Almost without fail, about 30 seconds remain in any given round when Ray Barone‘s voice booms from his boxer’s corner. “Let’s go, Army — let’s go.”
It’s to motivate, but also a baritone warning of how much time remains in this square, roped island in which cadets get real-world experience and military training.
The United States Military Academy‘s boxing club team is not merely for entertaining men and women swilling $5 beers at a Holiday Inn ballroom in Saratoga Springs. It’s six fist-flying minutes of studying fear management, a critical mission for West Point cadets, says Barone.
“I get calls from guys all of the time who are in the military now,” Barone said. “They’ve been shot at. Stories that will break your heart. And they’re saying, ‘Coach, boxing helped me through it. It helped me lead my soldiers. It helped me survive when it was rough.'”
Barone pauses for a second before quietly adding, “Because it’s pretty rough in there.”
“There” is the boxing ring. It’s also often the Capital Region. Barone, a 1978 Siena graduate, regularly brings his team here for competition.
In January a small group competed at Green Tech High. Earlier this month, Barone brought five boxers a little farther north to Saratoga. A return is tentatively planned Feb. 27 to Quail Street gym in Albany.
Barone, in black pants and a short-sleeved black Army shirt along with pristine white sneakers, looks all business. He stands 6-foot-4, sharp jaw, brick-sized fists. He became an actual professor of pugilism — his title was boxing course director — and also the school’s volunteer head coach since he retired from two decades of military duty in 1999.