Andrew Pierce made a vow to himself — to get in the ring and fight a boxing match by his 50th birthday.
“It just started as something I have always wanted to do,” said the 49-year-old Cortland man.
The recreation supervisor for the Town of Dryden started training in April and is looking at his first fight Friday at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn.
“They call it the cathedral of boxing,” Pierce said of the gym. “I wanted to make this an event.”
Pierce has a score to settle, with himself. He could have played college football at SUNY Albany and basketball at SUNY Cortland, but walked away from both because of “poor decisions at a young age.”
“I wanted to compete at something at a higher level and follow through on it,” he said. “There’s not a lot more challenging than boxing.”
“I’m pretty excited,” said Pierce, also a coach of the varsity girls basketball in Marathon and boys modified lacrosse coach in Dryden. “I was a little nervous a few weeks ago. The coaches are great, are patient. Now the things they have taught me are becoming second nature. I don’t have to think as much.”
People can check out the Gleasons gym livestream of the fight. A prefight party will take place 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at BRIX, his sponsor, to support him.
Pierce started training in April at the Cortland Elite MMA and Fitness gym on East Court Street. “Right now, I go four to five times a week.”
Three days a week, he does cardio boxing at 5:45 a.m. The men who train together send messages back and forth, encouraging each other to get there. Once in the gym, they support each other. Four or five days a week, he does straight boxing at 6:30 p.m.: how to throw punches, sparring, foot work, ring management.
“It’s an individual sport, but you are working as a team. All the guys are a lot younger,” he said. “It’s great. I love it. I am in the best shape I have ever been in the last 20 years. I enjoy the team work, the team aspect, the mental aspect, the discipline.”
He lost 25 pounds in the past year. After he started training, he discovered the Masters amateur boxing competition for people ages 35 and up. Pierce chose the New York City fight to start.
People at the master level use 16-ounce gloves, which provide more protection than what pros use. He must wear head gear.
“My bouts will be three rounds,” Pierce said. “There’s no more than two minutes a round. I will start at a one and a half minute round.”
Before he could fight, he had to be tested.
“I had to get USA Boxing-certified physical. You do a stress test on the treadmill, a neurological test,” he said.
Pierce is working with his coach, Randy Smith, owner of the gym, who is also organizing his fight, although a suitable match has not been found yet.
“Andrew Pierce is like a fine wine,” Smith said. “He gets better with age. He’s in good shape. He’s a good athlete … He’s ready to roll.”
Smith said the master’s level boxing has gotten extremely popular. Men may have stopped boxing because life got busy, they had kids. Then their lives settles down, and the master’s level gives them an outlet to compete.
“They say you never want to be the guy on the couch saying: ‘I should have done this, should have done that.’ It gives them a platform to train,” Smith said. People only need a dream and a desire.
Smith was 350 pounds when he started and has over 40 professional fights under his belt.
“I am retired now. I am 44. I can still whip Andrew, though,” he said.
“I think it’s great,” said Janice Meyer, 31, a Cortland area professional mixed martial arts fighter, of Pierce going into the ring. “He’s a dedicated athlete, committed.”
She said fighting is tough. “I can go out and run for nine miles (at a good pace) That’s easy compared to being in a cage or ring for nine minutes. The fight takes everything out of a person, she said. “Andrew was shocked when he couldn’t lift his arms” after one training session, she said.
Pierce cast about for a fight name.
He always drinks the Regulator smoothie at the Whole Heart Cafe. And the woman behind the counter said: “The Regulator Andrew! That’s your fight name: The Regulator!”
Pierce had T-shirts made up to raise funds for the fight: Andrew “The Regulator” Pierce.
“It’s a green smoothie that keeps you regular. People are having fun with it,” he said.