Richard Vansiclen expects to improve to 10-0 with his next bout coming up on May 22
He was a three-sport athlete at Fort Vancouver High School, and he was a top scholar.
In fact, Richard Vansiclen earned an academic scholarship to attend the University of Washington.
He gave it a try as a walk-on football player for the Huskies, but the demands on his time conflicted with his schooling. Academics had to be the priority.
Still, he missed sports. He missed staying in shape.
His sophomore year, he found the Husky Boxing Club.
Maybe it was the other way around.
“I didn’t go to college to box. I went for school,” Vansiclen said. “I feel like boxing found me.”
After an incredible college career — which included a national championship — Vansiclen is now 9-0 as a professional boxer, expecting to get to 10-0 after his next fight on May 22.
He also has the backing of the community from Fort Vancouver. A former administrator at the high school and a longtime coach, John Griffin, has organized a support group. They raise funds to help Vansiclen offset the costs of training and traveling.
After all, while it is professional boxing, and the athletes do get paid, it is not a luxurious lifestyle.
Vansiclen is not fighting under the bright lights of Vegas. His next matchup is in Great Falls, Mont.
Maybe one day the purses will be life-changing money. For now, it is all about the journey, the grind.
Vansiclen, a 2011 graduate of Fort Vancouver, is all-in on his boxing career right now.
And it has been a peculiar journey for sure.
He noticed the boxing club and simply started working out there just to stay in shape.
“One of the coaches saw me. They saw something,” Vansiclen said. “I don’t know what they saw in me. I hadn’t thrown a punch yet. But they saw something.”
The coaches asked Vansiclen for more. Instead of just working out, they wanted him to try out for the team. They knew he had no boxing experience. But they also knew with the right coaching, something special could materialize.
So after a “basic-training” style try-out format, Vansiclen did earn a spot on the club team.
“In that process, that’s when they figured it out. ‘This guy has heart. He wants to be here. We can teach him how to box,’” Vansiclen said.
Interestingly, Vansiclen was not much of a fighter as a youngster in Portland before moving to Vancouver when he was in the fifth grade. Oh, he got in fights. Just didn’t necessarily finish them.
“I hated fighting, growing up. I was scared. Never wanted it. I hated getting hit in the face,” Vansiclen said.
He still remembers taking his first punch to the nose while sparring in the ring with the Husky Boxing Club.
“My nose started bleeding. My eyes started watering. ‘Why am I doing this?’ Then I got back in it,” he said.
“You can quit, or you can try to fight.”
Vansiclen wanted to learn how to avoid the shot to the nose, how to defend. Then how to go on attack. He consumed his coaching.
It transferred into the ring, in competition.
“That first year was amazing. I had never traveled. I had never been on a plane before,” Vansiclen said.
The NCAA does not sanction boxing but many colleges have club teams fighting under the National Collegiate Boxing Association. And club boxers do, indeed, travel the country for competition.
Vansiclen won a regional championship in his first year. As a senior, he won the national championship at 175 pounds.
“After college, I wasn’t done. I felt like I was just starting to learn boxing. I felt like I wanted to keep doing it,” Vansiclen said.
He maintained his amateur status with the dream of making it to the Olympics. He fell one decision short, losing in the final bout during the trials.
“I honestly believe I beat him,” Vansiclen still says today. “I ended up losing a split decision.”
Soon after that disappointment, Vansiclen turned pro.
“Now I’ve stacked up nine wins. On the 22nd, I’m going to be 10-0 as a professional,” Vansiclen said.
Confidence is high. And in this sport, it better be off the charts.
“The reason I say that, the reason I believe that, is the work I put in,” Vansiclen said.
Earlier this week, Vansiclen had a sparring session with two-time world champion David Benavidaz.
It meant something to Vansiclen to be in the ring “with a world-class boxer and have him say, ‘You look sharp.’”
Still, Vansiclen understands he needs to bring his best with him in the ring on May 22.
“You’ve got to perform. You’ve got to show up and perform, but I have that confidence in myself,” he said.
The plan now is to get some smaller titles and work his way up the rankings. He is No. 1 at 175 pounds in the Pacific Northwest, but he knows he will need to keep excelling in order to earn some recognition by the sanctioning bodies.
“The ultimate goal is a world championship,” Vansiclen said.
All he can do on May 22 is beat the guy in front of him. Vansiclen will be taking on Charon Spain, a boxer with 18 professional bouts. Spain’s record (2-14-2) is not ideal but he is a professional athlete stepping into the ring to do battle. That is enough to earn anyone’s respect, Vansiclen said.
Vansiclen was scheduled to fight a boxer with a higher profile but that boxer opted out recently. Spain stepped up.
Now it is up to Vansiclen to continue on his rise.
“I need to do everything right to win,” he said.
Vansiclen now lives in San Diego but often trains in Seattle with his coaches from UW. He was laid off from his job during the pandemic, but he said that was the best thing that could have happened to him. He is 100-percent focused on his boxing career. He also dabbles in modeling to earn some cash.
“Like any job you love doing, it’s not work. It’s not work if you like it, if you appreciate it,” Vansiclen said. “I love the fact that I’m able to travel and do something that I love, and that’s fight.”
He also has a few advantages in this sport. Vansiclen majored in communications and has a minor in nutritional science. It is that minor, though, that is so major in this game.
“In college, I found the love of nutrition. That’s what sets me apart from a lot of these boxers,” he said. “They don’t know how to manage their nutrition very well.”
He also said his days at Fort Vancouver have helped make him a better boxer, too.
“That’s part of my story, coming from that school,” he said. “Football, basketball, and track. Speed, power, and endurance. That’s what boxing is. It’s all of those in one.”
And now that community is helping a bit with Vansiclen’s career.
“My mom still lives in Vancouver. My brother. Some of my best friends. It definitely means a lot to me,” Vansiclen said. “When I go back there, it definitely puts in perspective how far I’ve come. There are a bunch of great people in Vancouver who shaped me.”
If interested in joining the group that is helping Vansiclen, email Griffin at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Vansiclen said he appreciates all the support. In return, he promises to represent Vancouver to the best of his ability.
“Boxing … it’s the truest form of art and heart and physical endurance and the human spirit,” Vansiclen said. “You can’t hide, and you can’t lie in boxing. You’ve got to put in the work. If you don’t, it will show.”