The tagline on Jim Barr’s business cards is very appropriate.
“We don’t lose. We either win or we learn.”
Barr, 61, has been a teacher for 30-plus years and his subject is boxing. Boxing is the epitome of getting back up after you’ve been knocked down.
Win or lose, learn.
“I saw that somewhere; I can’t remember where,” said Barr, who has coached the Cedar Rapids Boxing Club since hanging up his gloves in the mid-1980s. “I thought that sounds good to me.”
He had T-shirts printed with those words and added them to his business cards.
“Sometimes you can learn more from losing than you can from winning,” Barr said.
The sport of boxing has seen its share of losing over the years, but still is standing and, hopefully, still learning.
When the likes of Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier ruled the heavyweight division, boxing was a huge draw. The middleweights were the next big thing, when Sugar Ray Leonard was king.
But “the sport of kings” hit some hard times with a lot if infighting, multiple governing bodies and champions in too many divisions for fans to remember. Mixed Martial Arts stole a lot of boxing’s thunder and still remains popular today.
“We’re trying to bring things back,” Barr said.
He thinks a little assist from the professional ranks would be beneficial — things like a consolidated governing body with one true champion or a “charismatic” champ a younger generation can get behind.
“I don’t think that would hurt things at all,” he said. “I’m a boxing guy who has been around the sport a long time and I’m not even sure who the heavyweight champion is now.”
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The answer is England’s Anthony Joshua, who holds the IBF, IBO, WBO and WBA “Super” titles. Or is it Manuel Chartr of Syria, the WBA “Regular” champion?
See the problem? And those are not exactly household names.
MMA champions are little more well-known, with the likes of Connor McGregor and former wrestlers like Daniel Cormier. But “MMA is losing some of its luster and boxing is coming back a bit,” Barr said.
The two sports have been working together in an attempt to make both relevant with a generation of sports fans who want action, and lots of it, in a short time frame.
Barr sees that and said he’d like to put on a show at Veterans Auditorium — where the CRBC calls home thanks to Terry Van Dorston — that includes boxing and kickboxing.
“I’d like to bring pro boxing back to Veterans Auditorium,” he said.
Barr’s latest batch of amateur boxers did very well recently at the Iowa Golden Gloves tournament in Des Moines, taking home the team title. Cody McDermott was named Outstanding Novice Boxer after winning the super heavyweight title, and Jacquie Cuddeback (106 pounds) and Mitchell Leconte (132) won Open titles. Carl Reynolds (141) and Jan Rosenburg (123) were Novice runners-up. Cuddeback, Leconte and possibly Reynolds will fight in the national Golden Gloves tournament next month in Omaha.
Barr was named coach of the Iowa team.
That’s a fitting honor for a guy whose love of boxing started at a young age, following in his father’s footsteps.
“We always had a heavy bag and a speed bag in the basement,” he said.
He eventually had a pro career, but, after breaking his hand, decided to coach instead.
“I wasn’t bad — I won all four of my pro fights — but I knew I wasn’t going to be a world champion,” he said with a laugh.
But boxing’s appeal, and it’s lessons, never left Barr.
“I think the discipline that’s involved,” he said when asked what boxing can teach. “I like to think we teach a little more than boxing .., respect, ethics, working hard, striving for a goal.”
And those are the things Barr still enjoys to this day.
Win or lose, learn.
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