A Utah heavyweight gets his shot at some big-time boxing matches

Beaver Ho Ching aims to ‘represent Utah, my gym, my family, my heritage when I step into the ring.’

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah-based heavyweight boxer Beaver Ho Ching, hits the bags during his near constant training at Die Standing Boxing Gym in Sandy on Tuesday, February. 27, 2024.

For Beaver Ho Ching, a professional boxer living in Sandy, boxing “has a lot of life meaning.”

“This is like therapy for me. It’s always [a] therapy session, because we’re always just talking about life,” he said. “You’ll hear that a lot in the fight game about how fighting parallels life because you have to learn how to keep moving forward, to roll with the punches.”

It’s a sport that Ching has loved his whole life, he said, going back to when he would watch the fights with his grandfather.

“You have to be in the moment,” the 32-year-old heavyweight boxer said.

After competing on and off as a boxer for six years, Ching said he decided in 2021 to bet on himself and make a commitment to the sport.

He told his wife, Jessica Pukahi-Ho Ching, shortly after they got married in June 2021 , that he felt his window was closing to get into the sport professionally.

“If you think about it, that’s what life is — any risk that you take, you have to bet on yourself. You have to believe in yourself,” Ching said.

That bet may be starting to pay off. In January 2024, Ching signed a contract with MarvNation Promotions — which, he said, is one of the world’s biggest promoters and is linked to the global streaming service DAZN, which carries a lot of boxing matches. (MarvNation did not respond to a request for comment.)

Joe Bish, Ching’s coach, said the contract guarantees Ching four fights over the next year. There are some constraints: For example, if the promoter tells Ching he has a fight, he has to be ready to go whenever they say.

Ching’s first fight is tentatively scheduled for April 6, either in California or Texas. As Ching prepares, he said he hopes Utah can rally behind him as he represents his home state — and his Samoan roots — in the ring.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Die Standing Boxing Gym coach Joe Bisch helps heavyweight boxer Beaver Ho Ching with his gloves before another round of training on Tuesday, February. 27, 2024. Ching recently signed a multi-fight professional boxing contract.

In the gym

In a way, Ching said, he’s always been chasing his dreams, even if the timeline has been later than he intended.

Ching played football at Alta High School. After serving a mission in Houston for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he was a walk-on defensive tackle for the University of Utah in 2015 — and, at 23, one of the older sophomores in practice. According to a U. of U. athletic department spokesperson, Ching never played a game for the Utes.

When Ching decided to commit to boxing, he reached out to Bish, who owns a gym, Die Standing Boxing in Sandy. Ching was impressed with the clips he saw of the gym, and the stats of the boxers who came out of it. Ching and Bish have been working together for about a year now.

“In this sport, you do need a mentor, a coach,” Ching said.

At Die Standing Boxing, Bish trains boxers between the ages of 9 and 35 — though he once had a 62-year-old fighter train with him. He has 10 amateur boxers ranked in the top 10 in the nation, according to Bish. In 2022, the gym sent one of its boxers to the Olympic qualifiers for the first time.

The gym’s small space almost feels like a movie set — a comparison aided by the poster from “Rocky III” on one wall.

Title belts, won by boxers Bish has coached, hang from a wall, alongside photos of some of the young fighters he’s trained. Flags of several nations, representing his boxers’ heritages, also hang proudly on the wall.

Trophies clutter a small desk in one corner. Cardboard boxes overflow with boxing gloves. The steady electric whirr of a treadmill can be heard. In the center are two boxing rings, where the fighters get to work.

Bish, a former fighter himself, named his gym after something an old trainer told him before his first fight: “Right before I stepped in the ring, he said, ‘Remember: We die standing. Go in that ring and give it everything you got,’” Bish said.

Boxing, Bish said, is the “biggest life experience.”

Bish started coaching about a decade ago, he said, because he “wanted to help troubled youth overcome their problems and graduate.”

One year, he said, he helped 100 kids who had dropped out get back in school and graduate. Along the way, his boxers started getting really good.

Boxing is the “hardest sport to learn,” Bish said. “A lot of people think it’s just punching. But it’s angles, physics. There’s so much that goes into boxing … if you can overcome the physical, mental conditioning part of boxing, you can accomplish almost anything in life that you put your mind to, because it’s so hard.”

As a trainer, Bish said, “it’s really cool to watch people like Beaver learn something — overcome any fears, doubts that they might have and have the extreme confidence that they can do almost anything they want.”

Though there’s not a lot of professional boxing in Utah, Bish said, the sport has grown significantly in the state.

“We probably have 10 gyms here, especially amateur boxing. We’ve had three World Champions ever in the state of Utah,” Bish said.

None of them were heavyweights, Bish said — and he said he thinks Ching will be the first to take home a title belt.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Beaver Ho Ching, a Utah-based heavyweight boxer, spars with coach Joe Bisch at his gym Die Standing in Sandy on Tuesday, February. 27, 2024.

Answering the bell

Ching’s training regiment is rigorous: A morning run of four or five miles, followed by a lifting workout or high-intensity interval training, then going into the gym to work the bags, doing rounds with the gloves and working on fundamentals with Bish.

That’s about six hours of work a day. Rinse and repeat, seven days a week.

The tough thing about heavyweight boxing, Ching said, is that he must train all year round, with essentially no off-season.

“You’re always trying to push yourself,” he said. “You can’t just be lackadaisical in this type of training.”

Bish added: “For us, we want to win a heavyweight world title, so we take it even more serious.”

Bish said that in his 30 years in the boxing business, Ching stands out because of his discipline and his commitment to his goal.

“He’s taking this very serious. He wants to be a heavyweight world champion,” Bish said.

The path to becoming a heavyweight champ is faster than that in other weight classes, Bish said.

“What it looks like to become a world champion — a heavyweight world champion, or become a top level heavyweight boxer — is: You have to fight,” Bish said.

Ching could get a title shot after any fight, Bish said. Generally, he said, a heavyweight fighter gets about 10 fights, with the prospects getting bigger with each victory. The bigger the fights, the more chances to become a champ.

“The difference between a heavyweight boxer and a guy that weighs 140 pounds is the 140 pounder would probably [compete in] 20-to-30 fights before he gets an opportunity like that,” Bish said. “A heavyweight boxer could have 5-to-15 [fights] and get a heavyweight world title shot. So the path to greatness is a little bit faster as a heavyweight boxer.”

Both Ching and Bish said that boxing, despite the common misperception, doesn’t glorify violence. Instead, they describe it as a chess match.

“Sometimes when you’re throwing a punch, it’s really to set up another punch,” Ching said. “You have to be able to think, or else you’re just going to shut down. You’re going to have to make counter-moves to people’s moves. It’s really just setting up moves, trying to stay two or three moves ahead of your opponent.”

That’s where a coach’s mentorship comes in.

“A lot of what people don’t understand is that it’s the angles, the footwork, the geometry of how you throw a punch,” Bish said. “You can throw one jab 10 different ways. It’s so much more than just punching people and doing things like that. … Every single move is calculated.”

That honed rapport between Bish and Ching is easy to spot if you watch them, even in sparring rounds. As Bish calls out moves — hooks or jabs — Ching responds without hesitation and a well-honed level of concentration. Sweat drips onto the gym mats, where sparring bruises are traded like souvenirs.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Heavyweight boxer Beaver Ho Ching lands hits with incredible force as he spars with his coach Joe Bisch in Sandy on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. Ching, an Utah-based boxer recently secured a "A multi-fight professional boxing contract to a huge promotion, one of the biggest in the world.”

Representing Utah

Ching, Bish said, “holds the flag to a lot of younger youth in the state of Utah” by showing that “it’s possible that you can get these contracts, succeed in sport and change your life.”

Boxing, Bish noted, “is not a rich man’s sport. … You don’t get a lot of rich kids. What boxing does is give an avenue to people that don’t come from much to gain a lot. … It gives opportunities. It’s so much bigger than the fight.”

The idea of being an example to others is something Ching said he takes on his shoulders.

“I represent Utah, my gym, my family, my heritage when I step into the ring,” he said. “[For] Polynesians, there’s been a lot of sacrifices for us to be in the States in the first place.”

What Ching needs now, as he nears his first fight under his new contract, is support, Bish said. (People can follow the fighter and coach on their Instagram accounts, @bb.hoching and @joebish12.)

“It takes such a commitment, especially at Beaver’s level, that you really need support from community sponsors, the state of Utah,” Bish said. “You need people behind you to help carry you to the top and without that it’s almost impossible.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sweat runs down his face as heavyweight boxer Beaver Ho Ching puts in more time sparring with his coach at Die Standing Boxing Gym in Sandy on Tuesday, February. 27, 2024.

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