Boxing. To some, a sweet science. To others, a barbaric punch in the face contest. Either way, one man sees the highly competitive and grueling sport as his calling.
Dat Nguyen was born in Bien Hoa, Vietnam on October 10, 1982 as the son of a Vietnamese POW, and came to the States at age eight. After coming to the States, he began boxing after watching his brother kickbox in Hawaii, and almost instantaneously began showing promise after winning a Junior Olympic Title in 1996.
After graduating high school in 2000, he got a full scholarship to Northern Michigan University as a part of their Olympic boxing program. Adding to his success, he won medals at the 2002 and 2003 National Golden Gloves event, and is the first Vietnamese-American to win a spot at the US National Championships as well. He turned professional in 2004, and has amassed an impressive record of 17 wins and one loss with six wins by way of knockout.
I recently spoke with Dat about his career, future plans and his newly opened boxing academy in Vero Beach, Florida.
JD: First off – what made you want to become a professional boxer, and who were your biggest influences?
Dat: I think what made me really want to be a professional boxer was because when I was growing up, I saw guys like Oscar De La Hoya winning gold in the Olympics and I wondered why I never saw any Vietnamese in the Olympics for boxing. So I continued in that path and tried to make the Olympics. My biggest influences would be my mother, who worked very hard and sacrificed so much of her life to give my brothers and me a better life. So I wanted to do something special to make her proud.
JD: You`ve done some great things in the ring, and your record, silver medal in Golden Gloves and bronze at the US championships – as well as being the first Vietnamese-American to be in a US men`s challenge – reflects that statement. What was your proudest moment in your career, and why?
Dat: I think the proudest moment of my amateur career was getting to the final of the National Golden Gloves. The title of Golden Gloves has been won by many great boxing champions, and I wanted to be one of them. I fought hard for five nights with five different opponents to get to the finals but the judges were never in my corner. However, I still believe that it was my greatest accomplishment for getting there and it gave me the opportunity to showcase my talents on National TV for the first time.
JD: Is boxing a pretty hot thing in Vietnam? How does training over there differ from how boxers might train here?
Dat: Vietnam doesn`t have pro boxing right now, but I think the government is considering staging some big fights there soon. Vietnam is very new to boxing but there economy is booming and the people there are showing an interest in all things Western. They are also developing their amateur team to compete against other Southeast Asian countries and eventually will try to earn their spot into the Olympics.
JD: Who would you say was your toughest opponent?
Dat: Honestly I haven`t faced any fighters of my caliber yet but I am sure there is still someone out there that will allow me to showcase my talent. However, I feel like I haven`t been fighting at 100%, I`ve made some fights harder than they should have been. But I`m a professional athlete and my profession dictates that I perform at 100% 100% of the time – that`s why I have changed my work ethic. I`m working harder now than ever to make the necessary adjustment.
JD: You`ve opened up a boxing academy in Vero Beach – what prompted you to open it there? What`s your favorite part about teaching what you`ve learned over the years?
Dat: What prompted me to open up the academy was – first of all – I wanted to have a quality facility for myself to train at and be able to control my own destiny. The boxing gym is essentially my office, and I want to remind myself what I need to do to get to the top. Secondly, I wanted to apply my knowledge and experience to those who wanted to learn the art of boxing and also see it in a different light (the teaching side) and perhaps remind myself of the things I`m teaching.
JD: So what sets your academy apart from other academies a prospective student would seek?
Dat: I would say what sets my academy apart from others is the location and the atmosphere. I have the beach, park and the bridges nearby for the best training. Everything is very close. The fighters will get the best possible training without any distractions. The way I set up my gym is to create that extra motivation that people need for a good workout. I want to provide a unique atmosphere that people feel when they come into the academy.
JD: You`re still pretty much in your prime, so what are your main goals for the future? What can we expect from you?
Dat: My main goals right now are to work hard and give myself a 100% chance to be the best that I can be and give it my all to try to achieve my goals. You can definitely expect me to continue to work hard to get to the top.
JD: What advice would you give to aspiring boxers that want to make it?
Dat: They have to truly believe in themselves when no one else will and that advice goes for anything that someone is trying to accomplish. They have to use that as their motivation to work hard every day and to stay focused.
JD: Finally, any upcoming fights we can expect, and if so, when and where?
Dat: Right now I no longer have a manager who looks out for my career so I`m doing self-managing. My promoter has scheduled a fight for December 18th in Houston TX.
For more information on Dat and The Boxing Academy, Vero Beach, FL visit www.miracleboxing.com.
To hear an audio interview with Dat conducted by Judyth Piazza, visit http://thesop.org/story/20101110/judyth-piazza-scores-a-knockout-with-dat-nguyen-boxing-superstar.html