After the first round of Ben Cottingham’s first boxing match, his opponent wouldn’t come out in the second.
At first glance he seems like any average Osage teenager walking around Pawhuska, mild-mannered, quiet and kind. Not too tall and definitely not a hulking figure. But one wouldn’t suspect he’s lightning fast, full of non-stop energy and relentless in the boxing ring, said his Boxing Coach Earl Gilkey.
“He has marvelous talent, he’s improved a heck-of-a-lot from when he first started,” Gilkey said. “He’s developing his punches . . . he’s very coachable and willing to learn.”
Cottingham, an 18-year-old junior at Pawhuska High School, said that he got interested in boxing at the age of 13. He was getting into trouble at school, his grades were falling and he was involved in more than a couple of fights. He was attending the Osage Nation Boys and Girls Club after school when Earl Gilkey visited the club to give some lessons in boxing and karate.
“Boxing takes a lot of practice, I just kept showing up [to Gilkey’s class],” Cottingham said. “Boxing helped me take out my aggression and it makes it to where I don’t want to fight on the streets, I can just take it out on the punching bag.”
Cottingham kept up with it for a while, then quit and started back up again. Now he’s committed to the sport and trains year round.
“He has a real good future and we want to keep him on the right track and keep positive stuff in his life,” Gilkey said. “He’s a good kid and he got hooked up with some bad stuff earlier in his career but we’re trying to remedy that from happening again, just keeping the positive in his life.”
Cottingham is now making his grades to play sports, takes Osage language at the high school and hopes to acquire traditional Osage clothes so that maybe someday he can participate in the In-Lon-Schka dances, he said.
When Gilkey starts to talk about Cottingham’s matches and training, his voice gets excited and he begins to talk rapidly in boxing lingo, firing off names for punch combinations and describing his opponents’ startled expressions by Cottingham’s quickness.
“He’s a right hander, we try to start out all our matches with a jab, and everything’s off the left jab,” Gilkey explains. “And sometimes he gets into a brawling match and he falls off of that and we tell him to go off the jab. Sometimes he’ll throw the jab first and then he’ll come with a hook or a right cross to the body.”
Cottingham’s first match was against a 24-year-old Tulsan who started out the match stronger than Cottingham, but he “put on the pressure” and relentlessly threw right hooks into his face and body and his opponent wouldn’t come out in the second round, Gilkey said.
His second fight was against a 26-year-old man that was a good match for Cottingham and they went the full three rounds with Cottingham winning by decision.
His third opponent was Cottingham’s same age and Cottingham knocked him down immediately with a jab, right hook, and repeated hooks to the opponents body that forced the judges to call the match a knock out in the first round.
“I work out every day, I go to boxing Tuesday and Thursday for two hours and at school I work out, lift weights for basketball practice,” said Cottingham, who is now playing for the high school’s basketball team. “I run every Tuesday and Thursday, I run to Subway and back and on Wednesday at school I run the track pretty much two miles, which helps build up my endurance and stamina.”
But Cottingham’s favorite workout is sparing with other boxers. Gilkey said a U.S. Marine just came back from the Iraq War and gave Cottingham a pretty good workout, “They were really going at it.”
A Native American boxing association out of Riverside Indian School has asked Cottingham to attend a competition in New York City next year as a part of a team of Native boxers and Gilkey will be raising money for the trip, he said.
Something else Gilkey wants to do for Cottingham is to get some sponsors to host a boxing tournament in Pawhuska so the community can watch Cottingham box.
To find out more about the fundraising efforts for Ben Cottingham or the dates of his upcoming matches, call Gilkey’s Gym at (918) 287-2663.