The Boxing Double Life: A Conversation with Gym Owner and Professional Boxer Mike Stegall

On March 16th, an undefeated Mike Stegall (7-0-3) found himself standing across Kendrick Ball Jr. (19-1-3), a hometown favorite at the Agganis Arena in Boston, Massachusetts. The bout was contested at light-heavyweight, a weight that Kendrick Ball Jr.’s 6 2 frame looked much more comfortable in. Mike Stegall, on the other hand, stood at 5’8″ in a weight class he seemingly never belonged in. Regardless of the size difference and support from the arena Ball Jr. had, Mike Stegall brought the fight to the favorite and landed heavy right hands while pushing the pace through the 6-round fight. Kendrick Ball Jr. was announced the victor via unanimous decision, to the audience’s audible confusion.

The environment of boxing today puts a spotlight on “superstar prospects” who are pushed by promoters right from their debut. These prospects have the luxury of large social media machines that increase their stardom from the get-go. With sponsorships and popularity already secured, these fighters can focus on dedicating themselves to the sweet science. The other side of the coin is fighters like Mike Stegall, a former construction worker, the current owner of Punch Box Gym in Imperial, Missouri, and now a dedicated full-time professional boxer; I got a chance to speak with Mike about what it’s like juggling all of these responsibilities while chasing his dreams in pro boxing.

While talking about the conversations between him and his team pre and post-fight, I asked whether it was explicitly the loss that night that lit a fire under him to start pursuing his boxing dream. Mike then mentioned how his coach refused to corner him for this fight, given the mismatch on paper.


“I knew that on paper it wasn’t a good idea to take that fight. Everybody around me that cared and that knew the boxing game, including my coach. He told me not to take that fight. What really motivated me (to take the fight) was just being there and seeing the other fighters that were promoted through 360 promotions, the level of competition that was on the card, and I knew what kind of opportunity I had to gain some exposure so that’s why I took the fight.”

Mike elaborated on his coach’s skepticism about the fight.

“I got three weeks’ notice for the fight. So the day I got noticed, I called my coach who I hadn’t seen since my fight prior. That was six months before (his fight with Ball), and I didn’t really train right for that fight either. When I contacted him and told him about it, he did some research on Kendrick Ball Jr. As training happened and progressed, he could tell that I still had some rust because I hadn’t been in the gym for a while. He told me I shouldn’t take the fight, but I told him I’m going to do it anyway. So he let me know, I’m not going to go work your corner if you do this fight.”

At only 26 years old, Mike Stegall realized that night that it was time to dedicate himself to his professional boxing career. Without his coach in his corner, in enemy territory, and against a seasoned pro, Mike put on an impressive performance, knowing this was his chance to gain some following, and put his name out there. Soon after the fight, Mike indicated on social media that he was ready to put in the work, lose the weight, and fight at his natural weight class of 154. After the fight, his coach reached out.


“I just assumed that my coach didn’t want me back in the gym anymore because of it because I know he was pretty mad and disappointed that I took the fight. Well, he ended up reaching out and after watching the fight.”

His coach, impressed by his performance, asked Mike if he was ready to return and do this for real. What drove Mike was the occasion of that night.

“All these guys that I grew up watching on TV, and then people from the crowd and other promoters and matchmakers actually tell me (that) if I was in the right weight class, I have potential and I could really be a competitor. So that really…knocked some sense into me in a way and made me realize that I need to put all my chips in one basket and chase after this.”

 As a former construction worker, current gym owner and now a dedicated full-time professional boxer, Mike details his day-to-day juggling all of his responsibilities while still chasing his title aspirations.

“Actually, I just recently quit my job so that’s a big change. I was an apprentice crane mechanic… before I got back to St. Louis, I called my boss and I quit. I’m doing some hustling, doing little handyman jobs on the side and doing personal training with boxing on the side, just doing what I can to keep the bills paid and stuff while I’m pursuing this boxing career. I have to wake up early, get my training in so that after I’m done training, I can go back, do a couple of small handyman jobs, more training, rest, and then I go open the gym in the evening.”

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“I’ve been on a really strict diet and eating regimen. Everything now is just organized and in order, and I’m on schedule consistently. I guess I added some more consistency to my lifestyle since I decided to take this head-on.”

With 11 professional fights since making his debut seven years ago, Mike acknowledges that he’ll need a step up regarding ring activity. A firm believer in ring rust, the Missouri native mentioned his desire to stay in fight shape year-round, ready to accept any call to jump into a bout.

“I believe in ring rust; I got in there once this year. I look forward to getting in there two or three more times this year. As far as the weight goes, I’ve been training my butt off, really working hard, like I said, taking the diet seriously and just my fitness and nutrition so the weight shouldn’t be a problem anymore.”

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“I actually feel like an athlete now, other than just some bum waiting around for a phone call. I look forward to staying active. I believe it (staying active) is really important, and I think top promoters like Tom Loeffler who are from 360… they like guys that want to be active and are exciting to watch.”

Mike Stegall has truly embraced the grind to achieve his goals in professional boxing. He is one of many talented athletes who aren’t given the spotlight or the treatment that many of the younger prospects in the sport receive. I ended our conversation by asking if he had any words of advice for those that find themselves in a similar position.

“Anybody that has dreams they want to chase, but…have a lot of other things going on, it’s hard for average people to break out of that rat race. I would just say don’t hesitate, just do it. You’d be surprised how well you can react when you just jump in head first. Jump in head first and don’t doubt yourself and take it one day at a time. You’re going to feel like you want to quit, but just keep telling yourself one more day… don’t just listen to other people’s opinions because everyone’s going to have an opinion. Make it happen, you can make anything happen.”






Birthday Tribute – Legend Joe Louis!


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