LAC DU FLAMBEAU, Wis. - On any given day, in weather ranging from 20-below
blizzard conditions to warm sunshine, a lean figure swathed in athletic
sportswear can be spotted running down one of the many roads on the Lac du
Flambeau Reservation. Ira Frank, a boxer rising to stardom, isn't bothered
by the weather as he recalled the roads he once walked and - at times -
A nationally-ranked boxer, Ira Frank is one of Indian country's warriors.
His success at overcoming the hardest of obstacles faced by many young
American Indians has earned him respect and admiration from peers and
youngsters alike. The rising popularity of the sport has brought Frank
Frank, who remains in the Light Welterweight class, began boxing when he
was 14. "I entered a tournament about eight years ago and I won the State
Junior Olympic tournament that year. I went on, and won my first fight but
lost the second in the regionals. Then the boxing club on the Lac du
Flambeau Reservation died down a bit."
At that point in his life, Frank began to drift toward a destructive path.
"I got caught up in drinking, smoking and the harsh realities of living on
a rural reservation. I spent some time in jail.
"I decided to make a major change; I went through treatment and made it
through. I straightened out and decided I wanted something else. Boxing was
always a part of me and I wanted to get back into it. I talked to John
Snow, now the coach of the Flambeau Indians Boxing Team. He first said,
'They have no money to give us to start a team.' A few days later he got
the ball rolling by securing the gym to practice in.
"Our first night, about 50 kids showed up. Boxing requires a lot of
discipline and not many stuck around."
There are five registered members of the Flambeau Indians team and many
more who return to work out each weeknight.
Few boxing clubs can boast the impressive talent of the Flambeau Indians
Boxing Team. Ira Frank is a member, and the assistant coach as of Jan. 1.
In that time he won most of the bouts in which he boxed, "But I have also
lost my share," he added with a laugh. "The Flambeau Team is definitely a
team - we prefer to be known as a team rather than a club because we
encourage each other. Boxing is an individual sport, but individuals can
push themselves harder and if encouraged by teammates, we all win."
Frank recently won the Wisconsin State Senior Boxing Tournament in
Milwaukee. The next Olympic games are on the horizon for him.
Frank already has experience boxing at the world-class level, having
traveled with Team USA to Finland in August 2004 to box in an international
boxing tournament. Boxers of all nationalities from around the world were
present to compete. "We weren't just a Native team, we were the national
team." He fondly recalled boxing at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut in
November 2004 in a match that pitted the USA Boxing Team/Team Connecticut
against the United States Military. Frank won by defeating an Army boxer in
the third round, and was bestowed the Outstanding Boxer Award. "I also met
Mickey Ward, a boxer and also someone I look up to. It made my day."
Frank has managed to stay at the same weight class for over 17 months,
since the formation of the Flambeau Indians Boxing team. "I love to eat,
and I try to eat well most of the time. I balance it by working out hard
every day. I go without carbs after 5:30 every day as well." He works on
his conditioning by running five miles a day and doing sprints at intervals
between telephone poles along the roads. "Every other telephone pole means
a sprint. I lift free weights, too."
Frank recently began to mentor younger boxers. "I've been down a hard road,
and I know where it leads if you choose the wrong one," he said. "It's not
the best place to end up if you're sitting in jail. If I could help one kid
turn their life around, then I did my job. I've come far in three years. If
you met me then, you wouldn't believe I am the same person. To hear someone
say what I'm doing is good or positive, that makes me feel really good, and
proud. That's all the inspiration I need."