Legacy of boxing glory days revived

Jennifer Smith, a member of the Biscayne Boxing and fitness club, boxes with trainer and UM law alumnus Mickey Demos, Jr. His father, Mickey Demos, was inducted in UM’s sports hall of fame for boxing. Sagette Van Embden // Contributing Photographer

There’s a gym in downtown Miami that holds a missing piece of Hurricane sports history.

Take a step inside on any given day and you’ll find Mickey Demos Jr. leading a class of amateur boxers lined up behind a dozen or so boxing bags. His intensity during the hour-long sessions is unwavering and it drives participants forward during grueling finishes full of push-ups.

Demos Jr. is an instructor at Biscayne Boxing and Fitness Club on Biscayne Boulevard. He gets his enthusiasm from his love for the sport. His father, Mickey Demos Sr. is in the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame for his years spent representing the orange and green in the ring.

Yes, before Howard Schnellenberger made University of Miami football a marquee program, before Ron Fraser brought championships to the baseball diamond, the winning tradition associated with the Miami Hurricanes was boxing.

“That was actually the first sport to put UM on the map nationally,” said Demos Jr., referring to the success of the boxing team in the 1940s and ‘50s, before the NCAA dropped boxing as a sport in 1960.

Demos Sr. was arguably the most successful boxer to ever fight for Miami. He competed twice in the NCAA championships and advanced to the title round during his senior year.

Demos Jr., an alumnus of UM’s law school, is no stranger to the ring, having had an incredible amateur boxing career that included a run of seven State of Florida titles.

He talks about his father’s days as a UM boxer with great pride. The idea to do that came via a random inquiry from a member of Demos Jr.’s amateur boxing class. That member happened to be Aaron Ciarla, an assistant swim coach at UM. Students who know Ciarla got word of the fact that the first-year coach had started taking weekly boxing lessons and interest to start a club was sparked.

“I came to him and said, ‘I hear chatter around campus. If there is student interest, do you guys have the time to [help form a club] and the interest to do it?’” Ciarla said. “I didn’t even know about the history with his dad.”

Demos Jr. agreed with the encouragement of UM alumnus Thomas Tew, who is a friend of his and a member of his boxing class who was instrumental in the founding of the Biscayne Boxing and Fitness Club.

Now the man who holds one of the last connections to a lost UM tradition seems genuinely excited about the prospect of bringing boxing back to the U. Still, a step is missing.

“The clubs at the university have to be student-driven,” Demos Jr. said. “If the students want it … we can help them. If the students want it, we will help them do it.”

The club would be part of the National Collegiate Boxing Association, a non-profit organization that oversees college boxing now that the NCAA no longer sanctions it as a sport.

“I had zero boxing experience,” Ciarla said of his first days taking lessons at Biscayne Boxing. “Mickey’s teaching style is so good, the learning curve is quite fast with him … he’s not just some guy off the street that’s teaching people how to throw punches. He’s teaching technique.”

“When Miami came to town, people were scared,” Demos Jr. said. “They knew they were well-trained.”