All Valley Boxing (AVB) started in a church garage in Carbondale about six years ago, according to the organization’s founder, Paul Shaffer. Today, as a nonprofit organization, AVB strives to strengthen the quality of life for its participants through boxing.
Shaffer grew up in the Boston area. He was in his early 20s when he happened upon a boxing gym readying to open its doors. “I stopped in one day and, as they say, ‘The rest is history.’”
He went on to compete in Golden Gloves competitions and was ranked number two in New England’s amateur boxing circuit in the early ‘80s. After being offered a five-year contract through a world-class manager, he had a conversation with his dad, who encouraged him to do some soul searching. He did, and opted not to accept the offer. “So, that was my retirement,” Shaffer laughed.
Still, he’s always maintained a love for the sport.
Shaffer has been coaching the Power Punch Parkinson’s classes nearly since the organization’s inception.
In the beginning, AVB moved around a bit, holding young adult sessions at Bridges High School in the mornings, and, “All the while, we were teaching the Parkinson’s crew out of what was then the Rising Crane Training Center,” explained Shaffer. Rising Crane closed its doors about a month ago, he added, so those classes have resumed at Elite Performance Academy in Carbondale and Midland Fitness in Glenwood Springs.
In fact, the former owner of Rising Crane, Karen Bradshaw, started the Power Punch Parkinson’s program locally, before handing it off to Shaffer. There are similar chapters across the country.
Power Punch is sponsored by the Parkinson Association of the Rockies (PAR), making those classes free of charge to participants. “I never want money to be a reason why somebody can’t come in and train,” said Shaffer.
Typically, exercise comes highly recommended to those living with Parkinson’s disease, and, according to PAR’s website, “Exercise has been proven to slow the progression of the disease.”
Boxing is also a great way to focus on coordination. “There’s a cognitive association,” stated Shaffer. “There are a number of punches and we number every punch … so they have to associate a number with a punch on the bag,” not dissimilar to training as a professional boxer, he added.
There’s a lot of balance work involved, as well as strength building — covering each corner in the fight against Parkinson’s.
There’s also a social aspect, Shaffer continued, even when it comes to “mitt-work,” with one participant wearing mitts meant to receive hits for their partner to throw punches at.
“A lot of people have been here for years, coming to the same class,” he added. Meeting up three times a week, regular members have cultivated true friendships through the program.
AVB has trained young adults, 14 and up, also for about five years — although at a more permanent location, Midland Fitness, for the last three.
Through the sport, young people not only learn how to throw punches, but it teaches discipline and the value of hard work. “Most of them will say it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever done,” Shaffer told The Sopris Sun.
Being an individualized sport, it takes a lot of self motivation. “You can see the ones who really start picking it up versus the ones who still kind of drag; but once I kind of nudge them along they start understanding … what they need to do to get the job done.”
Shaffer continued, “My motto is, ‘The hardest part is showing up,’” a phrase he picked up from a role model of his own.
Furthermore, Shaffer pointed out that a trainer can’t work with everyone at once, because they’re all at different levels — further incentivising self-discipline.
Usually, it takes about a month or two from the time someone begins classes before Shaffer partners them with someone to spar with. “I just try to determine when they’re ready and when they want to — they have to be 100% ready. I mean, let’s face it, the sport is to hit and get hit.”
Two students are training to compete at The House of Pain in Aurora, although it all depends on getting matched with an opponent who meets their physical and experiential level.
The young adults meet twice a week and there are currently about 12 regulars. AVB charges for the class, unless there is a financial need, Shaffer specified.
For more information about AVB, visit www.allvalleyboxing.com
Power Punch Parkinson’s participants practice mitt-work at Sopris Park. Photo by Jane Bachrach