Playing Through

At 10 years old, Robert D'Lorm didn't learn how to box to beat up the bullies at school; he learned how to box so he wouldn't have to

Playing Through
Photo by Thomas Hackett

Before he took up boxing, Robert D'Lorm was a sweet, shy, baby-faced boy who avoided physical altercations at all costs. After three years of training at Richard Lord's boxing gym on North Lamar, Robert is still that gentle, sloe-eyed boy.

I'm tempted to punctuate that last sentence with an "except." Something like: He's just the same – except that any kid who messes with him on the playground is looking for trouble. Except there is no "except." Robert, 10, still has no interest in fighting anyone. That's not why he got into boxing. "I don't like beating guys up," he told me.

"You don't like being a tough guy?"

"No, sir."

Richard Lord was pleased. He knew that he'd trained his pupil well. Learning to throw a sharp jab has been a crucial part of Robert's training, of course, but in Lord's view, the boxing is just a means to an end. He doesn't care who you are – a judge or a drug dealer, a 5-year-old boy or a 45-year-old single mom – the goal is to cultivate self-confidence. "And that may have nothing to do with boxing," Lord said. "For me, it's about watching the whole personality develop. When Robert came in here three years ago, he was overweight and out of shape. He got picked on at school. Well, he doesn't get picked on anymore, and that's not because he's getting in fights. We teach all of our fighters to walk away from a fight. But they carry themselves differently. They're secure in themselves, so they don't have to fight."

That's where Lord likes to think his majoring in psychology at UT comes in handy. Growing up in Dallas, he started boxing when he was 5 years old, weighing in at 36 pounds, and liked the sport for one simple reason: He won more often than he lost. Turning professional, he was once ranked No. 10 in his weight class. But it has been as a trainer that he has had his most success, particularly in working with Jesus "El Matador" Chavez, the World Boxing Council super flyweight champion, who 15 years ago showed up at Lord's Gym broke and homeless – and then spent the next two years living there. Lord also trains Anissa Zamarron, a female world champion, and Richard Garriott, the gazillionaire computer-game developer slash space tourist. A quarter century ago, he whipped David Bowie into shape for his Let's Dance album and tour.

"But you know what?" Lord said. "I probably get as much satisfaction out of working with kids like Robert, watching how they take what they learn here out into their everyday world. It makes me feel young. I feel like I'm combating all the bad things out there."

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Richard Lord, Robert D'Lorm, David Bowie, Richard Garriott

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