By JULIE WENGER WATSON
Approaching 50 and navigating a divorce, Otis Hurst knew he needed a change. With 20 years of military service, he was accustomed to hard work and discipline, so he took up boxing. It seemed like a good fit.
“I knew I needed to occupy my mind and my time, and I needed to work out,” Hurst recalled.
Hurst joined a boxing gym in midtown Tulsa in the fall of 2015. Less than two years later, and a just few months shy of his 50th birthday, he’s headed to Kansas City for the 2017 Ringside Masters Championships where he’ll square off in an officially sanctioned amateur boxing event.
“I was just doing the classes for exercise, and as time went on, I got more and more interested. I started talking to my coach to see if there is an ‘old men’s’ type of thing where I could fight someone more like myself,” Hurst laughed as he recalled his journey from hobbyist to pugilist.
Hurst will box in the “Masters” category, which is limited to athletes over 35. While Masters boxers are required to jump through a few extra medical hoops in order to compete, make no mistake, they are competing. In fact, Hurst could potentially be paired with someone as much as 10 years his junior with considerably more experience in the ring. That knowledge has motivated him in his training.
“I hope it will be somebody more my level,” Hurst commented. “I realize I’ll probably give up a lot of experience, so my main goal is to be in better shape than everybody else because I’m probably not going to be as experienced as a lot of people I’m going to face up there.”
Hurst’s plan seems to be working. Lean, wiry, and fit, he has the physique of a much younger man. Three days a week, Hurst works out at the boxing gym, sparring and hitting the bags, for close to three hours. Often he follows that with another hour and a half lifting weights at another facility.
All this training would be challenging enough, but Hurst schedules his gym time around the life of his youngest child. Hurst and his former wife share custody of their two and a half-year-old daughter. Hurst has her three or four days a week and spends time with her on the remaining weekdays, too. His daughter has been diagnosed with developmental delays, and Hurst adapts his training schedule to her frequent doctor and therapy appointments.
While Hurst expected a good workout when he joined the gym, he’s been pleasantly surprised by the friendship and support he’s found there.
“Everyone here, even the top level fighters, are willing to give you a hand,” he commented. “There’s a great feeling of camaraderie within the gym.”
Hurst is looking forward to his first official fight.
“Well, of course, I want to win,” Hurst laughed. “But the main thing is, I want to go up there and compete. I don’t want to be out-conditioned. The goal is to win, but if that doesn’t happen, I won’t be too disappointed as long as I went in there and did the things that I learned in the gym.”