Before he’d ever set foot in a boxing gym, Vancouver bartender Max Cruzon-Price was no stranger to one-on-one combat. He has practiced the art of muay thai kickboxing for years, so he was excited to step into the boxing ring for the first time.
“The discipline of muay thai and a lot of kickboxing is often referred to as ‘the art of eight limbs,’ meaning it’s legal to not only throw punches and kicks but also elbows and knees,” says Cruzon-Price. “Sparring in muay thai can be overwhelming because you’re constantly trying to predict where the next strike will come from. Boxing, however, removes three quarters of your tools and forces you to focus only on your hands.”
Cruzon-Price was one of a handful of bartenders selected to participate in Bar Spar, a boxing program from the Bartender Boxing Organization sponsored by Tequila Cazadores. It teaches bartenders the basics of boxing under the guidance of professional trainers. The program culminates in the participants’ registration with USA Boxing and a sanctioned amateur fight.
Despite his martial arts experience, Cruzon-Price has found the mental game of boxing to be a challenge, although he can draw some parallels to a busy night of bartending. “Having a plan and trying to stick to it when you’re getting your [butt] beat around the four corners of a ring can be tough,” he says. “Having to adjust to a fighter’s style to find your angle and still come out alive and (hopefully) on top is just a part of this spectacular sport.
“I think there are certainly similarities that can be drawn between [boxing and] the speed and accuracy of mixing well-balanced cocktails when you’re … in the weeds on a Saturday night,” adds Cruzon-Price. “However, I don’t recommend showing too much power behind a bar. No one likes an arrogant bartender.”
Cruzon-Price has even seen improvements in his muay thai since he has committed to boxing. “All of a sudden, dynamic movement, endurance training and energy preservation in the ring become core focuses,” he says. “Boxing for just a few months has made me a much better fighter already.”
Whether or not he gets to participate in a final match—because sometimes weight-class rules prevent participants from doing so, in order to ensure fair matches—Cruzon-Price will walk away with new skills and a new commitment to a healthier lifestyle.
“My favorite part of boxing training has been feeling myself grow and develop; finding new skills and learning how far you can push your body are all daily developments,” says Cruzon-Price. “Having a sense of accountability has really helped my training routines. Knowing with certainty that your fellow competitors are showing up, working hard and bettering themselves every morning on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays helps you feel more inspired to show up and train hard.”