HARTFORD, Conn. - His boxing fans eagerly awaited his return to the ring. After two years away, hopes were high for the young boxer. He came into the arena in red, white and blue trunks and robe over an Army physical fitness t-shirt. The crowd cheered.
“Ladies and gentlemen, in the red corner, wearing the red, white and blue trunks, making his long-awaited return to the ring after a year-long deployment to Iraq with the U.S. Army, Brian Macy,” boomed the ring announcer as Macy faced each side of the arena at Mohegan Sun on Feb. 4 and rendered a boxing-gloved salute to the crowd.
Macy is a determined young man. He has a plan. Everything he does is in furtherance of that plan. He is determined to make the best life possible for himself and his four-year-old son, Charlie.
Macy, 27, started boxing when he was 10 and quickly became someone to watch. He won the National Police Athletic League title in 2000 and had racked up 150 amateur bouts before turning professional. He is a super middle weight fighter, according to him, the current premier weight class in boxing.
He tells a story that has his parents telling him he couldn’t fight professionally unless he received a college degree.
So he did. He has a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from the University of Connecticut. He is taking classes in music business management from Berkeley School of Music in Boston, Mass. He plans to get his master’s degree in education and wants to teach special needs children.
On April 21, 2009, Macy joined the Connecticut Army National Guard, enlisting with the 250th Engineer Company as a way to help pay for school and support himself and Charlie. He trained as a bridge engineer and deployed to Iraq with his unit for a year, taking him out of the boxing ring.
His first sergeant in Iraq, Army Master Sgt. David Moorehead, has nothing but praise for Macy as a man and as a Soldier.
“He is a very good Soldier,” said Moorehead. “He came in older. He definitely joined the Guard with a plan in mind. He is a very normal person, well-liked by all. He is such a polite guy and would help anyone do anything. He came so willing to learn, to get involved.”
Macy worked as gun truck driver in Iraq. Moorehead said Macy did not forget boxing while he was deployed.
“Somehow he found himself a heavy bag and he would work out on it. He gave boxing lessons to some of the Soldiers. You could back late at night and find someone working out on the heavy bag.”
The New London resident has a very strict schedule.
He gets up each day and is running at 5 a.m. He takes his son to school and then heads to the Groton New London Sub Base to work out in their gym.
After the workout, he goes to a local Starbucks where he takes advantage of the free Wi-Fi to do his on-line music courses.
He picks up his son and either takes him to Charlie’s grandmother or drives halfway across the state to Middletown to train at The Lion’s Den Gym with “Iceman” John Scully, someone Macy calls the “best trainer there is.”
Scully has a long history as a boxer himself as a light heavyweight. He qualified for the 1988 Olympic Trials and fought for the International Boxing Federation world title against Michael Nunn in Leipzig, Germany. He has also done boxing commentary for ESPN.
When asked why he would travel so far on a daily basis just to work with a specific trainer, Macy simply said, “He’s the best.”
He works out at the gym generally from 4:30 to 6:30 every day and then travels the hour plus back home. It makes for a long day – but it’s all part of his plan.
A single dad, Macy wants to make the best life he can for his son. Seeing them together, one easily sees the love he has for Charlie and has to respect the example of hard work and dedication he is setting.
Macy has another love – music. He is working on hip-hop music videos as producer, writer and performer. He sees boxing as a way to help him in music.
“The dedication and structure it takes to be a boxer helps keep you focused,’ he said. “I hope the name I am making in boxing will help open doors to me in the music business, as well.”
He said his time in Iraq gave him time to think and plan.
“The National Guard has opened up a lot of opportunities for me,” he said. “I don’t have to rely solely on boxing to make my living. I will be able to get my master’s degree.”
And again, he talked about discipline.
“The discipline I have learned in boxing has helped me in life and in the Guard,” he said. “And the Guard has taught me that a day is 24 hours long and you can get a lot out of it with discipline.”
He said he finds himself having to focus all the time. It’s easy to get distracted.
“I’m beating down that demon every day,” he said. Staying in church and “first and foremost, Scully,” help him keep his focus.
Why does he box?
“Not the money,” Macy joked. “I just love it. I like the art of it. I like the old-time fighters.” He mentioned greats Pernell Whitaker and Willy Pep as two favorites.
“The defensive aspect of [boxing] is what I like,” he said. “They were the greats. They were the best. They weren’t sluggers. They were artists in the ring.”
Scully, who has been training Macy off and on since he was 12, called Macy a “boxing enthusiast. He studies boxing and boxers.
“He wanted to be in the limelight since I first met him. He loves being in the ring. He has the discipline. He has to become a little more regimented in his training,” said Scully.
Back to the arena at Mohegan Sun.
The bell rings and Macy enters the center of the ring against his opponent, JC Peterson of Fort Myers, Florida. It looks like it might be an uneven match-up: Macy is taller. Macy appears to be in better shape. Macy definitely has the better record.
But Peterson has longer arms, so a longer reach in the ring, and Macy is making his first appearance in the ring in two years.
Peterson dropped Macy with a strong left jab in the first round. It shook Macy up, but he got up and continued boxing.
It took him until the third round to get his feet solidly under him again. By the end of the third round, those that knew boxing were saying it looked like he might have come back enough to be even with Peterson.
The fourth and final round started and it looked like Macy was coming on strong.
The two battled to the final bell and both appeared to think they might have won. Several people ringside said it was too close to call and could go either way, but that Macy had looked good.
The ring announcer called both fighters to the center of the ring for the judges’ scores. The first judge scored the fight 38-37 in favor of Peterson. The second judge scored it 38-37 in favor of Macy. The crowd waited and the fighters looked straight ahead, confidence fading from both of their faces. Peterson dropped to his knees as the third judge gave the fight to Peterson, 38-37.
It was a heartbreaking return to the ring for Macy, Scully and Macy’s fans. But shortly after the fight, Macy was philosophical about the loss.
Sitting in the locker room with Charlie falling asleep in his lap, Macy talked about the fight.
“He (Peterson) was a tricky fighter and I couldn’t execute,” he said. “After throwing a punch or counterpunch, I couldn’t follow through. I have to give him credit. And I was probably not as patient with the jab as I should have been.”
So why does he keep fighting? He points to Scully, sitting next to him.
“That guy,” said Macy. “Getting the training from him is like a drug. Others (trainers) are like Tylenol. This guy is like hard core narcotics.”
Nearly two weeks after the comeback fight, Macy talked about the future. Is boxing still part of that future? He doesn’t know.
The money is not great and it does cost money to box. He has gym fees, trainer’s fees, equipment to pay for. He has a contract with a promoter, Jimmy Burchfield of Classic Sports Entertainment in Providence, RI and a publicist. Being a single dad supporting his son is his first priority.
Since the fight he has gotten a part-time job as a broker with NA Power, an electric supply company. He plans on going into the accelerated Officer Candidate School program with the Guard.
He would like to keep boxing professionally. He would like to get back in the ring. He loves the sport. He loves the discipline.
But he loves his son more.
“I don’t want to end up a punch-drunk fighter,” he said.
That doesn’t mean he has given up boxing. It just means he’s keeping his options open and moving forward with his plan.