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Boxing courses teaches self-defense, relieves stress for students

Robert Armstead, 66, throws punches during warm-ups in his Intro to Boxing class on April 24 in the Student Activity Center Gym.

Even after seven years of instructing, CMU’s boxing courses PED 172 and 272 have remained a well-kept secret from most students and faculty. 

Ealyonie Leon McQueen has instructed the class since its inception in 2012. 

By highlighting proper technique, sportsmanship and intensity, students can use the course to relieve stress, get a good workout and learn to defend themselves. 

“I love seeing that change, the boost in their self-esteem,” he said. “And everybody has a great time along the way.” 

Aside from teaching classes throughout the week, McQueen coaches his own USA Boxing Club and works a second job at a correctional facility. 

McQueen is a certified coach by USA Boxing and has been teaching the sport for over 20 years. After teaching a private class in the area, he was approached by the university to head a new program.

The sport has been known to improve balance and posture while strengthening the upper body and core. It serves as a high intensity aerobic workout that boosts endurance and increases awareness. 

The beginnings of boxing and other fighting sports can be traced back to ancient times. The sport saw its golden era in the 60s and 70s when Muhammad Ali became an iconic figure, followed by Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe. 

McQueen was brought up in a low-income family with multiple siblings. He was taught the basics of boxing by his father when he was nine years old in order to keep McQueen and his other siblings occupied. 

Despite being a fighting sport, the class atmosphere is relaxed while students support each other and create a great learning environment.  

“You’re going through basics, even if you’re a professional boxer you had to start at the basics,” said Robert Armstead, 66, who is taking one of the classes. “We always stress safety, make the classes fun and we have great workouts.” 

Armstead is enrolled at CMU through the Senior Citizen Audit Program. The program allows senior citizens (age 60 or older) who are Michigan residents to attend on-campus undergraduate classes. Just like McQueen, Armstead was introduced to boxing by his father at a young age and took some lessons after that. He graduated CMU in 1982 but has returned to Michigan after his father passed away.  

Instructor Leon McQueen smiles during his PED 172 class on April 28 in the SAC Gym.

Armstead began taking the boxing classes to get in shape and to find some stress-relief. He claims the class has resulted in a more positive mood and a healthy blood pressure level. 

When Armstead was working on his undergraduate in the early 80s, he approached athletic officials about starting a boxing club or class and was turned away.  

“I would have loved to take boxing back in the 80s," he said. "I’m so appreciative of CMU for finally opening the doors.” 

Over the seven years of teaching the classes McQueen has had the opportunity to refine his curriculum. He shows students how to wrap their hands properly, followed by stair running and jump roping for warmups. The class then begins learning and refining new techniques. 

Hand wraps and boxing gloves are the only requirements for the class, which combined are cheaper than the average textbook, according to Armstead. 

Aside from McQueen’s courses, CMU has one RSO dedicated to the sport. McQueen said it was started only a couple months ago. There is a $10,000 Ira Mitzner Collegiate Boxing Scholarship is for any currently enrolled undergraduate student attending a four-year college or university, who is also a competitive boxer for a United States Intercollegiate Boxing Association. 

While CMU is not yet part of the Intercollegiate Boxing Association, both McQueen and Armstead would like to see boxing grow at CMU and one day find a place in the intercollegiate environment.  

McQueen said all students, regardless of athletic ability, should consider taking the course. To read more about the class visit the university’s website or learn about the infant RSO by visiting their Orgsync page