Fighter has brains to go with brawn

Barger pursues dream of being a boxer while studying to be a lawyer

As far as settling disputes, boxers and lawyers are about as far apart on the spectrum as one can get.

One settles his issues with his fists in the ring, the other settles them with evidence in the courtroom.

Kevin Barger can do both.

Barger is an undefeated amateur boxer and a full-time student at Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, combining two areas of life that rarely commingle (except in mostly undesirable situations … ahem, Mike Tyson).

Not a typical combination, sure, but there is little typical about Barger.

A 2005 graduate of UC Santa Barbara and a lifelong fan of boxing, Barger first began to contemplate an attempt in the ring while he was working at a law office in San Mateo.

“After I graduated from college, I realized I had some free time on my hands,” Barger said. “I always liked boxing and a friend told me about a gym I could go to down in San Mateo where I could learn more about it. I always thought I could be a pretty good boxer if I applied myself, but when I was in college I was too busy with other stuff. After school I though it would be a good idea to really apply myself to the sport.”

Eighteen months later, Barger is the California amateur state champion in the 141-pound weight class, holds an undefeated amateur record at 4-0 and will seek to extend that career winning streak to five when he faces Mario Bamburger of Oakland on Saturday afternoon at Kezar Pavilion, as part of the Ring of Fire card.

Barger’s boxing journey began at Pat Ragan’s Westside Boxing Club in San Mateo, a gym that teaches boxing to all age groups and recently produced four California Golden Gloves champs.

“Kevin is definitely a pretty rare find,” said Ragan, who has operated the boxing club for five years. “You don’t usually see guys who are out studying to become attorneys sparring in a boxing club. But he’s a real hard worker, he’s always out training to become better and is always real open to what ever suggestions we have for him.”

Around the same time that Barger began to make a serious run at boxing, he also enrolled at Hastings, the prestigious law school in San Francisco.

“I wake up at around 6 and run and work out,” said Barger, who currently resides in San Mateo. “I commute into The City, go to class until about 1 or 2, then stay on campus and study until around 5. Then I head back down to San Mateo, work out until 8:30 at the gym, head back to my house, do a little bit more studying, eat some dinner and then go to sleep. It’s definitely a full day.”

With a workload as burdensome as this, it takes Barger’s full attention to stay focused on both tasks at hand. However, he says he has come up with a faultless method of staying the course.

“It may sound a little corny, but I just keep a to-do list with me at all times,” said Barger, who spars three times a week and performs various workouts on the other four days. “Before I start working out or studying, I write down a list of things I need to take care before I finish. I learned it from my dad and it may seem simple, but it definitely keeps me on track.”

While staying on track, Barger has had time to think about a dream that at one time seemed unthinkable — a potential shot at the 2008 Olympic team.

Barger’s bout against Bamburger on Saturday is a USA Boxing-sanctioned event, meaning there will be scouts attending the match. After this event, Ragan and Barger have been eyeballing the U.S. nationals in January and the Golden Gloves competition in February, two events that could be a barometer for how far Barger has come — and for how far he might have to go.

“It’s something of a pipe dream,” said Barger about his Olympic aspirations. “I’m definitely not the Michael Vick of boxing. I’m not some crazy athlete, so I don’t want to get into a slugfest out there. But I think I’m a pretty smart boxer and I listen a lot to my trainers, so I can usually expose my opponent’s weaknesses. That said, the Olympic team is still a huge long shot, but it keeps me hungry and gives me a long-term goal to shoot for with boxing.”

For now, Barger will continue to study law at Hastings and harbor Olympic-sized dreams on the side.

“Stranger things have happened,” Ragan said. “He started a little late, but some guys just come in at the right time for things and it ends up working out for them. He’s definitely a real-deal boxer and he works very hard. I told him he better work hard for some of these guys he faces. It’s not every day you get to throw punches at a lawyer in the ring.”

Ring of Fire

WHEN: Saturday. Doors open at 2 p.m.; bouts begin at 3 p.m.

WHERE: Kezar Pavilion

TICKETS: Adults, $10; kids 8-17, $5; under 8, free

BOUTS: All fights will be either three or four rounds. Cards involve an average of 15 bouts.

MORE INFO: The Westside Boxing Club is in San Mateo. Visit

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