It's 45 minutes before the fight, and Nick Kisner is getting his hands taped. Kisner and fellow boxer Mike Paschal are trading tips before Kisner's bout at Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie.
The 16-year-old super heavyweight is relaxed but focused. When he matter-of-factly says things such as "I can be so quick that it's hard to hit me. Hands and feet-wise, it's just unreal," it's difficult to not believe him.
When it's time to fight, Kisner moves slowly toward the ring apron with his father, Danny, Paschal and trainer Vince Veazey. His red headgear is tightly in place, and his bright-red tank top with yellow print glistens under the overhead lights as he waits in his corner. His red and yellow silk trunks sway as he rocks back and forth, staring down his opponent in the opposite corner.
When the bell for the first round finally rings, Kisner is no longer calm. He circles his opponent like a shark cornering its prey. In the first minute of the round, his opponent looks frustrated as he gets pasted with left jabs and right crosses. Nick strings together combinations effortlessly, and, in the blink of an eye, his opponent collapses to the canvas, the victim of a pinpoint left hook.
The opposing trainer waves his arms, saying his fighter has had enough, giving Kisner a knockout victory in just a minute and 30 seconds of work.
Kisner leaps into the outstretched arms of his father. This was a satisfying win, but nothing too special. He hasn't lost an amateur fight in two years, and this is his 18th straight victory.
With a 58-22 amateur record, Nick Kisner uses fights like this to stay sharp. He has much bigger goals in mind. Such as the Olympics.
Kisner, a Ferndale resident and junior at Old Mill, wrestled on the junior varsity team the past two years and said the wrestling training has helped him with conditioning and strength in the ring. Kisner, 5 feet 11 and 220 pounds, posted a 10-8 record on the wrestling team last season and finished in fourth place in Anne Arundel County, but he is giving up wrestling this year to focus solely on boxing. His next fight is Nov. 29 at 8 p.m. at Michael's Eighth Avenue.
Kisner, who trains at Club One Fitness in Millersville, has an impressive boxing resume, having won a number of national amateur tournaments in the super heavyweight division (201 pounds and up).
This year, he has won the National Silver Gloves, the National Junior Olympics, the National Golden Gloves and the Ringside World Championship. Having dominated the 15-16 division the past two years, he plans on moving up in January to the amateur men's division, where he'll fight heavyweights ages 17-34.
Setting goals"I do not expect him to dominate the men's division," Danny Kisner said. "We set small goals. The first year, be in the top 10; second year, be in the top four; and by the fourth year, be the top fighter in the [United States]."
Paschal, 26, who has a 13-0-1 record as a super middleweight, doesn't think the men's division will be a problem for Nick.
"I don't think [men's division boxers] can match his speed," said Paschal, a friend of Nick's who also is trained by Danny Kisner. "He hasn't even gotten his strength yet. Once he gets that, he's going to be crushing people."
Nick's long-term goal is to make the 2012 Olympic team. Joe Zanders, who coached Nick at the National Junior Olympics, sees similarities between Nick and U.S. super heavyweight Jason Estrada, whom he coached as an assistant on the 2004 U.S. Olympic team.
"I think Nick has the same type of ability," Zanders said. "He knows how to make his opponent miss and knows how to move his feet. He's big and slick, and you don't see a lot of big boys that can do that."
True dedicationNick has aspirations of becoming a professional.
"I definitely want to be a boxer," he said. "I was brought up with boxing. The way I look at it, all I've ever wanted to do was box."
John Brown, who trained former World Boxing Organization heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison when Morrison was 18, said that if Nick continues to work hard, he has a chance to be a successful pro.
"He has excellent hand speed, determination and grit," Brown said. "Being successful in heavyweight boxing could be one of the most lucrative ventures in sports. I always tell my guys, it's about keeping you healthy and keeping you wealthy. It all comes down to work ethic."
Nick's strong work ethic is reflected in his training routine. During the week, he goes to school until 2 p.m. and then runs for about an hour and a half. At 5 p.m. he goes to the gym to train for about three hours. He trains six days a week.
Sometimes, the training doesn't leave a lot of time to be a teenager.
"He's not able to hang out with us as much because he is training so much," said Mike Sillaman, 16, a friend of Nick's from the Old Mill wrestling team. "He's very involved with the boxing thing, but I'd rather him make something of himself than just simply go hang out with friends."
Danny Kisner, 41, a former amateur fighter who has turned professional and has a 1-0 record, has been training Nick since he was 7. He has seen him progress from a mild-mannered kid to the confident fighter he is today.
"I did not want him boxing," Danny Kisner said. "I spoiled him. I said, 'No one's hitting my baby in the face.' He was meek and mild. I'm still shocked when I see him boxing out there."
'Fight back'Nick Kisner had his first exhibition fight at 7, and started his amateur career at 8. Early on, he lost almost as many fights as he won.
"He was 12 years old, and he won like three of his last 10 fights," Danny Kisner said. "I said, 'I don't know about you, but I don't like losing.' I said if he really wanted to do this, he had to get in there, grit his teeth and fight."
The turning point for Nick occurred two years ago in a loss to a 16-year-old. Nick was in trouble early after his opponent caught him with a body shot 30 seconds into the first round, breaking a rib.
"I felt it snap, and I just put my hand back and held it," he said. "I told my coach that my ribs were broken. He asked me If I wanted to quit. I said no, and he said, 'Good, keep on fighting.' "
Nick said it was the worst pain he has felt in the ring and it impeded his breathing, but he kept going.
He took a beating in the second round, too.
"I just kept on trying to think, 'They're going to stop it,' and I've never been stopped before," he said. "I heard my dad say, 'Fight back!' and I just kept on fighting."
Nick came back in the third round, making his opponent take a standing eight count.
"What I realized through that is if I can survive that, I can do a lot," Nick said. "I lost the fight, but from then on, I've been outclassing everyone. "
'Never give up'With Danny Kisner being a boxer, Nick's family knows all too well the physical risks that come with the sport. Danny has suffered lingering back injuries and a fractured jaw, and his nose has been broken three times.
Nick has had a broken nose and torn muscles in his left shoulder. Even with the injury risks, his family has been supportive of his career choice.
"Being hit over and over again is going to affect anybody. The body is not meant to do that," Danny Kisner said. "It affects everybody differently."
As scary as it can be watching Nick fight, his family always will be there to support him.
Said Dawn Kisner, Nick's stepmother: "Anyone that you care about, you see them in the ring and you always worry. You just have to stick by him and encourage him to do the best he can."
Even if Nick doesn't become a pro boxer, though, he'll take what he has learned from the sport and apply it to everyday life.
"I've learned to never give up," he said. "Prove to the people that you're stronger than they think you are.
"Nick Kisner is going to get back up, and I'm going to fight till I die."