Rock Hill officer prepares for his return to the boxing ring

Mike “Double Clutch” Englert never stepped back in a boxing match.

True to form, he’s stepping forward with a return to the boxing ring – picking up where he left off more than a decade after his last fight.

Englert, 45, a veteran of the U.S. Army and a Rock Hill police officer, began boxing at age 11 when, he says, a police officer introduced him to a boxing instructor in his Rochester, N.Y., neighborhood.

“I was getting into trouble, just being a hyper kid,” Englert said. “(The officer) says, ‘You’re gonna start boxing. If you don’t box, maybe I’ll take you to jail.’ I started crying, ‘I can’t go to jail!’ 

Englert accompanied the instructor to the gym, where he recalls being “humbled” by another young boxer the first day. Over the years, he kept going and training and soon started competing, eventually earning multiple New York State Golden Gloves championships, gold and silver medals in the Empire State Games and numerous regional championships in the amateur ranks.

After turning pro in 1999, Englert compiled a record of 10 wins and three losses with seven knockouts. He put his professional career on hold to join the military, a decision he doesn’t regret.

“The Army was tough for the job I had,” he said. “And if I didn’t have the mindset of ‘You have to train hard,’ it wouldn’t have happened the way it did.”

Englert remains active with the Alabama National Guard and returned in September from his most recent deployment to Iraq. His chief second, or training partner, Antoine Logan, said Englert immediately wanted to start training again and was discussing his desire to open a gym for a boxing mentor program.

“OK, that’s gonna cost money to get the building,” Logan recalled telling Englert. “How are you gonna raise the money?”

More than a decade after his last match in 2005, Englert will return to the boxing ring on May 7 in an event titled “The Comeback.” It will be held at the Rock Hill National Guard Armory and feature six other professional bouts leading up to the main event. Any money Englert earns will go toward his nonprofit boxing mentor program, Saint Michael’s Boxing Club (Englert was named after Saint Michael).

“I’ve gotten a lot more out of boxing than I’ve put in,” he said. “It’s time to give something back to boxing that it gave me.”

Englert has mentored and coached local kids in boxing since 2008 but wants to expand his program. He’s closing on a building on Curtis Street and plans to officially open the gym in June – a goal more than 15 years in the making, he says.

The program will be open to kids ages 7 to 19 with no membership fee. Englert and Logan say they don’t just teach participants about boxing – they teach them about life.

“We always put in their head, ‘You can be a champion, but you have to do it this way. You have to train hard,’ ” Englert said. “We get them interested that way, then we start throwing in things like, ‘What are you gonna do with school? Are you passing? Are you going to school?’ 

Englert said they emphasize the same traits and habits he’s learned from boxing, including structure, discipline and chain of command.

“You’re not gonna curse, you’re not gonna be late,” he said. “You’re gonna do my workout, not yours. It’s not Burger King – you can’t have it your way.”

Englert hopes to fight in at least several more matches and put any earnings toward his mentor program, but says that’ll be determined by how well things go May 7. He jokes that his 27-year-old opponent was only a toddler when Englert fought in his first match.

“He’s got all knock-out wins,” he said. “Neither of us like to take a step back, so it’s gonna be a war.”

To prepare, Englert and Logan train daily, usually after working a 12-hour police shift. On their days off, they hit the gym twice a day.

“I kick him out of the gym because he doesn’t want to leave,” Logan said.

Englert admits this is the first time in his career that he’s been “a little nervous,” but it doesn’t get in the way of their training. Their ultimate goal is something much bigger than a single match.

“We’ll see if I have anything left on (May) the seventh,” Englert says. “Of course, I’d like to fight as many times as I can, but it’s not about me anymore.”

Teddy Kulmala: 803-329-4082, @teddy_kulmala

Want to go?

Professional boxing

May 7 at 8 p.m.

Rock Hill National Guard Armory, 126 Museum Road, Rock Hill

Tickets: $30 general admission, $40 ringside

For information, call 803-610-8373