Milano boxer Karl takes a shot at the Oly mpic s

BY MARIE BAKKEN Reporter Staff Writer

Milano High School senior Ryan Karl has come across an opportunity no one in his small Central Texas town has—he has a chance to be an Olympian.

The 18-year-old excels in boxing, something he’s loved since he was a kid and has qualified to compete in USA Boxing’s 2010 Under 19 National Tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio. A win in his weight division will put him in USA’s team that will head to the AIBA World Youth Championships in April. A good showing will send him to the U.S. Olympic Trails where he could earn a spot on the 2010 U.S. Olympic team.

Not interested

For someone who could be an Olympic hopeful, Ryan wasn’t that interested in the sport to begin with.

Ryan is the fourth of five children for Darrel and Katie Karl. The couple has been married 23 years and have been in Milano since 2004.

Darrel got Ryan and older broth- er Ronnie into boxing when they were young. They used to have a boxing bag in their room. Dad taught the boys to defend themselves when there were young. Ronnie caught on to boxing, and Ryan was more of just a tag-along.

At left, Karl assumes the classic pose in a sparring session in Austin. At left, Karl assumes the classic pose in a sparring session in Austin. “I wanted to stay home and play a video game,” Ryan said of the first time they went to gym. Now he’s glad he decided to put down the game controller.

Darrel took his sons to the Waco Boxing Club and the boys were hooked. Ronnie didn’t box for too long, but for Ryan it was in his blood.

“I felt comfortable in the ring,” Ryan said. “I like the competition.”

Cowboy Boxing Club

When Ryan really became competitive in the sport, the family was making at least three trips to the Waco Boxing Club each week. The 70-mile one-way trip was starting to take its toll, so the Karls thought why not bring a boxing gym to Milam County.

Below right, Karl shows off his trophy after taking his weight division at the Golden Gloves Smoker in Ft. Worth in December.  Below right, Karl shows off his trophy after taking his weight division at the Golden Gloves Smoker in Ft. Worth in December. “We thought it a shame that our community didn’t have this opportunity. We wanted to share the sport with local kids,” mom Katie said. “We felt strongly that this would be another avenue to keep kids off the streets and active. This is another opportunity for them besides UIL sports.”

So began the Cowboy Boxing Club in Cameron. There are close to 20 members, ranging from age 8 to 40, both male and female.

“The club is open to train; for cardio boxing, that’s doing the hard work without competing,” Katie said. “You can also just come to learn to box.”

Ages 8-34 are the amateur level boxers and masters are for those ages 34 and up.

Below, Karl’s father Darrel acts as his corner man, providing encouragement, advice and comfort.  Below, Karl’s father Darrel acts as his corner man, providing encouragement, advice and comfort. The club got its name from Ryan going to boxing tournaments in his cowboy hat and boots.

“Ryan is who he is here and at the tournaments,” Darrel said. “They’d kid him, ‘Hey there Cowboy.’ So came the name Cowboy Boxing Club.”

First fight

Ryan was just a 73-pound freckled face carrot-top when he took part in his first bout.

“I was 12-year-old and it was the Golden Gloves tournament in Fort Worth,” Ryan said. “I lost on points, but was awarded Best Round of the Night and got a write up in the Fort Worth (Star-Telegram).”

Ryan said that he learned more from losing that first bout than he thinks he would have had he won.

At bottom, Karl visits with the opponent he was just sparring with in Austin, Casey Ramos, who is 10-0 as a professional. Photography by Bill Martin At bottom, Karl visits with the opponent he was just sparring with in Austin, Casey Ramos, who is 10-0 as a professional. Photography by Bill Martin “It taught me it wasn’t the end of the world and that it is ok to lose. Don’t take that wrong, I really want to win,” Ryan said. “It taught me what I needed to work on and discipline. I don’t think I could’ve felt better if I would’ve won,” Ryan said. He was definitely hooked from the experience and the thrill of being in the ring.

Biggest moment

Ryan’s biggest moment in the ring was when he fought in the “Games of Texas” at 106 pounds against a guy who had 30 bouts to Ryan’s 3. It was in 2005 and Ryan was a freshman at MHS.

“The guy was much more experienced and had five pounds on me,” Ryan said.

The other guy’s coach told Ryan he didn’t want to fight him because they thought the youngster would get hurt.

“Ryan wanted to fight so we let him,” Darrel said. “He almost won.”

His size and inexperience didn’t play a factor.

Ann Wolfe, once the top female boxer in the world, told the Karls after she saw Ryan’s bout that night, “I’m an eight time world champion—keep this kid in boxing.”

Wolfe is now retired and living in Austin. She once held world titles in four different weight classes simultaneously.

For the little guys

Ryan was always the little guy. He had all the heart and strategy, but not the size, his mom says. But in this sport, size isn’t such a factor.

“In boxing for kids, there’s not sitting the bench,” Katie said. “Those who want to compete and work hard, can.”

You will fight someone your size, the field is leveled and it is an opportunity for kids to gain confidence, she added.

“It is a sport that allows kids to compete and there is no bias and favoritism. You are matched up well, one-on-one,” Katie said. “To get you there again and again is courageous. You aren’t on a team necessarily, but you do have other ‘team members’ pushing you to do better and picking you up.”

Staying focused

Ryan isn’t just involved with boxing. He also participates in extra curricular activities such as football, cross country, track, One Act Play, FFA and journalism, and is active with Milano First Baptist Church.

The active teen has had to also learn not just the physical aspects of the sport, but the mental game as well.

Each bout, not called fight, is three rounds lasting three minutes each with a one-minute rest in between.

“My third round is the hardest because that’s where the mental part comes in,” Ryan said. “The physical fight is just half the battle, you have to be mentally ready. If you are not ready mentally, you shouldn’t do it.”

The young boxer has faced opponents of all backgrounds, including boxing coaches, substitute teachers and an ex- Marine.

“After the bout with the 27- year-old ex-Marine with two kids, I learned how much of my boxing is mental,” Ryan said. “You can’t lose your temper in the ring.”

Once you lose the mental aspect, the boxing becomes mere fighting.

“Fighting is losing control,” Ryan said. “You lose your technique and skill. All your talent is gone and you can’t focus.

“All your punches have to be placed at the right place at the right time.”

Missed opportunity

In October 2009, Ryan missed one of his biggest boxing tournament opportunities. He had to miss out on a Nationals level tournament in San Antonio because he came down with mono.

He was weak and could not train, but continued to eat healthy and stay in shape. He ran cross country with mono and qualified and ran at the regional meet.

Because of his dedication to hard work and healthy life style he recovered quickly and was able to return to playing football and training for boxing.

“It was difficult to deal with.” It was the Police Academic League open boxer tournament with male elite boxers from across the U.S. It could have been a huge stage for Ryan had he gotten the opportunity to do well.

Proud parents

Boxing has changed Ryan’s life from the bundle full of energy he used to be as a kid, according to Katie.

“I am impressed with how much discipline and self-esteem it built,” Katie said. “I also see the respect he has for other athletes as well.”

Darrel echoes that feeling.

“He’s grown up to be very respectful. A good young man I am very proud of,” the father said. “He’s developed the values that are going to make him become a positive influence in his community.”


Last month Ryan won the silver medal in the 2009 South Texas championships in San Antonio and was also selected as an athlete representative for the South Texas Amateur Boxing Association.

He is currently seeking sponsors for a trip to Cincinnati on Feb. 8-13 for the USA Under 19 Championships. He will compete in the 141-pound weight class, almost double the weight he was when he started at age 12.

If anyone is interested in becoming a sponsor for Ryan for this tournament, he will put their logo on his uniform and a banner will go in the gym. They have expenses for the fuel, lodging and food for the 18-hour trip and five-day stay. Questions are welcome and Darrel can be reached at 512- 760-6051.

To donate to Ryan’s efforts people can send money to an account, “Cowboy Boxing Club” at Classic Bank in both Rockdale and Cameron.

The male champions of this event will represent USA Boxing and the United States at the 2010 AIBA Youth World Championships in April to be held in Baku, Azerbajan.


A win at the Cincinnati tournament will get him into the USA national tournament to compete for a spot in the 2011 U.S. Olympic Trials. Enough wins in that double-elimination tournament could put him on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team and at the London Games.

Whether competing in Texas or against the world, Ryan will still be that red-headed cowboy from Milano, Texas.

“He’s got Milano red mud on his boots and on the truck when they pull up to the tournaments,” Darrel said. “He’s truly representing the community. He is who he is there and when he’s at home.”

“It’s exciting to be from such a small town and get the opportunity to represent the U.S.A., Texas and Milano,” Ryan said. “You can go as far as you want to go if you want to work to get there.”
Schooling: Senior at Milano High
Boxing affiliation: Cowboy Boxing
Club, Cameron; South Texas Boxing
Height: 5-foot-9 1/2
Weight: 141 pounds
Division: Junior welter weight
Outside the ring: Football, cross
country, track, one act play, FFA,
journalism, youth activities at
Milano First Baptist Church.
Ultimate goal: To become an Olympic
Next round: USA Under-19 championships
on Feb. 8 in Cincinnati,

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