sports PHOTOS By LIZ DZURO
From the field to the ring
ALYSSA CUTTER STAFF REPORTER
Former FAU linebacker Andre Clark is used to the glare of the bright lights on the football field, but he now finds himself under a completely different spotlight: the center of the boxing ring. Grinning from ear to ear and bouncing around the ring, Clark almost lasted a full four rounds against opponent Robert Turner Jr. in his professional debut at the Rise of the Heavyweights event at the Seminole Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, Fla., on April 13. With only three seconds left in the final round, Clark succumbed to a Technical Knockout (TKO) after a powerful blow from Turner. It wasn’t the start the rookie was looking for, but Clark knows what it’s like to deal with disappointment. Clark watched his career as a potential professional player go up in flames when he pulled his hamstring on his Pro Day at FAU in 2009. He had been hoping to get drafted into the National Football League, but his dream of playing football at the next level was short-lived. With a family to take care of, Clark had little time to decide what to do next. “I didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Clark. “I have kids, so I didn’t have time to wait. I’d have worked at Burger King just to take care of my family.” Andre Clark looks for an opening against Robert Turner Jr. at the Rise of the Heavyweights event at the Seminole Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, Fla.
Before Clark could don a hairnet and start flipping burgers, Justin Montgomery, director of recruitment for The Heavyweight Factory, a local boxing organization, approached him with an offer. If Clark agreed, Montgomery and trainers at The Heavyweight Factory would train him to become a heavyweight boxer. “When Andre first walked into the gym I saw a good athlete that we could train,” said Montgomery. “I talked to the weight room coach at FAU, and he told me Andre was a hard worker. That’s what this program always looks for.” For Clark, the decision was simple. Having always been a fighter growing up, the switch between football and the ring proved to be an easier transition than both Clark and the training staff expected. “[The transition] for me was really easy. I’ve been fighting my whole life,” said Clark. “It wasn’t the worst, but I had a rough life growing up, and I had to be tough to survive. I always had that, and I knew that if football didn’t work out that [boxing] is what I was going to be doing with my life.” True to prediction, boxing has become a major part of Clark’s life in the past year. Daily training regimes plus learning the nuances of the game have turned Clark from a college football player into a pro boxer in a very short time. According to Montgomery, Clark’s ability to learn quickly is the
reason why he has taken to the sport so quickly. “He’s looking more and more every day like a boxer,” said Montgomery. “He’s figured out that he has to be able to not only dish out a punch, but to take a punch. Usually it takes individuals longer to learn that, but not him. He picked it up quick.” That toughness helped him stay in the ring for almost four complete rounds against a much more experienced opponent at the Seminole Hard Rock Live in his debut. Clark came out in the first round swinging hard at Robert Turner Jr.’s head, going for the quick knockout. However, three rounds and two knockdowns later, Clark could barely stay on his feet. With three seconds left in the fourth round, the referee stopped the fight as a dazed Clark could no longer continue. “I made a lot of rookie mistakes. I’ll go back in the gym and work on my fundamentals of the game,” said Clark. “[Turner] is an experienced guy, and the mistakes I made he capitalized on.” While Clark could not help but feel disappointed with the outcome of his professional debut, he has many more fights to come that will sharpen his skills as a fighter. “This is still a new world for me, so I’m going to take it one step at a time. Heavyweight champion of the world takes a lot of dedication,” said Clark. “My life and everything needs to be in order to accomplish that, but that’s the goal.”
Fun facts • Before Andre Clark turned pro, he TKO’d a fellow amateur 13 seconds into the first round of the fight. • At the Rise of the Heavyweights event the announcer made a comment that it seemed like the entire Miami Dolphins team was in the house. Players in attendance included running back Ronnie Brown, tight end Anthony Fasano and defensive tackle Jason Ferguson. • Andre Clark is known as “The Underdog” because he is undersized by the heavyweight division standards. However, according to his trainers, he can bench press 400-plus pounds.
The Lucky Street Boxing Gym The Heavyweight Factory is based out of the Lucky Street Boxing Gym in Hollywood, Fla. The mission of The Heavyweight Factory is to find top athletes from around Florida who can’t necessarily make a living at the professional level in football and basketball, and then turn them into heavyweight boxers. Recruiters travel to Florida university campuses and also recruit from the Miami Dolphins.
11 • April 22, 2010 • University Press • www.upressonline.com
FAU football alumnus turns to pro boxing