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Engineer moves from punching clock to punching bags

By Marcus Hooper, CNN
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Engineer jumps into the ring
  • Paul Delgado's life story shows a true passion for boxing
  • He earned an engineering degree while boxing
  • Initial losses taught Delgado a lifelong lesson: Never quit
  • But he did quit. He quit his engineering job to box and start his own gym

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- In the middle of a bad economy it's easy for many people to throw in the towel on their dreams. But Paul Delgado is still punching away at his.

The electrical engineer is turning his passion for the boxing ring into a business.

He first put on a pair of boxing gloves at age 12. In his rough neighborhood in Rhode Island, he'd been constantly getting into fights at school, so his father took him to the local Boys Club to learn to box.

Delgado took to the sport like a natural, but he didn't start out a winner. He lost his first two matches, which taught him the lesson that would shape the rest of his life: Never quit.

His persistence and dedication helped him rise quickly in the rankings as a teen boxer, winning numerous regional and state championships.

Through his success in sports -- not just in boxing but basketball as well -- he earned a scholarship to a junior college. After a while, realizing that he didn't have a bright future in basketball, he went back to his boxing roots.

He jokingly said he was the only person to have a punching bag as a roommate. He trained on that bag to get ready to represent Southern New England for the Golden Gloves. He was named champion each of the two years he competed.

His electrical engineering degree led to a job with the Phillips Engineering Firm. After five years of sitting behind a desk while still competing as a light welterweight boxer, he decided that it was too difficult to do both. He resigned and moved to Atlanta, Georgia.

Delgado helped open several gyms and built a couple of boxing programs around the city. Then one day he realized he was doing all the work for everyone else and wasn't being rewarded. He took a leap of faith last year and decided to open his own business, Delgado Boxing.

It was scary to start his business just as his wife had lost her job. But, he believed that if you do something that you love doing, it will work out. He also gives credit to his family, because they were his financial backers.

He said the hardest part about being the owner of a business is firing people. The best part, for him, is working with the members of his gym.

He encourages other people with dreams not to be discouraged by the weak economy. His advice is to find your niche, find your passion and go after it; this is the time.

He also said three other things are key: Find something that people really need, find the best location and keep your overhead low.

The boxer admitted he was not prepared when he opened the gym; he didn't even have a business plan. But he does now. He said it gives you a very clear picture in the direction that you want to go next. He said it's important to know what you're going to look like at the end of the year.

Delgado said the gym's grand opening was one of the greatest moments of his life.

Delgado continues to fight professionally. His last fight was March 5, and he won. His career record is 20-8, with four knockouts.