Wildwood, NJ—Fighting in a 20-foot boxing ring may seem a rough way to make a living, but after what Chuck Mussachio has been through this year, it may seem like a piece of cake.
It’s been a rough 2011 for the 32-year-old college grad-turned teacher-turned bartender, who challenges Garrett Wilson, of Philadelphia, PA, for Wilson’s USBA cruiserweight title in a scheduled 12-round contest on Saturday evening, Nov. 19, at Bally’s Atlantic City.
In his last match Dec. 4 at Bally’s, Mussachio earned an eight-round decision over Theo Kruger, of Port Charlotte, FL. That victory boosted Mussachio’s record to 17-1-2, 5 K0s, and he should have been moving onto bigger and better fights. Things don’t always turn out the way you want.
“Since my last fight I have had a few misfortunes take place in my life,” Mussachio said. “In addition to losing my job (elementary school guidance counselor), I also lost my uncle, Robert Stipa. He was in my corner for each of my professional fights and he died unexpectedly on Jan. 12. He was 53 years old. A few months later, on May 16, I lost my closest friend in the world, Adam Franz, also unexpectedly. He was 31. After my friend’s death, I decided to take some time away from the gym. My head was not into boxing and this is not a sport you can do halfway if you want to be successful.
“For the next few months I focused my time and energy on not only trying to find a job for the 2011-2012 school year, but also on helping to counsel my grieving family and friends. Sometime in September I was presented with this fight (Wilson). I thought about it and realized that I am not finished boxing yet. I still have ‘miles to go before I sleep’ as Robert Frost once wrote and if I take any more time off it’s going to be really tough to get back into shape.
“I accepted the fight and training has been going great. For the first time since I can remember I don’t have to watch what I eat. I actually have to gain weight for this fight.
“Between those two unexpected deaths, my family, friends and I were, and still are, heavily grieving. I have decided to dedicate this fight to the memory of those I lost.”
A pro since 2005, Mussachio has built his record against foes like Richard Stewart of New Castle, DE, Tony Ferrante and Andre Hemphill, both of Philadelphia, PA; Willis Lockett, of Takoma Park, MD; Carl Daniels, of St. Louis, MO. His only loss came via 10-round decision against world-rated Tommy Karpency, of Adah, PA, in 2009 in Morgantown, WV.
“I got head-butted in the second round against Karpency,” Mussachio said. “It was above my left eye and I couldn’t see out of that eye for three rounds until my cut man was able to stop it. I felt I lost the fight in those three rounds. Had I not gotten head-butted, I’m confident I would have beaten him. Being that it was not intentional, I chalk it up to being part of the sport of boxing. Just my luck that my opponent in the biggest fight of my career, at the time, had a head the size of a barstool. It was a close fight right up to the end.”
Mussachio started boxing when he was 15. He got his Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education at Lock Haven University, located in central Pennsylvania approximately 30 miles from Williamsport and State College.
At Lock Haven, Mussachio joined the college boxing team. He was NCAA runner-up as a freshman (1999) and sophomore (2000). As a junior, he won the NCAA championship at 185 pounds and again as a senior at 175 pounds.
“I wanted to win it in two different weight classes so I dropped down a weight class in 2002,” he said.
After Lock Haven, Mussachio went to the United States Olympic Education Center in Marquette, MI, where he boxed for Al Mitchell. While he was there, he received his Masters Degree in Guidance Counseling from Northern Michigan University.
“There were about 20-25 of us up there who were selected by coach Mitchell to train in the center,” Mussachio said. “I shared a room with former world (WBA junior middleweight) champion David Reid, who was one of the coaches. I also shared a room with world (WBC/WBO junior welterweight) champion Tim Bradleyand a handful of other Olympic hopefuls and current top professional contenders.”
When he came home in 2004 with over 100 amateur fights on his resume, Mussachio decided to give the pros a shot, making his debut April 2, 2005 in Atlantic City, NJ, by knocking out Karim Shabazz, of Brooklyn, NY, in three rounds.
“My father, Al, has been my trainer since I was 15,” Mussachio said, “with the exception of my time in Lock Haven and Northern Michigan. He was an amateur out of the legendary Passyunk Gym in South Philadelphia. He and his father would sneak off to the gym every chance they got. My grandmother—his mother—had no idea what they were doing. When she finally found out, she told my dad that he either had to quit boxing or move out of the house. At 17, he couldn’t move out so he was forced to give it up.
“My father was an undercover narcotics cop in Philadelphia before he was injured on the job and forced to retire. He and my mother, Annette, also from South Philly, decided to move to Wildwood in the mid-1970s. They had my sister, Alanna, and me and this is where we have been ever since..
“All my life, until 2005, my father owned and managed the Southern New Jersey branch of Wise Potato Chips for 30 years. My parents also owned and operated a seasonal business which was a bakery by morning and an ice cream parlor by night. With my father operating a snack-food business and my mother running the bakery/ice cream parlor, I wonder why my sister and I don’t weigh 450 pounds each.”
Using his college degrees, Mussachio worked as an education teacher at Wildwood Middle School for more than three years. He also was as a guidance counselor at Middle Township High School for one year, then was laid off due to budget cuts. He was hired as an elementary guidance counselor at Ventnor City Elementary, but budget cuts again cost him his job.
Along the way, he has worked as a bartender, currently at The Concord Café in Avalon, NJ.
“Nancy Barnabei owns the café, along with four other businesses in Wildwood,” Mussachio said. She has been one of the most organized and professional bar owners I have ever worked for. When I signed to fight (Wilson) on Nov. 19, she accommodated my work schedule to coincide with my training. I could not have hand-picked a boss to be any more supportive of my career than Nancy has been.
“The patrons know about my boxing career, but it is not a rough crowd. It is more of a neighborhood ‘Cheers’ type of setting. We have mostly regulars between 40 and 80 years old. They are very supportive of my boxing career and some have purchased tickets to come and watch me win the USBA belt on Nov. 19.”