Six-time world champion karate kickboxer Denny Holzbauer spoke to more than 100 student athletes at Oklahoma Baptist University Monday, March 2, at a 9 p.m. demonstration in the Mabee Suite of the Noble Complex. Comparing life to kickboxing, Holzbauer told the students to be prepared and never give up, because situations can change in an instant.
The kickboxing champion visited OBU as part of "Champions of Character." The theme for the night was "Champions of Character: The Discipline of Preparedness." The NAIA "Champions of Character" initiative is designed to create an environment in which every NAIA student athlete, coach, official and spectator is committed to the true spirit of competition through respect, integrity, responsibility, servant leadership and sportsmanship.
Holzbauer and his assistant, Christa Bailey, presented a half-hour karate demonstration which included katas, sparring, board-breaking and boxing instructions. The highlight of the demonstration was Holzbauer's leap over four volunteers to side-kick break a board being held in mid-air by two OBU baseball players.
After the demonstration, he relayed a story of his fight against the undefeated welterweight world champion, Bobby Ryan. Holzbauer received the call to fight the champion only a few days before the contest was scheduled. He said he is thankful he had remained prepared for such a fight.
"It's important to be prepared, like Scripture says, 'in season and out of season'," Holzbauer said, referring to 2 Timothy 4:2.
Holzbauer distributed pictures to each participant at the event with the caption, "It doesn't always look like you're winning." He shared that, during his fight against the champion, the judges' score cards at the end of the third round showed him behind, with little chance of winning the match.
"But in kickboxing, a defeat can be turned to victory in a few seconds," Holzbauer said. "It's always too early to throw in the towel."
He won that fight in the fourth round with one straight right hit that sent Ryan to the canvas for the count. He won by a knockout.
Holzbauer shared that in life, he also was losing and was being counted out, until he met the greatest Fighter - Jesus Christ - who defeated two mighty enemies named "sin" and "death."
"This greatest of fighters defeated sin and death with one 'straight right' through the cross," Holzbauer said.
The Champions of Character event was a part of OBU's Transforming Virtues II Symposium sponsored by the Faith and Disciplines committee. The committee's goal is to continue deep and productive conversations started during last spring's symposium while suggesting new conversational directions related to OBU's identity and mission as a Christian university.
Holzbauer was invited as a personal friend of Dale Griffin, OBU dean of spiritual life, and Griffin's wife, Donna. In fact, Holzbauer is credited with introducing the couple, who have been married for 20 years.
"I've always been inspired by Denny, his discipline and his story," Griffin said. "The students responded positively to the program because of its athletic appeal, and because Denny and Christa were so genuine in their presentation. Denny's testimony is one for the record books."