SAN DIEGO - When people think of a boxer, Rocky Balboa often comes to mind. A montage of running in place at the top of a set of stairs and pounding heavy weights accompanies that image. Not many would imagine a boxer as a dirt-covered Marine in bootcamp, hauling an empty 5-gallon drum across a simulated mine field.
But one new Marine in Platoon 2114, Company E, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, although not fitting the stereotypical description of a boxer, has been a distinguished boxer since the tender age of 12.
Pvt. Marco N. Paniagua’s drive to become a boxer was not a whim, but was inspired, said the Brownsville, Texas, native.
“I started boxing because of my father,” said the 18-year-old. “He was a boxer, and when I was little, he got me into it.”
Along with being a boxer, Paniagua’s father was also a Marine who served during the Vietnam War.
Paniagua became such a good boxer that he placed high in several Golden Gloves competitions, a boxing tournament that can last one-to-two days.
Many former Golden Gloves amateur boxing champions have gone on to become outstanding boxers and role models in the community. Former Heavyweight Champion of the World, Joe Louis was a Golden Gloves Champion in 1934. Other champions include Muhammed Ali (1960); Sugar Ray Leonard (1973); who got their start in the Golden Gloves tournaments.
“If you win, you get a nice trophy,” said Paniagua. “You get recognized in the state, and with amateur boxing, you go up in ranking for winning the tournament.”
He also participated in the Junior Olympics for boxing, and made it to the finals.
“If you reach the nationals in the Junior Olympics in the boxing division, there are professional coaches there,” said Paniagua. “You could potentially get a manager.”
Along with boxing during high school, he was also a member of the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps.
According to Paniagua, Army ROTC aided him in getting two full-ride scholarships to colleges in Texas.
“The scholarship was for the Army ROTC,” said Paniagua, “but that was not what I wanted to do [with my life].”
Instead of college, he wanted to join the military at the time.
“I knew I was going to join [the Marine Corps] since I was little,” said Paniagua. “My dad always talked about it.”
His parents were proud that he joined the Marines, and his little brother looks up to him and wants to follow in his footsteps, he said.
Paniagua chose the military occupational specialty of a reconnaissance Marine, because they are the best of the best at what they do, he said.
Paniagua enlisted as a reservist who will later be stationed in San Antonio, but he plans to change to active duty.
He said he wants to continue boxing while in the Marine Corps because the basic skills that the Corps teaches can be applied to boxing.
The courage to stay in the fight and the commitment to keep training every day, and to give 100 percent, is what Paniagua believes will help him in the Corps.
“I’m glad I chose this path,” said Paniagua. “I feel like I’ve accomplished more than I have in my life both by myself and with my fellow Marines. I’ve pushed myself to become a Marine.”
He hopes to later become a professional boxer and a good citizen through the skills, experience and professional character he said he has gained in the Marine Corps.