A Punch in the Face

A Punch in the Face

Photo by David Schrott

“Very few men can pull off a ponytail. Even fewer can manage to rock a purple sweatband. Bobby High can do both .”

He can also beat the hell out of you. But don’t worry, he’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and I am confident that, outside the ring, he wouldn’t hit anyone. As a self-proclaimed people’s champion and friend to man, he is actually my vote for mayor.Allow me to explain.

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Allow me to explain. When I first met Bobby, I was enjoying the FLL Launch Party at Annie Bailey’s. After a brief introduction and a handshake, I first noticed his eyes: he’s got some gorgeous baby blues. I was asked to do a profile on him; to give readers a look inside the heart of a fighter and a sense for how it feels to get hit in the face with someone’s full weight behind the punch. He must be good, I thought, his nose doesn’t look broken.

A few months later we met at The Chestnut Hill Café. He’s a little late because he’s busy talking to people outside, and at the counter, and when he puts his coffee into his silver thermos. He actually interacts with a total of nine different people, all who he knows by name, during our interview. Interestingly enough, one of the only things I had heard about Bobby was a joke about how he should run for mayor. When asked about it, he says, “Wherever I go I try to build my friends. You never know when you’re going to need somebody. I like to be reclusive as well but in this world it’s nice to have unity.” He adds with a chuckle, “If I want to make a run for it, I don’t know, maybe I could.”

When I listen to him, he’s completely zen and calm and balanced and gentle— hardly the words used to describe a boxer. “I’m a spiritual person…just trying to pass on good energy,” he says. And I feel it. When he’s thinking about how to answer my questions he doesn’t look at me but looks out the window, a million miles away. The way his thoughts connect is really quite fascinating. I wonder if he’s always been so serenely centered. At age seven he started watching boxing and fights on television with his dad, who he says, “was a street kid but always loved the sport.” At age nine he started boxing at a gym in Columbia, and by age eleven Bobby was an amateur and training with Barry Stumpf and Milt Finefrock. Bobby was an amateur boxer (for ten years) until age twenty-one. After an unsuccessful attempt at the 1992 Olympic team, he stayed out of boxing for a solid six years until his professional debut in the summer of 1999. “I got inspired to go pro, to want to compete again. Let me do it without the headgear, without the shirt on. Let me do it professionally,” he recalls. As a pro, he had eleven fights and retired in the summer of 2003.

In November of 2000, his father passed away in a motorcycle accident. Bobby was in a training camp in Canada. His father was only forty-eight and worked at the Alcoa factory, moving his way up. Bobby is sure he would still be there today. His father also worked as a bartender. After his death, Bobby briefly worked as a bartender, “to fill a void.” He says of his father, “He was a provider, a good family man.”

He actually just thought of him the day we met, after dropping his girlfriend off at the Harrisburg Airport, “I remembered him dropping me off at the airport for one of my last amateur trips. That was like 1992. It was such a nice day and really brought back memories. You think about someone who left a positive impression on your life and my dad did. I loved him very much. It’s coming up on ten years.”

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Boxing is still a large part of his life, as he stays involved with the sport by helping others learn about it, keeping up with current happenings, training youth and adults and keeping his body fit and in shape. He works at Finefrock & Stumpf’s E. Liberty St. Gym, near the old Stockyards. He also works at the PotteryWorks (owned by his companion, Marcie Natale) where he does maintenance projects and other “stock boy” jobs.

He also does restoration projects on old homes (predominately in York) with longtime friend/mentor Blair Bohr. “Just like anything else, as it gets older you have to make repairs,” Bobby says. He looks out the window at a church across the street, “Look at that church, you know what I mean, old school. Is it going to fall down? I don’t think so. Some of these other places are all fabricated. They don’t stand a chance.” He likes to restore things, keep them alive. His eyes light up when he mentions the possibility of giving private lessons out of his garage. It’s obvious his passion for the sport is still very much alive—restored in a way that doesn’t disturb the foundation, but uses it to create an original work full of beauty and strength.

For access to the full article, reference page 51 of the Issue 16 pdf.