Photos & Story by Herman Delgado
It’s Saturday morning, and as you drive through this peaceful and beautiful neighborhood in El Paso’s Upper Valley neighborhood you come to a dead end street, and from a distance you hear, “30 seconds! Come on get those hands up!” and then you hear the sound of a boxing bell. You look over and there’s a dozen or more people of all ages wearing different colors of boxing gloves. Welcome to El Paso Fight Club!
This also happens to be one of the homes of Dr. Stephen Schuster, who retired from private practice as an Ophthalmologist on January 31, 2017. It was the last time Schuster put on a pair of gloves, surgical gloves that is. He continues to lace up the boxing gloves every Saturday morning at El Paso Fight Club, which is a few homes down from his personal residence. Schuster is a third generation physician, following in the footsteps of his late grandfather, Dr. Michael P. Schuster, and his late father, Dr. Stephen A. Schuster. Prominent, well-known, and highly respected physicians in El Paso for over 123 years.
Schuster’s first interest in boxing took place while he was away at New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI), and it was there that he laced up his first pair of boxing gloves, was prepared to fight for the Regional Golden Gloves Championship, but due to discipline issues, he accumulated too many demerits so he never got the chance to climb through the ropes. “I was a bad kid, so I had to march inside the arena while the other fighters participated in their fights,” Schuster said. He always had a love for boxing and recalls his growing up and hanging out with his father. “In the late 1940s my dad and I used to sit around and listen to Friday night fights on the radio, and listen to Kurt Getty give the blow by blow action,” Schuster said. “We listened to the action of some great fighters like Willie Pep, Sandy Sadler, and Joe Louis, to name a few.”
After his short lived boxing career and completing his high school studies at NMMI, Schuster enrolled at Texas Western (Now the University of Texas at El Paso) in 1961, and immediately transferred to the University of Arizona to work on his Master’s Degree, doing well, and was accepted into Medical School at the University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston, where he completed his medical studies and earned his medical license in 1965. Schuster served as a Flight Surgeon as well as an Ophthalmologist in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1971, Fort Rucker Alabama, and left the U.S. Army as a Major.
Born on January 4, 1938, Schuster will be turning 80 next year, but just looking at him, listening to him, and hanging around him, Schuster is a kid at heart. His positive attitude, energy, and way of looking at life really rub off on you. There’s no punching other people, bloody noses, or broken ribs at El Paso Fight Club, just a great group of friends that have been lacing up the gloves, talking shop, politics, and whatever is the hot topic of the week around town. Schuster seems to leave a mark and impression on everyone that has been part of the club over the last 20-plus years. Arturo Jacquez, 58, former amateur boxer in the U.S. Air Force, and a regular since 2007, also enjoys the weekly workouts and looks forward to seeing the ‘Saturday Gang’. “It’s amazing what the doctor can do at his age, a lot of kids can’t do what he does,” said Jacquez.
So as we wrap up this Saturday morning workout, shake hands, fist pumps, and walk out the gate, I believe Robert Perez, 57, summed up the beauty of being part of El Paso Fight Club and knowing Schuster. “He’s an inspiration, if he can do it I can too, there is no excuses. He has no excuses in life, so why should I? He lives it! I’ve lost like 25 pounds just by following his example,” Perez said. “He’s just a great person, his generosity, the atmosphere that he’s created…it’s just a special place.”