MCS Senior Sam Capriotti pulls no punches with passion for boxing
By John Bernhardt
Someone once said, “Boxing isn’t for the feint of heart, it’s for the full of heart.” That’s an apt description of Sam Caprotti, 17, a senior at Margaretville Central School.
Sam Caprotti loves to box. Boxing is a form of self-discovery for Caprotti. A sport often called ‘the sweet science’ helps Caprotti discover something deep inside himself, a desire or a need, that allows Sam to continually surprise himself by exceeding what he once believed were his own limitations.
Where some might see savage aggression and a punishing brutality in boxing, Sam sees a rhythm of the soul, an artistry, and a searching for an inner truth.
Caprotti is exuberant discussing the sport he loves; alive and in motion, his body gliding, bobbing, weaving, almost as if in battle in the ring. With a self-awareness and maturity that is refreshing for one just 17, you can feel Sam’s passion for boxing as he speaks.
Boxing is a generational thing in his family. Sam’s grandfather boxed. Sam’s dad boxed. And, Sam’s older brother, Manny boxes. Sam’s dad, Peter, trains both of his sons. “There was no escaping it,” Sam laughed when discussing his love of boxing. “Boxing was hard wired in my DNA.”
It was the great ring warrior Muhammad Ali who once said, The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” For Caprotti, the boxing dance steps have hardly begun. But, the Margaretville senior has developed a deep love and respect for the training and preparation involved in learning to box.
“I simply love the training, the exercise, the feeling of being physically exhausted, spent, and then forcing myself to do five more pushups, resting for 30 seconds, and then somehow finding the will to do five more,” Caprotti explained. “Boxing has taught me what it means to really have your heart in something. That’s what it’s all about.”
And, boxing has taught Caprotti the important role played by preparation, by routine and regimen, in improvement and success. Sam’s daily routine involves rising in the early morning to run a couple of miles. That’s a six-day a week regimen with Sam electing only to walk on Sundays. “When you train you have to give your body a chance to rest,” the young pugilist explained. “It your goal is to really build, you would need to rest every other day.”
For the most part boxers are very athletic athletes, guys or gals who could excel at another sport. The sinewy young boxer loves to run and is good at it. Last spring Caprotti was the winner of the Wellness Day distance run at Margaretville Central School. Caprotti sets running goals then pushes himself to add an extra lap or shave off an extra second on his time.
Caprotti’s daily training regimen continues after school in the late afternoons or early evenings. His program involves many traditional strengthening exercises like stretching, pushups, chin-ups, jumping rope, step-ups and the agility ladder.
Caprotti loves natural exercises, physical activities requiring the body to work as a whole, not simply focusing on the development of one specific part. Sam will work the mitts in three- minute time segments. Music helps drive Caprotti’s workout motivation with favorite songs timed to monitor the length of different parts of his workout.
Repetition is a lifeline to a boxer. “Wax on, wax off. Wax on, wax off.” Sam says when it comes to fighting skills Mr. Miyagi in the “Karate Kid” was right. Success in the ring demands repeating the same skill over and over and over again unit it simply becomes a part of you, and extension of what you do when you box.
Boxing has helped Caprotti develop a mature understanding of his body and it’s needs. Nutrition is a big deal. “You are what you eat,” Capriotti emphasized. “Munch on potato chips or other junk on game day and you’ll be a potato slug on game night,” he laughed.
At least twice a week Sam and his brother Manny box at the Kingston PAL Boxing Club in Kingston. That’s when Sam gets the opportunity to test his evolving skills by sparring in the ring. If Sam has his way, he looks to square off against someone other than Manny. “My brother is a lot bigger and stronger than me. He just wails on me,” Sam spelled out. “I’m always hoping there will be someone else more my size to spar.”
Caprotti remembers his first sparring session like it was yesterday. Sam was enveloped in fear before the punches flew, a recipe for disaster in the ring. “When you allow fear to creep into your mind nothing else matters. You have only one mindset. When you’re afraid all your training and preparation mean nothing.”
For Sam those three rounds were like everything at once. His opponent corralled him into the corner or along the ropes and bullied him. Time seemed to stand still. A second seemed like an eternity. Caprotti wanted out but for three rounds there was no escape. When it was over Sam was battered and exhausted with a black eye. He doubted he would ever box again, but the mystique, the vicarious thrill of the ring, the happiness that goes with the training, and the perfect combination of physical power and endurance with mental strategizing and brilliance keeps luring him back.
First formal match
Sam has only boxed in one formal match, a tournament in New Jersey. He lost in the first round. “That was awful, just awful,” an introspective Caprotti remembers. When a soccer player loses a game they have another date scheduled to turn it around, to get it back. When you lose a boxing match it’s like your whole world comes crashing down.”
Contemplative and inward looking, Caprotti learns valuable lessons every time he steps in the ring. “Losing is the greatest teacher you’ll ever find,” he adds like a wise sage. “That fight taught me you just can’t jump into something. I was undertrained. I didn’t have the skills. I was unprepared and I knew it the second I stepped in the ring.
Caprotti’s strengths in the ring are his footwork and his foot and hand speed. He tries to imitate the style of boxing great Sugar Ray Robinson. An area of growth involves learning to absorb a punch to the body. “I’m sure you’ve heard that old boxing adage, ‘Kill the body and you kill the head,’” Capriotti chuckled. “If you can’t take some body shots your legs go and you’re a sitting duck.”
Caprotti’s not certain where boxing fits in with his future. The Margaretville senior would like to continue his schooling at a two-year college next year and at some point transfer into the Albany College of Pharmacy.
Wherever he goes, the lessons Sam Caprotti has learned preparing to box will go with him. Sam’s passion for boxing has nothing to do with winning a bout. The reward for Sam is the happiness that goes through running those morning miles, his afternoon workouts and the chance to spar in the gym. For Sam Caprotti the reward of learning to box is in the undertaking itself.