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A lightweight with big dreams

Alex Mazzarisi
Alex Mazzarisi

Alex Mazzarisi doesn’t look like he’d pack much of a punch. He’s 11 years old and stands about 4-foot-8. He weighs 70 pounds. He’s a little shy and soft spoken. But looks sure can be deceiving.

Just ask the 80-pound Junior Olympic champion from Chicago, who Alex beat in Spring Valley last week.

But that’s only half the story. Sure winning fights are nice, but more than anything, the Logan Junior High sixth-grader wants to help kids out. He would like to build a community center where kids can go there for clothes, get help with their homework, maybe to try to get a job. Whatever they need, he wants to help them.

“I just want to help everybody out,” he said with a look of strong sincerity.

“He’s only 11 years old, and he has this dream. He wants to be an inspiration for everybody. That’s his goal, It’s in his heart,” his father, Steve, said proudly. “He wants to be a role model. He can inspire other people that if he can do it, they can, too. He sees how hard some of these kids have it. He’s been in a gym where gangs were all over.”

When asked where he’d like to set up his community center, he said, “I go wherever my Dad takes me.”

Steve Mazzarisi laughed and said the family, who moved from Florida to Princeton in May, has put down roots here, where his brother has opened up Maria’s Pizza. Alex and his dad work out in the old Opera House above Maria’s, formerly Nelson Drug Store. He also trains out of Rios Boxing Club in Peru and the Quad Cities.

Alex has been boxing for three years. He saw his dad get out his gloves one day from his boxing days and wanted to give it a try.

“It keeps me active and away from video games. You can work out and have fun. You can get a lot of trophies, and you can also help people out,” he said.

Steve Mazzarisi said his son hasn’t put down the gloves since.

“We just started working with him, and he’s been in it ever since. I tried to get him into other sports (like) football. He’s just so dedicated to boxing; that’s his thing,” Steve said.

One thing does come first, however, his mother, Jessica, points out.

“Oh yes, first comes homework,” she said.

“I always tell him you’ve got to be intelligent when you go out there,” Steve said.

Alex has been in 15 fights so far, fighting in the Silver Gloves in Florida and Illinois, and shows a promising future. He recently fought up in the 80-pound division in Spring Valley and beat the Junior Olympic champion from Chicago. He brought home two nice trophies from the Indian Summer Boxing Tournament in Wisconsin, which he showed to his new classmates at Logan.

“He’s got a lot of natural instincts. We’ve met a lot of champions and boxers and everybody calls him champ. They see something in. They see the future in Alex,” Steve said.

Steve, a former amateur fighter, says boxing is good for kids and keeps them out of trouble.

“We have a saying, ‘Don’t do dope;jump rope,’” he said. “These kids learn discipline and respect, and they get to travel. They’re not stuck at home all the time or the same neighborhood all the time. This is what USA boxing does for the kids.”

Alex will be competing in the Quad Cities in October, the Silver Gloves in Rockford in December and the Junior Olympics in May. Anyone who would like to sponsor Alex can contact Steve at 815-275-0461.

Remembering Van Drew: It’s hard to say what kind of sportscaster Dave Van Drew was (let alone a good friend) in a few words in a news story or obituary. But we sure lost a good one last week with the passing of former WZOE radio jack of all trades. I wanted to expound on my comments last week.

Former PHS basketball coach Roger Lowe says he couldn’t believe how good of broadcasters a small town like Princeton had in Van Drew and his sidekick, Greg Halbleib.

Dave was passionate about the teams he covered. When the 1989 Tiger football team beat Rock Island Alleman in the 3A quarterfinals, Halbleib remembers Van Drew’s call as, No. 1 is done! No. 8 (Princeton) is great!’

Halbleib remembers how Van Drew repeatedly beat on Walnut Superintendent and PA Many Larry Eggleston as Blue Raider Ken Terbush ran down the sidelines for the game-winning touchdown in Walnut’s come-from-behind win over Durand in the 1982 quarterfinals.

Craig Watson endured the same treatment from Van Drew sitting between Van Drew and Halbleib in the 1986 Ohio Bulldogs State semifinal win over West Frankfort.

Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at

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