Editor’s note: During each Chips Quinn orientation and multimedia training in Nashville, Tenn., in May, scholars are required to complete a multimedia reporting assignment. Their work is displayed here.
Nashville boxer eyes the 2020 Olympic Games
by Benjamin Din
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Ryan Shaw has been to the pyramids in Egypt, visited the Sydney Opera House and climbed China’s Great Wall. These days, the 23-year-old amateur boxer has set his sights on Tokyo and the 2020 Olympic Games.
But Shaw is at a disadvantage: He started boxing only two-and-one-half years ago, after a high school friend introduced him to the sport. At 114 pounds, he’s a flyweight. By comparison, all three medalists in the weight class at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro came to the contest with at least a decade of experience.
It won’t be an easy path, but Shaw has at least one well-known supporter from the boxing world in his corner – Christy Halbert, a U.S. Olympic team coach for the 2012 Summer Games in London, where women boxers earned gold and bronze medals.
Although Shaw is relatively new to the sport, his skill level has surpassed Halbert’s expectations, given the amount of time he’s put in, she said. Halbert is the director of the Boxing Resource Center, the gym where Shaw trains in north Nashville that offers personalized attention and frequent sparring opportunities.
“Ryan’s success comes from his tenacity and his commitment to the training,” Halbert said. “He is a sponge and that, coupled with the fact that he is extremely intelligent and a hard worker, (means) he’s essentially skyrocketing in terms of his skill development.” Halbert praised him for being quick on his feet and creative in the ring.
Having Halbert’s support gives Shaw confidence that he can make it to the Olympics, he said. Also crucial to his bid are following a strict vegetarian diet, adhering to a 30-hour training regimen at the gym each week and a maintaining strong support network, including a cousin who is a trainer at the same gym.
“I’m really strict on making time for this because I know I’m getting better,” Shaw said. “I have goals where I want to go with this, so I gotta sacrifice time to reach those goals.”
His Christian faith, which he found during college, played a pivotal role in Shaw’s life and it also influences him, inside and outside the ring.
Becoming a vegetarian was a result of a “Daniel” fast – a reference to the eponymous book in the Bible – his church was participating in, and his Bible study group motivates him to keep doing better.
“It’s important to me – not to get religious or anything – but I just feel like it’s God’s plan for my life, so I’m just following him,” he said.
On a typical day, Shaw gets up at 2:30 a.m. to prepare for his 4 a.m. shift at Nashville International Airport, where he works as a bag handler. His job comes with perquisites, such as free domestic flights.
He has used these flights to travel to Los Angeles to spar with Olympians at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club, where famed boxer Manny Pacquiao once trained.
But working at the airport is not Shaw’s end goal. Neither is going to the Olympics. Rather, he said, he wants to go back to school, finish his degree and accomplish his lifelong dream of becoming a dentist.
“I love teeth,” he said with a laugh, flashing a wide smile of perfectly straight pearly whites.