Still in the game but not competing: Bobby Aday shares his love of boxing

By Chelsea Retherford | Living 50 Plus

When Bobby Aday is asked why he opened Pop Pop’s Boxing Gym in Tuscumbia after retiring from owning a construction company for 25 years, his answer is straight if not a little ambitious.

“My goal is to change the world through the sport of boxing,” Aday said.

Aday — who earned his nickname, Coach Pop Pop, from his grandkids — opened the niche gym about two years ago before he officially ended his professional career.

“I was actually doing them both for a little bit, but I finally made the decision to take the leap and go,” said Aday, who turned 53 last year. “This is what I’m going to do until it’s over.

“Construction was my Plan A. I had no Plan B. My Plan B turned out to be something that I love and that I have loved my whole life. You can be a boxing coach. You can still be in the game and not be competing.”

Aday said his passion for the sport began when he was about six years old, and he saw “Sugar Ray” Ray Charles Leonard on television after he had won a gold medal at the 1975 Pan American Games. What Aday said impressed him the most was that the rising boxing contender competed in the light welterweight division.

“This guy was no bigger than my father,” Aday said. “So, that made me look to the sport like, ‘Hey, this is not just about being big. It’s about being good in the sport.’”

At the time his interest was sparked, he was devastated to learn there were no true boxing gyms in his area. He said he had to let his passion die for a little while, but he kept the spark alive by training in “boxing fitness,” which he said taught him some of the basics but wasn’t focused on much more than conditioning.

Aday said he did get to compete some when he was younger, but he never achieved as much in the sport as he’d hoped for himself. Now, he wants to help other hopefuls, young and old, who have dreams of becoming a boxing champion.

“My oldest student is 64 years old,” Aday said. “The thing is, you’re never too young to learn, and you’re never too old to get fit.”

Aday attributes his good health to his own love of boxing, which has kept him active most of his life.

“I am in perfect health for a 40 year old. I am 53 years old. That makes a big difference,” he said. “When you go in and you do the regular checks that a 50-year-old man does, and the guy looks at you and goes, ‘Man, you’re perfect, you’re perfect, you’re perfect.’

“That’s the only thing you can attribute it to. I eat well. I exercise regularly. I run three fitness boxing classes a week. I do personals during the day. I do group classes at night. I never stop.

“That’s the thing. You have to be willing to put in the work in anything that you do,” he said. “That’s what boxing teaches us, whether we’re doing the drills, or whether we’re doing the work at our job. You have to do the best that you can do. You have to put in the work.”

Aday argues too that boxing has done more for him in his life than help to keep him fit. It’s a message he hopes to pass down to anyone who walks through the front door of his gym at 106 Water St.

“Everything we do in life, we learn in that ring. Sometimes you have to take a step back to throw the best punch,” he said. “Champions are made one step at a time. You just have to make that first step, and decide, ‘I want to get in better shape. I want to get fit.’

“Boxing is the perfect way to make that happen. Not only will you learn and get fit, but you’ll also learn how to defend yourself. You’ll learn how to respect yourself and how to respect other people. That’s the goal of this gym. It’s just to make better humans.”