How to Repay a Mentor

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Sometimes a person comes into your life for a very particular reason. At first it may not be clear to you what that reason is; but it will likely become obvious that you will never be able to pay them back. That’s when you just have to pay it forward.

Jack O’Brien began his life in the Sweet Science in 1944. As a young man of fourteen he joined the boxing team at Superior’s Cathedral High School. But his boxing career didn’t end when he was through competing. He has gone on to help coach and train both amateurs and pros, and he’s still at it.

Former pro fighter Zach “Jungle Boy” Walters credits O’Brien with helping him make major changes in his technique that helped him win matches. He has been helped directly by O’Brien’s knowledge while in the ring, and in Walters’ current capacity as the owner and coach at Jungle Boy Boxing.

Longtime coach and promoter Chuck Horton also knows firsthand the value of O’Brien’s wisdom. Horton commented in an interview with television station WDIO, “I would not be anywhere that I am today if it wasn’t for Jack.” Yes, it’s good to acknowledge those who bring you up and give selflessly to others.

A master of boxing fundamentals, O’Brien has more experience than the other coaches in the Duluth, MN boxing gym. No one will doubt the credentials of the expert who will celebrate his 85th birthday this year. He brings a unique and refined approach that helps boxers fix one punch at a time until the whole picture is realized.

The dictionary defines the word gestalt as an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts. It should say the technique of Jack O’Brien.

It’s no wonder Horton and Walters chose to name their March boxing event The Jack O’Brien Invitational. Every young boxer on the card can learn from his wisdom. The fighters from Jungle Boy Boxing Gym probably already have.

If you are lucky enough to have someone like O’Brien come into your life, count your blessings. But don’t drive yourself crazy trying to pay them back. Odds are you could never afford it and they wouldn’t take it if you offered. They’re just not in it for a reimbursement. So instead of a payback, pay it forward.

And don’t forget to say thanks.


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