Agripino's path to sobriety through boxing is worth celebrating

Mystic — The words sound more flowery than the gravity of the actual situation: "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood."

That's from Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," a poem about life's varying paths and the inherent decisions they present.

Marcia Agripino's road not taken was more akin to Bourbon St.: parties, good times and booze. Her true path on the higher road, although perhaps quieter, has been considerably more rewarding.

By day, Agripino is a surgical technician at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. Most other times, she's a boxer — six professional fights in tow — readying for likely the last bout of her career Saturday night at Foxwoods.

Agripino has done right by her sport, giving as much back to it as it has provided her.

"Boxing has done a lot for me," Agripino was saying over the weekend at a news conference trumpeting her upcoming bout. "It put me on the straight and narrow. It kept me sober. There was a little lapse of time when I wasn't in the gym and I wasn't sober. I'm coming up on almost four years (sober). I credit a lot of that to boxing. It keeps me focused. Now I've turned the page with coaching and helping other people."

Agripino is a coach and mentor to kids now. She also works with the Adaptive Boxing Program at Championship Rounds, the brainchild of Kent Ward and others, who use boxing to combat Parkinson's Disease one punch at a time.

This is what Agripino has learned: giving back to something that has given so much to you is the most basic example of what makes the world go around.

And this just in: Boxing isn't easy. It requires dizzying levels of mental discipline and physical toughness. To keep showing up when the mind and body resist. To be personally responsible. In other words: All the temptations that make weaker individuals quit.

"Knowing you can put yourself into something and knowing you don't quit on yourself builds confidence," Agripino said. "People quit on themselves. A sport like boxing is completely different from, say, a basketball game. You could blame a loss on a teammate in basketball. In boxing, you can't blame anyone else. I think for me, I've been through a lot. Getting sober was tough. But so is training for an 8-round fight."

Agripino is 3-2-1 in her career. She says this is very likely her final fight, before she devotes her time to others. Although ...

"Each fight I always say it's the last fight. Each time I say it people say, 'you said that last time.' This will probably be the last," she said. "Due to my job, my age. I only really meant to do one (fight). Then I did the second one and retired for four years and came back. I only meant to do one again. But when my man Rollie (Pier) passed away, I wanted to do one more to honor him. I'll stay in as a coach and bring the next kids up and stay active. As for competition, I don't have that much more in me."

Or maybe she does. Her message should resonate with all of us, but especially young girls and women who may not understand the mental toughness boxing affords.

"It doesn't matter what the sport is, whether wrestling, jujitsu, karate, kick boxing or boxing," she said, "I encourage all young women to get involved. For their confidence. There's so much stuff going on in the outside world. Even if they don't compete, it gives them confidence and they're able to protect themselves. I didn't have that as a kid. I wish I did. They say fighting is 80 percent mental anyway."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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