This Neurologist Backs Boxing, Wins Gleason’s Masters Event



This Neurologist Backs Boxing, Wins Gleason’s Masters Event

UPDATE: Bowen won his weight class, taking gold in the Gleason's Masters tourney on Saturday.


Here is the release Gleason's sent out:

Results from the International Master's World Championships last Saturday

Thanks to a nice turn out from around the World, we crowned eleven Champions at the 2016 International Master's World Championships.

Forty-four boxers from around the World registered for the tournament.

The boxers represented Canada, Australia, Germany, United Kingdom, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Alabama, Connecticut, California and New York.

All our bouts were sanctioned by USABoxingMetro.

The winners were:
Bo Bowen from Bienville Boxing Club of Mississippi
Mike Carpenter from Unattached Birmingham AL
Tony Kettlewell from Extreme Boxing Gym of Australia
Robert Belvedere from Dewiths Boxing Studio of Canada
Chris Lembo from Gleason's Gym
Mark Doherty from FAF Gym of Holbrook , MA
Guy Shafer from Brunswick Boxing Club of NJ
Denver Anderson from Bienville Boxing Club of Mississippi
Curdel “Doc” Hoskins from Champ's Boxing
Pete Holman from Mendez Boxing Club
Steffen Ruchholtz from Gleason's/KS Gym of Germany

Bo Bowen is an MD, a neurologist, a brain doctor, so that the Mississippt-based man is a boxing guy and supports the sport, that means something.

Bowen is in NY as you read this, getting into fighting mode, as he takes part in the Gleason's Gym masters boxing tournament which finishes up Saturday.

This is the seventh masters tourney the 44 year old has taken part in, he told me.

Bowen grew up sporty, played baseball at Ole Miss, but then focused on his very intensive vocational track. As he did med school, the residency, the internship, he took his eyes off his fitness regimen.

His waistline spoke to him–time to sweat, downsize jean size.

He'd dabbled in boxing as a kid, growing up in Florida. But tennis is a more civilized choice for a physician. There was one problem, Bowen was bulky.

“Fat,” actually, is how he put it. He busted an ankle going for a ball. So tennis got dumped. Bowen started whacking a heavy bag in a community gym, and his fondness grew. He decided maybe entering a tournament would give him that goal to aid his commitment. “I compete maybe once a year, other than around that time I don't spar, I spar some rounds before a tourney,” he said, and has been at it almost ten years.

Mostly, he self trains, gets some trainer input now and again. “And I liked competing in things growing up, so I still got that in me. Boxing proves to me that if I can show up, stick it out, I still have the guts. So I will spar some, so I don't blink, turn my head, get used to the contact.”

He campaigns as a heavyweight, 178 to 200, and would like to slim to light heavy. But of course, being that he's a brain doc and in fact specializes somewhat in treating concussion cases, often in younger athletes in his community, Bowen has pondered boxing and his brain. “I think you gotta pick a couple risks to take in life. Of course, masters boxing is a different sport than pro boxing. The guys are older, not throwing a hundred punches a round, they have jobs, can't get in that kind of shape, we use 16 ounce gloves and the headgear. If guys are getting overwhelmed, the ref doesn't let it go. So, these tournaments are good, something to shoot for.”

Back to the sport as a whole….Bowen sees patients who have had strokes and seizure and are dealing with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. The death of Muhammad Ali had people asking him about Ali's condition, understandably. Bowen said that it is impossible to know how much boxing contributed to the presence of the condition. Different brains are more or less susceptible to being affected by cellular deterioration. As we age, the brain decays and those with a lower threshold can be impacted. That threshold can be hastened with brain trauma. “Ali probably would have had some issue in his life. But we realize, every fighter doesn't get Parkinson's. But maybe it brought on the disease earlier. But I remember, early on, in my training, I saw an old guy, he had emphysema. And he was smoking and I was asking him about it, lecturing some maybe. And he told me, “You got to live to die.”

Bowen and me are on the same page in understanding that in total, the positive upside of boxing, how it provides a focus and an outlet and a haven for people born into poverty or massively dysfunctional home lives. The media attention most often hones in on the negatives, the examples of pugilistica dementia and such…but the wake of carnage and sadness and violence that so many would have left as their legacy if not for boxing, that doesn't get considered but rarely. “These kids, what are the odds, coming from a bad neighborhood, in a single parent household, they live to age 40, let alone enjoy success? People remember the bad cases,” Bowen said, “of boxers struggling, but that's human nature.”

The brain is basically a rugged object, Bowen continues. Indeed, they can handle getting smacked a bit. They are built to withstand a concussion, even two, and if allowed to properly heal, there should basically be no impediment to continue to engage in activities that involve some risk. Of course, one person having two concussions might be more susceptible to sustaining another, he notes. Yes, the whole issue still is shrouded in some uncertainty. “I mean, George Chuvalo, he got hit a million times, and he's as sharp as a tack! People have different thresholds. But we are getting better treating concussions and understanding the issue. But if the NFL and hockey get banned, what will we do? Just float around in bubble cars?”

The cameraderie in the gym, the bump in self worth, Bowen experienced it and savors it heavily. His first time at Gleason's, about 8 years ago, he was sweating bullets. He didn't know what to expect. Then Iran Barkley came in to the same locker room he was using and was humble and charming. No airs about him.

He lets locals set up shop in his town in some warehouse space he owns, no charge, to train kids in the sweet science, he told me. He's seen hesitant kids get bolder, find their way in a cruel world, because of what they learn in the boxing gym. He hit a Gleason's Gym fantasy boxing camp a few years back, and was struck by the quality of the experience enjoyed by the Give A Kid A Dream crew which owner Bruce Silverglade brings in for a first class foray. “And I support that cause the years I don't go. It's a top level resort, you train like a pro with incredible trainers and pros. These kids and the campers will treasure it forever.”

Yeah, boxing can and does do that. So don't fall for the “boxing is in a death spiral” spiel. That talk has been there since David upset Goliath and people thought there was nowhere to go but down. Silverglade has 1,200 signed up and coming to Gleasson's. Don't believe me, then will you take the word of the brain doctor, then?

Founder/editor Michael Woods got addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the then-impregnable Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist has covered the sport since for ESPN The Magazine,, Bad Left Hook and RING. His journalism career started with NY Newsday in 1999. Michael Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and for Facebook Fightnight Live, since 2017.