Whidbey Boxing Club result of coach's passion for sport

Whidbey Island Boxing Club coach Rob Sturdevant, right, works with Walter Hernandez. - Jim Waller / Whidbey News-Times
Whidbey Island Boxing Club coach Rob Sturdevant, right, works with Walter Hernandez.
— image credit: Jim Waller / Whidbey News-Times

Forty years ago, Rob Sturdevant succumbed to the badgering of a neighbor to give boxing a try; now he can’t get it  out of his blood.

His passion for the sport led to the opening of two boxing clubs, first in Arlington, where he coached for eight  years, and then after a move to Oak Harbor, on Whidbey Island about five years ago.

“The neighborhood I grew up in (in Carnation, Wash.) had a boxing club, and the guy who ran it bugged me to try,” Sturdevant said.

At 15 he gave into the requests and was hooked.

He continued to box through a stint in the Marine Corps, and his coaching career began in 1992. Sturdevant, who has two college degrees, is a mechanical designer by trade.

“I love amateur boxing, so I thought I would like to get a team together, to help kids out. It’s kind of a hobby.”

In amateur boxing, the participants must wear head gear and mouthpieces and the gloves are larger than the pros. The boxers are checked by doctors before and after each fight.

For competition, the boxers are classified by age, weight and skill level.

As an instructor, Sturdevant has to be certified every two years and is tested on boxing skills, safety, nutrition and conditioning.

Sturdevant runs the Whidbey Island Boxing Club out of a make-shift gym on his property off Hastie Lake Road. Currently there are eight regulars, ages 11 to 24, on the team and a dozen others who drop by periodically.

“My goals when coaching are to provide the skills and conditioning necessary so that a fighter will be able to compete in a USA boxing sanctioned Olympic-style boxing match,” he said.

“The ultimate goal with these kids is to get them to the national level…and eventually international competition including the Olympic games.”

He developed a two-time national champion while in Arlington, and Oak Harbor’s Devon Burgess competed at the national championships this week.

Burgess, 23, entered the tournament with a 28-1 record and as the Region 12 (Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Idaho) champion.

At a recent Gold Gloves tournament, Mike Rettus won the 156-pound class for 15-year-olds, Mike Farrell took the 200-pound division for 16-year-olds and Nathan Sapanza placed third in the 178-pound, 17-year-old division.

The club next competes in Bellingham March 17.

Winning isn’t Sturdevant’s only goal: “In addition I try to instill discipline, leadership, confidence, academics and the willingness to be an all-around good citizen.”

He added, “I’ll give you the tools to accomplish your goals.”

The club meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 7 p.m. and sometimes on Saturdays for cross country runs.

For more information about the club, contact Sturdevant at or 360-929-4207.

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