When the National Collegiate Boxing tournament took place last week at West Point. Nevada Boxing’s Captain Zach Smith came ready to do damage. And when it was over, he left a lasting legacy after winning his championship fight by unanimous decision against Gilford from Shippensburg University.
“When I was getting closer to the fight it was a little different,” Smith said. You’ve got so much going through your head. You start thinking about the good, you start thinking about the bad. I was thinking, ‘what if he’s better than me, what if he’s going to come out harder than me on his first round, what if he’s got better cardio than me.’ I just had to tell myself ‘he’s not.’ He’s not better than you, you can’t think that way or the worst is going to happen.”
Smith and his counterparts at the Nevada Boxing Gym work tirelessly to perfect their craft. From early morning runs to mid-day sparring sessions six days a week, there isn’t much time for school, work and a social life. Somehow, Smith and his colleagues seemed to balance these pillars of life with ease. But underneath all that composure laid times of unrest, worries and difficulties.
“I’m waking up at 3:30, 4:30 in the morning to get to work, go to school, then I got practice and then I have to go back to class,” Smith said. It was hard making sure my mind was right and having that energy to train as hard as I needed to train to win. Sometimes I’d go to practice just not wanting to be there, just wanting to sleep or eat some food. It takes a toll on you mentally.”
That’s a macro-perspective of Smith’s life, but when it comes to just boxing, there is a great deal of moving parts within it. Not only do you have to have powerful punches, but you must know what combination to throw when, be adaptable when your opponent isn’t exactly what you were expecting, have impressive footwork and much more. But Smith constitutes his ability to win fights to one part of the game in particular; cardio.
“The first minute and a half of the first round I thought it was pretty even and I was thinking that I might have a little trouble with him because he was really fast,” Smith said. “But then at the end of that first round, he was already starting to get a little gassed. The second round began and he was just backing up the whole time. I was just moving forward throwing punches and I immediately knew I won the second round. The third round came around and he was just dead. I was wailing on him the whole time. He probably threw 15 punches and I threw close to 100.”
Smith won his championship fight in large part due to his immaculate cardio, but it took time for him to get where he is now. If there was one word in this world that could define a man, Smith’s would be perseverance. During his second year boxing for Nevada, Smith made it to Nationals but lost in the Semi-finals earning him a bronze medal. Disappointed with the outcome, many people would’ve thrown in the towel, but Smith put his head down and kept grinding.
The following season Smith, once again made it to Nationals. His footwork was better than the year before. His punches felt more like battering rams then feathers and his combinations were more advanced. This time around Smith made it to the championship fight, but was unable to will a win from the fight. Now a silver medalist in collegiate boxing, Smith was still unsatisfied, refusing to let that be his ceiling. Once again, he went back to the Nevada Boxing gym and continued to improve.
The ’17-’18 season finally dawned on Nevada Boxing and Smith. With this being Smith’s final season of collegiate boxing eligibility this had to be the season Smith went to the championship to take gold. Smith went undefeated during the regular season, with huge wins in not only Reno but also the Big Apple. Smith blew through the competition at the regional level and found himself at Nationals once again, but this time around was different.
“I’ve been there,” Smith said. “I went to the Nationals each time, I got a taste for it. I knew what it was like. I knew what the environment was like and each year I got closer and closer and this year I had my mindset; I’m not losing. I felt confident, I knew most of the guys in my weight class and I knew that they couldn’t keep up with me.”
Smith was correct in his assertion that no one could keep up with him, taking the championship fight by unanimous decision after putting on an impressive display of boxing against his opponent.
After such a successful boxing career, the biggest question is what is next for Smith? Smith could very well become a professional boxer and make waves in the ring on a large stage. While his skills seem primed for the next level, some chapters are meant to be closed after a high.
“Probably going to hang up the gloves and quit while I’m ahead,” Smith said. Got my championship that I’ve been chasing. Think I’m just going to live my life. Enjoy not having to train every single day at a designated time, meet every single day. Just having the freedom to work out when I want to and do the type of workouts that I want to.”