- Associated Press - Sunday, March 30, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - When Larry Cumbo was playing football at Catholic High School in the early 1950s, his coaches thought lifting weights made athletes muscle-bound - common but erroneous wisdom of the time. So, he and a teammate started using boxing workouts to get in shape.

“We started working out with the bags to get our cardio and hand-eye coordination,” Cumbo said.

It became a habit - a deeply ingrained habit. Through his football days at a junior college in Mississippi, through his days at Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now the University of Louisiana-Lafayette), he hit the bags.

He’s still doing it, 64 years later.

“I guess I was addicted to them (boxing workouts) like someone would be to running or that type of thing,” Cumbo said. “I’ve always worked out, even when I was coaching at Broadmoor. I always had a bag somewhere that I’d hit to keep in shape and keep my hand-eye coordination going.”

Cumbo, who turns 80 on April 11, is still at it pretty much every day of the week.

He’s one of several members of Foxy’s Fitness who heads to the covered outdoor area where the speed bag, double-end bag and heavy bag are kept.

“Early in the morning we have a pretty good group of older guys who like hitting the bags,” said Ty Barrett, head trainer at Foxy’s. “They come early - a lot earlier than I want to get here - and have a pretty good workout.”

For Cumbo, it’s a routine that resembles a boxing match itself. He divides his workout into six rounds of five minutes each, using an egg timer to let him know when the round is over.

In each round, he spends time on each of the three bags, then takes a two-minute break between rounds.

He arranges bottle caps to help him keep track of the number of rounds.

Long before fitness centers like Foxy’s became popular, Cumbo brought boxing bags with him to junior college, and to the high schools where he coached so he could keep it up. Although boxing was a much more popular sport at the time - LSU had a varsity boxing team until 1956 - Cumbo never actually fought in the ring until junior college, and that was his friends’ idea.

“As a prank, they entered me in the Golden Gloves, because they knew I had a bag,” he said. “I boxed in it and I won, but my coach told me it is interfering with spring training, so you’ve got a decision to make: You can play football, or you can go to regionals in Memphis. So, I went ahead and forfeited.”

But he never stopped working the bags, and it has helped Cumbo stay fit.

“When I was playing college ball I weighed 215,” Cumbo said. “They say if you can stay within 10 (pounds) of your college weight, you’re in good shape. I weigh 222, but I’m differently proportioned. I’m not as thin and muscular as I was, but I’ve got good tone. I’m in pretty healthy shape.”

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