South Jersey boxer takes musical background into the ring

Paul Kurtz
February 21, 2019 - 4:00 am
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The newly restored Met in North Philadelphia returns to its 20th century boxing roots Saturday night. Nine fights are scheduled, and one will feature an up-and-coming lightweight from South Jersey who is also an accomplished musician. 

His first love is boxing, but playing classical piano is a close second for 23-year-old lightweight Jeremy Cuevas.  

"It gets very emotional as you play. Your body begins to move with the keys and you begin to become one with the keys, I like to say. It's the same thing as in the ring. You gotta be all into it and you become focused and you can become so locked in and so focused that it takes you a different place," Cuevas said. 

Nimble fingers, sledgehammer fists. 

"A smart fighter has to use their hands and their feet and brain all at the same time, which is sort of like the piano; you have to use your hands to play the keys, your feet to play the pedals and your brain to think of the music and read the music. Some would look at it as one is actually a fight and one is an art form. I look at it as both of them are art forms, just one is a little more savage," Cuevas added. 

"My piano teacher told me you can't do both, you gotta protect your hands. And I chose boxing to be my profession, but I still love the piano very much," he said. 

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Cuevas said he now draws on that musical skill set when he fights.

"The left hand may doing one thing and the right hand is doing another thing or playing a different melody, so I think that gives me an advantage in the ring as well. I can not even be thinking about what my hands and feet are doing and they're doing the right thing," he explained. 

He also said he's not afraid to talk about this piano skills with his fellow boxers.  

"Mainly they didn't know about it. But I was never shy about telling anybody, it just wasn't the place to bring it up, I guess. But if anybody was silly enough to downplay what the piano was or what brain activity it took to play the piano, they could always put their gear on and we could get into the ring," he said. 

These days, Cuevas plays the piano for fun and as a stress reliever after grueling training sessions.