A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
~ Nicholas Griesbach
Tampa, Florida-The students of Hillsborough Community College may or may not know that there is an athlete of the world class caliber walking the halls of their campus. You will not find him on the basketball court or the baseball diamond; you may, nevertheless, find him at a nearby gym training in the “sweet science.”
Yes, that’s right, criminal justice and criminology major Stefon John will be competing in the sport of boxing in the 200 pound heavyweight division in Rio de Janeiro to earn a spot on the Grenada Olympic team. The Tampa resident moved from Grenada–located in the Caribbean Sea–last August and enrolled in the school’s Criminal Justice program. He was excited about the move, feeling that Tampa was the place to be to start off his boxing career.
His introduction to the sport was like many who participate in athletics, a friendly rivalry with a family member. “I started play fighting with my cousin, we were slap boxing and he smacked me up pretty good, so I said, ‘I am going to learn how to box for real, and I’m going to come back and I’m going to whoop you;’ up to this day I never got that rematch.”
As Stefon started to learn the sport, he continued to progress and realized his potential. “I started to take it a little bit more serious; I took it to the level that I want to be the best. It was a dream of the guys in the gym to make the Olympics; my opportunity has arrived now. I’m training harder and harder now to push myself to the next level, it is a great experience. To get picked to go to the Olympics is not some thing that happens every day. I look at it as a blessing, that’s the only thing it could be. You have other fighters who have been boxing for years [trying] to get this opportunity, just to be able to finalize their amateur careers, and it never happens.”
Stefon John already has many accomplishments in his young career, one of which is the 20-2 record that he holds as an amateur. His record, however, may not mean as much to him as the approval he received last year from the late, great Angelo Dundee, who passed away on February 1st in Clearwater, Florida. Dundee was a Boxing Hall of Fame member, and trainer for 15 world champions, one was Muhammad Ali.
“It was a blessing for him to see me spar,” Stefon said “he told me ‘you have a lot of talent, you have something great,’ by hearing that from him, Muhammad Ali is someone I look up to for boxing, to hear that was a blessing.” Receiving high praise from a legendary figure in the sport, along with meeting local greats in the sport such as Jeff Lacy, Winky Wright, and Antonio Tarver, has helped Stefon focus on the task at hand.
The Olympics is different. “It’s not any regular boxing event or sporting event it is global, the whole world is watching; the best of the best are coming at you so I have to be on top of my game. I start my training at 4 o’clock in the morning until 5. I get back home, eat breakfast and go back at it again. So many doors could open up by winning just the trials and then going to London, I’m not going up there to lose, that is just the whole mind set I am going with.”
With all the success Stefon has had, his top priority is still getting his degree. He adjusts his courses to specific days in order to have the time to train and study. He has decided to turn professional shortly after the Olympics, but he will not let go of his goal of receiving his criminal justice degree.
Stefon also wants to do more with his success then be a self-absorbed athlete like many we have become accustomed to seeing. He wants to stand for something greater than money and attention. He is letting people know about his life so that they can become inspired.
“The things I’m trying to do with boxing it is really going to make a difference. I’m not just trying to do it for flash or for fame; I am really trying to make a difference in the world. The directions that I am trying to go it will be positive. Anybody who has a dream, trying to do what they want in life, no matter what it is, anything that they are trying to accomplish in life don’t let anybody stop you, the only one that can stop you from reaching your own dreams is yourself. If you’re able to not care about what anybody says, rely on yourself, and have a good spiritual and a strong faith, the world is yours, and my whole boxing career is going to be a testimony to that. Just stay positive and any dream is accomplished.”
Stefon may soon make some of his own dreams come true. He will represent Grenada in the 2012 Olympics if he wins gold, silver, or bronze in the Olympic Trials in Brazil May 4th-13th. If he wins first place at the Olympics in London, it will be the first time his home country will see their flag raised and hear their national anthem being played. Furthermore, it would be the first overall medal captured by Grenada since their Olympic inception in 1984. When the Olympics are over, he will have to decide when the time is right for him to turn professional, yet the time and place for the rematch with his cousin is still undetermined.