Shelby Township man, 65, embarks on amateur boxing journey

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Shelby-Utica News | Published July 24, 2023

 Gary Richard hoists his Midwest Masters Boxing Tournament title belt alongside his daughter, Emily Kot, after earning a decision victory on July 16 in Ann Arbor.

Gary Richard hoists his Midwest Masters Boxing Tournament title belt alongside his daughter, Emily Kot, after earning a decision victory on July 16 in Ann Arbor.

Photo provided by Emily Kot

 The New Way Training Center Family came out to Ann Arbor to support Richard July 16.

The New Way Training Center Family came out to Ann Arbor to support Richard July 16.

Photo provided by Emily Kot


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Father time has an unpleasant way of rearing its ugly head sometimes, but it also can motivate people to kick off certain projects or adventures that have been weighing on their minds.

So when Shelby Township resident Gary Richard, 65, found out in December of last year that he was going to need cataract surgery, it was all systems go toward something for which Richard has always had a passion.

“I said, ‘After I have cataract surgery, can I box?’” Richard said. “They said, ‘No, absolutely not. You got a plastic lens in your eye, and you’re more susceptible to retinal detachment after cataract surgery.’ I’ve always liked to live a life of no regrets, so I thought, ‘You know what, I’ve always wanted to compete, I got a year, so let’s do this thing.’”

For the past decade, Richard has been embedded in the world of boxing as much as one can be from home. Working on form with his four bags — a speed bag, a heavy bag, a double-ended bag and an uppercut bag — three times a week, Richard was his own version of Mickey Goldmill.

Just to get a feel for being hit, Richard and his buddies would spar in a padded area in Richard’s basement.

But once the hourglass flipped enough sand for one full year, Richard was determined to get some amateur bouts under his belt, so he registered with USA Boxing as a fighter, with his doctor’s approval of course.

“I want to get as many bouts in as I can before the clock runs out, and then I can say, ‘Hey, I did this and I have no regrets about that; it was fun while it lasted,’” Richard said.

As of now, Richard has two bouts to his name with a perfect 2-0 record, earning one knockout.

Richard earned his first win June 10 with a third-round KO in Sugar Grove, Illinois, a non-USA Boxing event, and followed up that performance with a decision victory on July 16 in Ann Arbor. Each fight is with a fighter within 10 years and 10 pounds of Richard, and they compete in three rounds of up to two minutes.

Richard said the difficult part of heading into his first fight was simply being in the uncharted territory of an actual boxing match, but his first amateur tuneup would be against one of his familiar sparring partners, Patrick Startt.

Startt and Richard were able to set up a bout together at Rocky’s Dojo in Sugar Grove, and it was just the mix of confidence and comfortability that Richard needed for competing in USA Boxing events.

“I sparred with him, and I kind of knew his style,” Richard said. “The unknown is what’s always most frightening. I’ve gone skydiving, and the unknown was what scared me more than anything. Once you do it, it’s, ‘Oh, that was really thrilling,’ but nothing bad happened and it was really cool.”

While Richard had enjoyed his usual training routine of the last decade, he finally was able to devote time to a training center, which he’d been unable to do while raising a family.

Looking to sharpen his skill set, Richard found a home at New Way Training Center in Shelby Township, where he impressed coaches immediately.

“Honestly, he’s a true inspiration,” New Way owner Bobby Curtis said. “I’m 44 years old, and I’ve been doing this a long time, and I say all the time that I hope when I’m 65 years old that I can have his energy, his outlook and his mindset. He’s just a phenomenal human being.”

Curtis, who founded the gym in 2011 alongside his wife, Izi, and Sunshine Ross, has been training Richard with Kahmel Makled, a top-10 ranked cruiserweight in the country and Detroit Golden Gloves Heavyweight Champion.

Richard said that even though there’s an age gap between him and his coaches, the chemistry with them is all he could ever ask for.

“He’s (Makled) a younger guy in his 20s, and we just connect,” Richard said. “We’re always on the same wavelength. I come in to work out and he puts on classic rock. It’s just a blast working out with these people. They’re very encouraging.”

Along with the sense of his irreplaceable personality, Richard’s time at New Way has elevated him into a much more fluent boxer in the ring. So much so that he’s going strike-for-strike with boxers less than half his age.

“Gary’s been progressing as a technical boxer,” Curtis said. “He had some of the basics down, but there’s some of the bad habits that come along with not training enough with a trainer and doing things on your own. Over the past three or four months, he’s made the biggest improvement. I’m talking about him getting in there with some of my kids who are 21- or 22-year-olds with multiple national tournaments and national boxing fights under their belt, and he gets in there and goes toe-to-toe with them.”

Even after Richard’s boxing days are over, he said he still plans to make New Way a part of his weekly routine, along with his morning walks and musical performances for senior citizens. Richard, who’s been a musician since he was 14 years old as part of a band with his brother, is still performing the classic hits of the 1940s and 1950s to his senior audiences utilizing his guitar, vocals and kazoos, and he credits his music career as a reason for his strong lung capacity while boxing.

He’s a man of many talents, but he’s not a man of regret, and when his final bout is all said and done — no date was set at press time for another bout or for cataract surgery — Richard can check boxing off his list.

“I’m in the best shape of my life, and to be able to say that at 65 is saying something,” Richard said.