Boxing clinic proves it’s as much about the mindset as the body

Boxing coach teaches youth life lessons in the ring.

Mario Cabillo

Mario Cabillo

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

They are the most famous words ever to be spoken by the most famous boxer of all time. But what else does it take to prove yourself in the ring?

Mario Cabillo, the boxing director for the Bremerton Youth Boxing Association, said it takes your brain more than anything else.

“It’s a mental thing,” he said. “They’re not just coming for the boxing.”

Cabillo trains students at the Sheridan Park Community Center off of Lebo Boulevard in Bremerton. Most of the athletes are in high school, but he also trains several adults and offers classes for children 8 and older.

Cabillo has been boxing since he was little. “I grew up in a rough neighborhood and needed to know how to defend myself,” he said.

When he came to South Kitsap, he saw a need to pass on his knowledge to at-risk youths in the area. Although, when he first suggested the idea, it was brushed off as “too brutal.”

“This is an old-school community,” he said. “But it has been in the Olympics for ages, and Olympic-style boxing will never change.”

Although there are several other forms of hand-to-hand combat that Cabillo has experience with, his true passion is boxing and the connection he makes with his pupils.

“I’m a humanities guy,” he said. “It’s an egotistical sport, but I ask everyone who comes in, ‘What did you come here for?’ And then I try to give them that pebble.”

One student Cabillo trains with is a 14-year-old from Central Kitsap High School named Tom. After his first training session, he was hooked and comes back every week to learn — and to talk.

“He has promise. He’s tentative, but you can see he’s an athlete,” Cabillo said in between sparring sessions. As he pointed where Tom was to hit Cabillo, he gave him pointers between each punch: “Don’t run.” “Breathe.” “Don’t rush it, keep your elbow in.”

Cabillo said Tom will compete at the showcase he’s working to set up at the community center. He, along with Port Orchard’s gym Cal’s Olympic Boxing, are working with Mayor Patty Lent to set up the area’s first competition. And the thought gets Cabillo excited.

“Can you imagine the gym packed with people watching? Your son is competing against his friend and their family and friends are there. How many will come to watch them?” he asked.

Cabillo has trained several top-tier fighters in his time as a coach. Ramel Clasablanca, for example, a Bremerton High School graduate, won the Northwest Golden Gloves amateur super-heavyweight title (205 pounds and up) at the 65th annual Tacoma Golden Gloves championships in 2013.

Another is Gerald Washington, an undefeated heavyweight who also trained on the Seattle Seahawks practice squad.

Cabillo, 58, said he plans on doing what he does for a long time. Although his competitive days are over (“I can feel my injuries and where I had surgeries”), he enjoys what he does and wants to continue passing on that knowledge and passion to kids who need it.

“We’re small here, but it would be great to get another champion,” he said.

Cabillo coaches Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and can be contacted at 360-551-3134 for additional information.


More in Sports

A BIR Girls 4x JV team: Veronica Conklin, Linden Skalak, Annabel Nemeth and Natalie Noel. (Contributed photo)
Smaller-boat work helps BIR in post-season

The youth athletes of Bainbridge Island Rowing have ended their seasons with… Continue reading

Principals overrule ADs; Bainbridge stays in Olympic League

The athletic directors said no, but the principals said yes, and Bainbridge… Continue reading

Bainbridge’s Garrett Swanson, shown here at the 2020 Mat Classic at the Tacoma Dome, was the all-league pick for the 106 weight class. (KNG File Photo)
NK’s Hammou, Bainbridge’s Swanson on all-league wrestling team

It was a tough year for wrestling with much lower participation numbers… Continue reading

Chad Nass steps down as SK wrestling coach

After 17 years and plenty of successes in the record books, Chad… Continue reading

Kingston senior Morgan Halady will continue her volleyball career at the Division 1 level, playing for Portland State next year.
Kingston’s Halady takes twisting path to Portland State

Morgan Halady went down a long and winding road to find her… Continue reading

North Kitsap junior Jonas La Tour was named Olympic League MVP.
 North Kitsap junior Jonas La Tour was named Olympic League MVP. (KNG File Photo)
NK’s La Tour named Olympic League MVP

Jonas La Tour was the leading scorer on North Kitsap’s league championship… Continue reading

Bainbridge knocked off Central Kitsap 59-46 to win the third place game in the Olympic League tournament. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)
Spartans regroup to finish third in league tournament

An emotional overtime loss to North Kitsap in the Olympic League semifinals… Continue reading

Keel Slayback
SK wrestling wins SPSL title

Wolves wrestlers dominate in tournament of state’s toughest league

Most Read