Looking back, Sean Hart ’90 recognizes that his decision as a 12-year-old to step into the boxing ring had a tremendous influence on his life. His devotion to the sport has brought him both a discipline that serves him well in his professional life, and a conviction that he can use his skills to improve the lives and health of other boxers.
Hart originally began boxing to help himself stay in shape for football, which he planned on pursuing at the time.
"Then I realized I was intrigued by the tactical nature of boxing," he says. "I would much rather engage in a strategic fight than a slugfest."
So Hart continued to train as a boxer in high school and throughout his time at Lehigh, competing in his first professional bout two weeks prior to graduation.
He went on to Temple Law School, where he continued to box as a cruiserweight at 190 pounds. Gradually, he climbed the ranks to become the number one cruiser-weight in Pennsylvania.
In 1995, Hart took a big step up when he agreed to fight undefeated heavyweight contender David Tua. The match he fought in Lake Tahoe remains Hart’s most memorable experience in the ring.
"I took this bout on very short notice, and I knew that not only was my opponent undefeated, he’d knocked everyone out," Hart explains. "I went the distance with him and gave him a very tough fight, which was broadcast on ESPN."
His last three bouts, all losses, were against world-class heavyweights: Lou Savarese, Carl "The Truth" Williams, and South African Corrie Sanders. The Sanders fight took place in August 1996 in New York’s legendary Madison Square Garden.
"For boxers, fighting in the Garden is like playing at Yankee Stadium is for baseball players," he says. "I agreed to do it on only four days notice."
Despite his golden moments in the spotlight, Hart’s career also exposed him to some of the more sordid aspects of the sport, which ultimately diminished his enthusiasm for it. These downsides, coupled with his age, prompted him to leave boxing and turn his focus toward his career in law.
Hart signed on with a mid-sized civil law firm in Philadelphia, and found the transition from boxing surprisingly smooth.
"Boxing and law both involve tactical applications," Hart says. "And it is a career where I can use my talents to help other people."
After several years, Hart relocated to the Lehigh Valley, where he currently resides with his wife and children and pursues his passion for boxing on what he hopes will be a more meaningful and lasting level. As a partner at a local law firm, he is presently working to get boxing unionized and to provide boxers with adequate health benefits.
"I can’t think of a sport where the athlete needs more protection than boxing, both because of the nature of the sport and the nature of the business," Hart says. "A system for union qualification must be devised to protect those fighters whose livelihoods are dependent solely on boxing."
Hart’s ties to Lehigh also remain strong. At work, he often falls back on his Lehigh experience, particularly his education in labor and employment issues.
"My time at Lehigh," he says, "really instilled in me the importance of preparation in just about everything I do in life."