EAST BRUNSWICK – In preparation for his first professional boxing match, Chaz Nguyen, a police officer in East Brunswick, spent several months training for four rounds. After countless delays, Nguyen finally entered the ring on April 2. That night, his personal sacrifices and in-ring dominance culminated into a first-round TKO (technical knockout).
However, it was the battles outside the ring that provided Nguyen with the mental resolve required to compete with anyone or anything.
In December 2021, Nguyen first shared his journey into the world of boxing. A native of Old Bridge, Nguyen spent his formative years fighting, not in competition, but for his life. He suffered from branchial cleft remnant, a rare birth defect that creates cysts on the neck.
His condition required him to have 15 neck surgeries from age 1 to 14. Despite his life-threatening circumstances, he managed to develop a fierce determination and competitiveness that gravitated towards the sport of boxing.
Now, years after his introduction to the squared circle, he’s accomplished another set of life-changing feats that add to his story.
But prior to his debut, Nguyen found himself interrupted by the brashness of life again.
During a sparring session, he sustained an injury that required stitches and momentarily hindered his progress. Following that incident, his wife Katie was rushed to the hospital for an emergency C-section where their daughter Isabel was born five weeks early.
“While I have been training for months and had a game plan for the final weeks before the fight, I had several different events happen that changed my preparation.
“Three weeks before the fight, I got head-butted in sparring and had to get five stitches on my nose, which slowed my sparring down.
“The following week, my wife, Katie, had to have an emergency C-section with our daughter, who was born five weeks early. Our daughter Isabel was admitted into the NICU and was there for 11 days,” Nguyen said.
Faced with a difficult situation, Nguyen decided to prioritize his family over his fight. However, his wife encouraged him to continue training. For the next seven days, he multitasked to do both.
After his training sessions, he would return to the hospital to provide comfort and support as his wife gradually recovered. This became the night and day routine for his family until his wife and daughter were finally released.
“I would sleep in the hospital with her, leave to train and spar, and then head right back to the hospital,” he said.
Three days before the fight, his daughter was released from the NICU. Now with everyone home and safe, Nguyen turned his full attention to the ring.
The pre-fight game plan instilled by his corner centered around controlled aggression. To ensure a knockout, Nguyen spent the previous weeks sparring different opponents in New Jersey and New York. By getting acclimated to the diverse skillsets and different styles of numerous boxers, he developed an earned confidence.
However, it didn’t come without its challenges.
“I love boxing and the experience of training for a fight but there are some aspects of getting ready for a fight that are terrible. … What I don’t enjoy is all the extra running and the weight cutting, especially the month or so before the fights. There’s also a lot of anticipation and anxiety you have to learn to deal with while just waiting for fight night to come,” he said.
On Saturday, April 2, at The Terrace in Paramus, New Jersey, the wait was over.
Months after his originally scheduled debut was postponed, Nguyen finally got his opportunity to fight. At 2:54 in the first round, the referee officially stopped the match, declaring Nguyen the winner by TKO.
Now considered a professional boxer, the victory validated his years-long journey in the sport.
“Some highlights of this experience were getting to actually participate and win at the professional level, especially with all of the support I received from friends, family, co-workers, and the YESS gym.
“This is something that I have dreamed of, so having the opportunity to prove myself as an athlete and see my hard work payoff is something I will always be proud of,” Nguyen said.
He further credited his support system as a major factor in securing his win. As a new father, his determination to keep “fighting” was strengthened by the victory. Expected to be born after his debut, the life of his daughter signified that like her father, she too has a resilient fighting spirit.
“I think because of the craziness that had happened before the fight, my friends and family were even more excited for my victory. While my daughter was supposed to be born weeks after the fight, knowing she got to ‘see’ my win made this win even better,” he said.
Although he plans to relax this summer with his family, he will continue to train and if the opportunity arises, he will consider fighting professionally again. Eventually, he hopes to teach children about the mental and physical benefits of boxing.
“I’m interested in possibly having another professional fight, but plan to spend this summer with my family. After this summer is over, I plan to reevaluate and see how much time I can dedicate to the sport.
“Moving forward, I still hope to one day help teach boxing to kids. I think the sport of boxing is one of the best activities both kids and adults can get involved in, as it’s not just physical fitness but it’s a sport that allows you to learn more about yourself as an athlete and individual. I hope one day to be like my coach, Al Artola, who has helped me become the athlete and man that I am today,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen expects fatherhood to mirror boxing in that both require consistency and sacrifice for success. But like the challenges he’s already faced in life, he’s excited to embrace this new journey.
“This experience continued to show me that with hard work, passion, and perseverance you can tackle any situation. Fatherhood will be one of the hardest, yet most rewarding experiences I will have, and I am excited to begin this adventure with my wife and daughter.
“I am most excited to watch my daughter experience the world for the first time. Already getting to see her do all of her ‘firsts’ has been the best and I can’t wait to continue to experience new things with her. I hope one day I can teach her boxing and she can learn some of these same lessons,” Nguyen said.