Tuesday night, while most Harvard students were knocking themselves out deciding which classes to take, Paul D. Rettig '00 was in Lowell, Mass, throwing actual jabs and hooks in front of 2,000 people.
A member of the Harvard Boxing Club (HBC), Rettig won the novice heavyweight division of the Greater Lowell Golden Gloves Tournament, one of the most prestigious all-amateur boxing tournaments.
Rettig's coach, Tommy Rawson, 90, a legend in Harvard boxing, said Rettig fought like a champion in the final round.
"He boxed beautifully and used what he learned here," Rawson said. "That left hand--he used it 100 percent. He moved on his feet. He boxed very cleverly. I told him, 'you're going to Harvard, you must be a smart guy--use that head."'
Due to unusual circumstances, Rettig, an Adams House resident, needed to win only one fight before his trip to the finals. In that match, his first amateur fight, he defeated his opponent handily, knocking him out almost immediately.
"I never even got to sit in the chair in the corner," Rettig said.
"He wasn't even touched in the first fight," said John J. Deleon, a third-year law student who has been Rettig's friend and sparring partner for three years.
Winning the Golden Gloves is one of the highest honors within amateur boxing, Deleon said.
"It's sort of the coolest tournament to say you've won--it's the one the most people have heard of," Deleon said. "The guys you fight in the Golden Gloves are a lot meaner than the guys you fight here [at Harvard]."
A native of Watertown, Rettig played junior varsity basketball at Harvard as a freshman, when he began boxing.
"I actually got knocked out playing basketball," he said. "If I was going to get knocked out playing basketball I might as well try boxing."
Rettig's training consists of attending boxing club practices every weekday. The laid-back, friendly atmosphere of the HBC, which practices in the Malkin Athletic Center, is ideal, he said.
"They take it easy on you, teach you slowly," he said. "I feel lucky that I was introduced to the sport this way."
HBC president Joy J. Liu '99, who won the Golden Gloves title last year in the junior welterweight division, praised Rettig's boxing skills.
"He's a good fighter--you can tell he's a natural athlete and he works hard," Liu said.
As his interest in the sport grew, Rettig started training at a gym in Woburn, where he could practice fighting people closer to his weight.
Yet these hours of practice could do little to teach Rettig the poise he needed when boxing in front of so many people.
"Once I walk out there with 2,000
With the victory just a few days behind him, Rettig seems happy to enjoy the honor, though there is a possibility that he will fight a rematch against his opponent from the final round. But even though another match may mean more bloody noses and stomach-wrenching jabs, Rettig said he looks forward to competing.
"You're friends with everyone, you get in the ring and hit each other in the head and after it's over you're the best of buddies," he said