By Steven Hoffman
After continuing his streak of strong performances at USA Boxing’s National Junior and Prep Open in Salt Lake City, Utah in early December, Cornelio “Chada” Phipps is looking forward to another big year.
Cornelio, 13, is building an extremely impressive boxing résumé. He’s already a five-time national champion, and he has traveled extensively all across the U.S. to take part in boxing competitions. Up to this point, no challenge has been too big and no spotlight has been too bright for the Penn’s Grove School seventh-grader.
“I like the stage,” Cornelio said during an interview at the Straight 2-3 Boxing Club in Kennett Square, where he trains five or six days a week under the tutelage of his father, Dwayne Phipps. His quiet, easy manner suggests that Cornelio is as comfortable in his own skin as he is the ring, where he has compiled a 73-15 record in 88 matches so far.
Cornelio was four years old when his father gave him the first lessons in the sweet science. He immediately took to the sport, and has built, round by round, training session by training session, an impressive record: In addition to the five national junior championships, he is a Junior Olympic Champion, Eastern Qualifier Champion, USA Open Champion, and a Ringside World Champion.
Dwayne learned the ropes while training with Delaware boxing great Dave Tiberi. Now, he passes on what he learned to his son. Cornelio has been a quick study. He is a natural when it comes to boxing, and he also has a strong work ethic.
Dwayne said that he likes that Cornelio has dedicated himself to boxing because it helps him learn how to take care of himself and it helps build up self-confidence. In addition to his boxing work at Straight 2-3 Boxing Club, Cornelio trains to improve his cardio with William Bailey, a track & field coach at Lincoln University.
“I’m very proud of him,” Dwayne explained. “I’m proud that he has these goals.”
Those goals include qualifying for training with Team USA in hopes of representing the United States in the 2024 Olympics, a long-term dream that Cornelio moves toward each time he steps in the ring.
Dwayne said that his son’s well-rounded skills have been a key to his success early in his career.
“He has a real good boxing IQ in the ring,” Dwayne said. “He’s got speed and power. He can box against orthodox opponents or southpaws.”
Cornelio learns a lot about technique by watching boxing greats like Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. Vasyl Lomachenko is another favorite.
Everyone at Straight 2-3 Boxing Club who has watched Cornelio train said that he has improved a lot in the last year. Cornelio agrees with that assessment, saying, “I got better. My hands got faster and I started to hit harder.”
When he’s not training, Cornelio likes to play basketball and soccer. He’s a football fan. One of his most important goals is to make the Honor Roll at Penn’s Grove School.
Cornelio is just one of the youngsters who are currently learning the basics of the sport at Straight 2-3 Boxing Club. The youngsters have different experience levels, goals, and backgrounds. Malachai Jones comes to the Kennett Square facility from Philadelphia. Jones competes at 106 pounds, and has six fights under his belt. Javon Robinson, 11, has won Golden Gloves events three times. He is currently fighting in the 65-pound weight class. Some of the newer arrivals include DeAndre Scott, who started training at the boxing club six months ago, and brothers Quadir and Khyre Lavender, who started training at the boxing club three months ago.
The youngsters have the benefit of being trained by a group of adults who can serve as positive role models for them.
“It’s all for the kids,” explained Tony Jones, Malachai’s father. He serves as an assistant coach at Straight 2-3 Boxing Club.
“We’re trying to build these guys to be respectful young men,” Dwayne explained.
Being able to travel to take part in boxing competitions provides an invaluable opportunity for youngsters. It can be very expensive, however. The parents do what they can to help all the youngsters take part in these opportunities. Dwayne said that he appreciates businesses like Bravo Pizza in Oxford who have stepped forward to provide some sponsorships. Dwayne’s employer, Tipton Trucking, allows him the time off from work whenever he needs to travel in support of Cornelio.
In the year ahead, Cornelio expects to travel to Reno, Nevada for the Western Qualifier and to Dallas, Texas for the Battle of Big D. Each new experience helps prepare him for the next step on the road to achieve his dreams.
“I’d like to be a gold medalist in the Olympics,” Cornelio explained.
Oxford resident Daron Wilson helps train the young fighters at Straight 2-3 Boxing Club. He knows a thing or two about boxing, having 27 amateur fights under his belt. He said that Cornelio has a very bright future if he continues to work hard.
“When I first saw him, I was kind of shocked,” he said. “Cornelio has a lot of professionalism for a kid his age. He works really hard. He’s very disciplined. He’s always sweating when he’s working out. He does his road work. He seems to have the makings of a champion.”
The Straight 2-3 Boxing Club is located at 555 Birch Street in Kennett Square. For more information, make a contribution or visit the club, contact Dwayne Phipps at 610-470-9565.