Why won’t I turn pro? The reason I don’t want to turn pro is simple, it’s because I don’t HAVE to.
Boxing is a poor person’s sport. Not many successful boxers box for a hobby. That’s because many people box as an escape from their situation.
I am no exception to this rule. I began boxing to change my situation. I had hoped of becoming an Olympic boxer to get my family and I out of the financial deficit I was in.
As I have matured as a fighter, I grown to realize that becoming a professional fighter is only one path for a fighter to take. I made the decision to take the road less traveled and use boxing as a platform to get myself out of my situation while helping others out of theirs. I’ve become a coach, a mentor and educator.
I now use my experience as a fighter to bring awareness to amateur boxing and help raise money for it, to educate others on what it means to be healthy, and to teach others the harms of industrial farming for consumers and the earth.
Rarely do boxers use their platform for other causes. I recently found out that there is another boxer using their boxing career for advocacy.
Rewind seven years ago to 2010. I traveled to Finland by myself to fight in an international tournament and ran into an American boxer named Srđan Lukić (Serg).
Srđan and I spent the week together in Finland (two years in a row) and came to respect each other as fighters and friends. Serg has an amazing story of resilience to tell.
Srđan taught me what it was to have “heart:” An intangible measure of one’s performance, the will to overcome adversity at the point of throwing in the towel. A “never quit” attitude when the odds are not in your favor. Having heart is a concept that Srđan happens to know something about. At birth, he was diagnosed with a Congenital Heart Defect (the Transposition of the Great Arteries).
Born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Srđan had his first open heart surgery at the age of four, but it was unsuccessful and led to a month long medically induced coma. A second surgery was attempted shortly thereafter with a successful outcome. After the civil war in Bosnia, Srdan needed his third and final surgery, and the USA was the country where this would be performed.
Childhood for Srđan was difficult, with many physical restrictions. Participation in competitive sports was not allowed, and numerous medications were required on a daily basis. There was also no guidance on how to live with the after effects of open heart surgery.
Srđan found a local boxing gym at the age 20, and he began workout so to improve his overall health. Boxing quickly became Srđan’s major passion, however, and his coaches saw his potential. Within a few months Srdan decided to compete. His doctors were concerned with this decision at first, but every time he went for a checkup, they were amazed by the improvements of his heart health.
Over his career, Srđan has had 54 bouts, and won three New York State Golden Glove titles. Moreover, his resting heart rate went from the mid-70’s (BPM), when he began boxing to low 50’s, and his blood pressure normalized as well. This was all achieved through cardio workouts and a healthy lifestyle. Srđan has since been able to refrain from all medications. This is the reason healthy living and fitness are a big part of Srđan’s life.
Srđan has now taken his passion for boxing and physical fitness and turned it into a non-for-profit corporation aimed at improving cardiovascular health through boxing workouts, training, and education. Fight For Hearts, the name of his organization, was founded in order to help others improve heart health through fitness and healthy living. Recruiting volunteers to assist as coaches was a simple process. Most of the fitness professionals and boxing coaches involved in training/conditioning Srđan throughout his years, were seeing the impact of fitness on his health first hand.
The Fight For Hearts operations team is under the guidance of two-time Olympic Coach, Tom Coulter (who also serves on the Board of Directors), as well as other experienced coaches: Jim Pigg, Harold Askia, and Juan Perez. With a knowledgeable staff, planning the workouts has been a fairly easy task, and Fight For Hearts is now positively impacting the Syracuse community, Srđan’s home. Currently, Fight For Hearts offers four programs which cover all age groups. Their youth boxing program focuses on core values and staying active, while the general population programs include a Cardio Boxing, as well as a Strength and Conditioning bootcamp.
The Senior Program focuses on mobility, reducing stress and pressure on the joints with the use of resistance bands as a progression to bodyweight exercises. All workouts are free of charge to all participants. With community outreach and alignment of missions, Fight For Hearts partnered with American Heart Association, Housing Authority, the Boys and Girls Club, and the YMCA.
Helping educate the community about congenital heart defects as well as heart disease is a part of the programming. American Heart Association provides literature and research, which is presented in a form of short quizzes to new participants. The goal is to raise awareness as the statistics are very scary—heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women according the Center for Disease Control. Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) is a common birth defect, affecting approximately one out of 100 babies according to the Children’s Heart Foundation. Fight For Hearts is focused on preventing heart illness with exercise and education. It also hopes to reach communities disproportionately affected with cardiovascular issues. They are also working on raising funds to donate to patients of Pediatric Cardiology. To learn more about their events visit www.fightforhearts.org.
When I asked Srđan what it means to “show heart” this is how he responded: “If Fight For Hearts can maintain success and achieve a self sustaining business model, than not only will my heart feel better, emotionally, but so will the hearts of many others, physically and emotionally. First round bell has just rung in our twelve round championship fight. We have a long way to go.”
You can support them by purchasing one of their products or donating on their website. Follow them on FB/IG/Twitter/Youtube all under @fightforhearts1
I will be visiting Syracuse, NY the week of September 10th to visit my friend Srđan and discuss how we can further take our platforms to help the world become a better place.
Srdan was a guest on “Failing Forward Friday” Youtube series. Check it out here.