something he’s taught them helps in the ring. And he’s trying to help them outside of the ring as well.
He tells them, “Boxing is just a little part of life, but you can learn so much from it. You have to plan. You have to have goals.”
His last fight was April 15th, 1980. When asked whether he had any regrets about boxing, Bockovich quickly replied no. “Like I tell the kids, you have to work hard or stay home. You get out of it what you put into it. Just like life.”
Just like life. Indeed.