From diamond to ring, Thomas Wu’s boxing journey is a unique one.
A kid of Chinese and Vietnamese heritage born and raised in Arcadia with a lot of personal frustration and anger, Wu’s first step into boxing was more of a stumble, a happy accident at a young age.
He needed better footwork in baseball. His coach sent him in the direction of another sport to solve this deficit, something not uncommon for high-level athletes; Pro Football Hall of Famer Lynn Swan, famously, credited his own grace and body control to regular ballet lessons.
But Wu wasn’t a high-level athlete, not yet. He was 10. Swap Swan’s barre in for a chance to spar.
“I was playing little league baseball, and my coach told me to try boxing so I can work on my hip motions and waist rotation,” Wu said. “I signed up for training, practiced for a week and then all of a sudden they told me I would be sparring. And it was the first ass-whopping I had ever had.”
An ass-whooping, which, ultimately, had some staying power beyond any busted lip or black eye.
“Everyone came to me and apologized for throwing me in there so early, but I told them that I really liked it,” Wu continued. “The competitive nature in me made me want to keep going.”
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Despite the analysis of punching techniques or the breakdowns of defensive positioning that are so often cheered upon in the staunch boxing community, the sport is fairly simple. Take two people, glove them, and place them in a 20 by 20 ring and let them go at each other.
And like other sports, the best of the best are given skills that training simply can’t teach.
Mayweather’s speed and Ali’s float. Tyson’s power, and its effect summed up in his own words:
“I could feel muscle tissues collapse under my force.”
Yet, god-given talent can only take you so far in the harsh world of boxing. Wu knows this, and his goal is not to replicate these boxing phenomenons. He believes personal success will require a ‘soldier mentality,’ the feature he deems his biggest asset.
For a young Wu, the ring quickly became a place of comfort. His strive for perfection and his childhood anger could all be resolved within those ropes — a place where he could work on himself by “swinging at kids and beating them up.” Boxing became a passion, and his life was completely absorbed in it.
Wu’s father, Tommy, took him under his wing as his trainer, and he provided a structure in Thomas’ life that would eventually turn him into that self-proclaimed soldier, both in the squared circle and out.
“When I told him how much I enjoyed it, he told me ‘You’re going to have to listen to everything I say in order to make it.’ And that’s what I did,” Wu said. “I didn’t have a normal life as a teenager. I didn’t go out with friends. I would eat on command. I would sleep on command. I had a soldier mentality.”
This way of life had its results in the ring and its repercussions outside. The unrelenting dedication and dynamic between father and son taxed personal relationships; Thomas’ mother and father eventually got divorced. Yet, everything in his life was, and is, a learning experience. He always wants to learn from other’s mistakes; including his father’s.
“I respect him, but he isn’t a role model. I don’t really have a role model. I see that my dad is a human and that he has flaws,” Wu said. “He does a lot of good, but there’s also a lot that he doesn’t do good. I try to learn from those mistakes.”
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Wu’s experiences so far have pushed him to learn a very valuable life lesson early on in his career — work with those you can trust.
This insight was the reason Wu called upon his father to lead him towards the right condition and mindset. It’s also the reason he signed his first professional contract with Tim VanNewhouse, a boxing manager that previously worked for Split-T Management and focuses on up and coming amateur fighters.
VanNewhouse believes that Wu has all the intangibles to be a star, and who can blame him? The 20-year-old’s resume is already impressive; he has four amateur national championship belts under his, well, belt.
He defeated a former titleholder in Michael Pengue during the “Legends of Hoam Kim” boxing event.
He’s sparred with some of the strongest Southern California-based fighters in the world, including Ryan Garcia.
“He kicked my ass,” Wu was quick to note.
He’s even gone viral online after his clip of the “floating ball challenge” reached SportsCenter.
All of this is just the beginning for Wu, who still resides in Arcadia and does his training throughout the San Gabriel Valley — an area he expects to stay in for quite a while. And although there has been no official announcement about his debut as a signed professional, he remains ready for whatever challenge is thrown at him.
But for now, it’ll be a waiting game for Wu.
He’s grown accustomed to those, as he eagerly awaited for the chance to reach professional status in the world of boxing. And now that he’s made it, he’ll wait as long as he needs to in order to become an even bigger force in the welterweight division.
“I’m excited to just fight as much as possible and start getting my name out there,” he said. “And over the next two years, I’m hoping to be ranked as a top-10 fighter in my class, at the least. All of that in order to become a world champion. As soon as possible.”
His father, VanNewhouse and Wu himself all believe he’s capable of shocking the world if given the chance. The arm’s cocked, the potential energy is ready to be expelled. Now all he needs to do is connect.