The Contender: Air Force boxer makes Robins proud

  • Published
  • By Brian Shreve
  • Robins Public Affairs
Rubin Saenz III comes across as anything but a raging bull.

Rather than the clichéd boxing shtick of boisterous, inflated ego for which so many talents of his sport are known, Saenz, 19, entered the ring last month with the soft-spoken dignity that comes with being a United States Airman.

But make no mistake, at 5 feet 10 inches, 152 pounds, this welterweight is every inch a fighter - one who is making the Air Force, and Robins in particular, prouder by the punch.

After earning a position on the 2014 All-Air Force Boxing Team, Saenz - also known by his nickname, "Cito" - returned to Robins this month after competing in the San Antonio Golden Gloves Championship, a five-day event in which he dominated, winning all four of his bouts.

As champion of his weight class, he advanced to represent San Antonio as well as the Air Force at the Texas State Golden Gloves Championship Feb. 25 in Ft. Worth, where he was ultimately defeated during the quarterfinals.

Saenz, a 78th Force Support Squadron customer service technician, had been one of 11 boxers selected by the Air Force Personnel Center to participate in the 2014 AAFB Trial Camp at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, this January. Upon making the team, he was given 40 days to train for the SAGGC.

Saenz said he began boxing at age 6 with nudging from his father, also a fighter while serving in the Marine Corps. He said he didn't begin enjoying the sport until age 17, when he put boxing on the backburner to pursue his military career.

In fact, before lacing up his gloves for the recent competition, Saenz hadn't boxed in two years - not since enlisting in the USAF.

Prior to his boxing hiatus, the Brownsville, Texas native had 67 fights under his belt, winning local Golden Gloves competitions, state Silver Gloves and state Junior Olympics among other accomplishments.

He had been unaware the Air Force even had a boxing team until last year while browsing Facebook, where he discovered Air Force boxing coach, Master Sgt. Steven Franco at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

"Then I friend requested him, and we started talking," Saenz said. "He told me to turn in my application, accepted me and I was out there in San Antonio."

One team represents the entire USAF. Though it usually consists of more boxers, due to budget cuts, this year's team was comprised of one boxer from each weight class, making each place all the more coveted.

Saenz, who has been stationed at Robins for a year, said another incentive for entering the competition was that it gave him the chance to return home where his parents could attend his fights.

He added that his greatest mentor, as a fighter and as a man, remains his father.

"My pops, he got me into this sport," said Saenz. "My father gave up so much for me. I am very thankful to him for making me the man I am now and teaching me this wonderful sport that has brought me to a lot of places."

Though still a teenager, Saenz said the best advice he could give to younger boxing hopefuls would be to simply work hard and remember that sacrifice is necessary.

"It's hard because you have to give up a lot of stuff," he said, "especially food. I love food, probably ice cream the most."

Despite the outcome at the state level, Saenz said boxing for the Air Force added to the thrill of the fight, serving its own higher reward.

"It felt good because every time I fought, I had the USAF on my trunks," he said. And I was boxing civilians, so everybody looked at me a little differently every time I walked into the ring. It's pretty cool."