Austin boxer Kenton Sippio-Cook is fighting in San Antonio this Monday, September 2. If you can’t make it to the fights, no problem—they’ll be on Fox Sports 1. Set your DVRs now, because you want to see this guy fight.
The 22-year-old Sippio-Cook has had three pro boxing fights and knocked out his opponent in every one, including an impressive TKO in the Top Rank fights at the Erwin Center in April. His amateur record is 45-9.
It’s hard to find a boxing story that we haven’t heard before. But Todd Subocz, head trainer for Sippio-Cook, tells me a good one: “The kid doesn’t have a hard luck story. He’s a good kid. Both parents in the home. Never been arrested. That means he has to have a different type of motivation. He’s not trying to get out of a bad situation. He has options.”
Sippio-Cook does have other options; he doesn’t need the discipline of becoming a great boxer to save him from anything. He just wants it. “I pray to stay hungry,” he tells me. “I don’t pray for speed, power, or anything else. I pray to stay hungry.”
Despite his solid support system, with a stable family, a good manager, and a couple of dedicated trainers, his work hasn’t been easy, and it’s that hunger that drives him. He holds two jobs—one in sales at a department store and one as a security guard—and trains as much as possible in his off hours. On the evening I talk to him, he’s headed to a sparring session that will be his fourth workout of the day.
Subocz says that one his biggest challenges is getting the kid to take a break. “He trains like a beast. I’ve got to get him to rest.”
Perhaps as interesting as Sippio-Cook’s dedication is the care his trainers and manager take with his training and career. Subocz, a former boxer who towers over me, functions as Sippio-Cook’s head trainer. “I don’t try to make him into what I want him to be,” he says. He paraphrases Michelangelo: “I see what kind of boxer he is at his core and then I just chip away what’s not needed.”
That approach seems to be working. Subocz says, “He’s only been in boxing five years, and his progression is ridiculous. He went from being a terrible brawler with a heart who just liked to get in there and fight to being a real boxer with skills.”
Marcus Burditt, Sippio-Cook’s friend since high school, serves as his manager. “I find him bouts, make sure he’s not taken advantage of, look for sponsors, talk to media, even fix his fridge if it breaks down.” Burditt also finds world-class boxers for Sippio-Cook to train with—helping both him and them prepare for fights. “In the last month, he’s sparred with former world champion Paulie Malignaggi, current world champion Ishe Smith, and WBO NABO title holder Brian Vera”—plus a number of other impressive names.
“And I do everything else,” adds Jeigh Valdez, a big, friendly man whom I found at the gym holding pads and coaching another young boxer through combinations. “I am the assistant trainer. I am the cut man and hand wrapper. I help Marcus schedule sparring and coordinate workouts. I’m also a consultant and big brother.”
I’m sitting in a cramped gym office, with Sippio-Cook in front of me in a chair, and Subocz, Burditt, and Valdez hovering beside and behind me. I look at Sippio-Cook as each man describes his part in the boxer’s training. He smiles. “These guys, we hang out outside of here, and we make it fun. Things that should be hard are easy with these guys.”
Subocz tells me when Sippio-Cook isn’t in the room that he’s certain the boxer will be a world champion, and that he’s almost too nice for it. “The more he has, the more he’s going to want to try to help people, and there’s where you can get into trouble, with people taking advantage.”
He adds, “I would like for Austin to get to know who Sippio is because he wants Austin to go on this journey with him. He wants people to come along with him. He doesn’t want people to say, ‘Don’t forget about me,’ because they’re coming with him.”
I ask Sippio-Cook what he thinks is special about him, why these three men and a number of other people spend their time helping him be a better fighter, and why Austin should pay attention.
“My focus,” he answers immediately. “I’m not trying to be famous, be known for being a good boxer. I’m trying to bring back the old elements of mystery of who’s going to win. A lot of short cuts have opened up in the newer generation. People can cut corners to get to the top. Once I get to the top, there will be no question that I belong there.”
Those are big words, but they don’t sound cocky coming from this young fighter. It’s clear that he’s in love with everything about boxing, and he sees the art of the fight as something larger than himself—he wants to be part of boxing rather than make the boxing about him.
Watch Sippio-Cook fight on Monday night and see if you have any question that he belongs in the ring with a championship belt around his waist.