SRU professor and former amateur boxer teaches students the sweet science


Dallas teaching a student

Dallas Jackson, a Slippery Rock University associate professor of physical and health education, taught a boxing lesson to students in the Mixed Martial Arts Club at SRU.

Jan. 26, 2024

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — There are many fields of study taught on college campuses that involve the sciences. None of these sciences, at least according to the thousands of recognized academic disciplines, has earned the colloquial designation of the "sweet science." That undisputed title belongs to the sport of boxing. One Slippery Rock University professor, who has won a few amateur boxing championships in his life, recently had the opportunity to lace up his gloves one more time and give his SRU students one of the more unique science lessons they've ever had.

Dallas Jackson, an associate professor of physical and health education, was recently invited by students in the Mixed Martial Arts Club at SRU to teach a 90-minute session on boxing. Club members train inside Morrow Field House three days a week during the semester.

"It was a perfect opportunity for me to combine my personal passion of boxing and my professional passion of teaching," Jackson said. "I'm definitely an instructor who likes to employ active learning and that transfers well to an environment like that. Also, if I'm speaking about something I'm passionate about, then I think that comes through to the students."

Austin Rosemiller, a junior exercise science major from Kittanning, heard from one of his classmates that Jackson was a boxer. As president of the MMA Club at SRU, Rosemiller was intrigued. He saw Jackson on campus and asked him to give a lesson to the 20-25 students who regularly train in Morrow Field House. Jackson's one word response said it all - "Absolutely!"

"I could talk about 20 different things we learned and how we benefitted from it, but there's one that's most important, and that is his passion," Rosemiller said. "You could see it in his eyes and how he's moving and talking that he's passionate about boxing."

Jackson broke the lesson into three parts, each preceded by a talk and demonstration about the fighting style of three famous boxers: Mike Tyson (inside combinations with slipping and bobbing), Muhammad Ali (jabs to create space) and James Toney (counterpunching). Then he had each student try some moves out for themselves, either with a sparring partner or on the heavy punching bag.

Assisting Jackson were his friend Adam Ketler, a 2004 SRU graduate from Grove City, and Jackson's daughter, Sydney, who made sure the music on a portable speaker was cued for each round.

"I haven't had the opportunity to do something like this, so you can say I had it bottled up inside," Jackson said.

A native of Wichita, Kansas, Jackson learned boxing skills from his father, Robert Jackson, but he didn't start competing until 2003 as a college student at the University of North Texas. He entered the Dallas Golden Gloves tournament in the novice division for his weight class and won the city championship. A year later, he entered the open division at a lighter weight (154 pounds) and won that as well. He then advanced to the state tournament where he won a match but lost in the second round.

He finished his amateur boxing career with a 6-1 record. As Jackson began pursuing his doctoral degree, he didn't have as much time for boxing and rarely spars with opponents anymore.

"But not a day goes by where I'm not throwing punches, shadowboxing or maybe hitting a bag," said Jackson, with a smile. He thinks he still has it in him to enter a ring and compete. "But now, here I am, 20 years later interacting with students who would have been about the same age as I was when I started competing.

The SRU MMA Club has about 35 members from all types of backgrounds and with different motivations for training.

"Our membership includes people who want to know how to defend themselves, people who want to get a workout or relieve stress, and, of course, people who want to compete in combat sports," Rosemiller said. "But the reason we've retained so much membership has been the variety of active lessons. There's always something new to learn, whether its striking, jujitsu or wrestling- we have all aspects of MMA."

Although the MMA Club at SRU doesn't compete as a registered club sport, with competitors against other schools or gyms, there are opportunities for the club to gain such status and compete at the intercollegiate level in the National University and College Association of Mixed Martial Arts. Rosemiller said at least five club members want to compete in MMA. Tournament fees and other expenses are a challenge, but the club has invested in equipment as interest has increased in the last few years.

"One thing I really like is how diverse the MMA club is by gender, ethnicity, and body type," Jackson said. "I designed the lesson to hopefully accommodate that, and I think everybody got something out of it. They are students first and eager to learn."

Jackson said boxing provides a great mixture of intellect and physicality through both strength and stamina. It's more than just understanding technical skills but also about understanding one's self.

"For anyone who has boxed against another individual, whether it be sparring or competition, there's not a more honest exchange with another person," Jackson said. "That's why it's the sweet science. If you're evenly matched, there's no place to hide your deficits; you're displaying your strengths and your will. That's why you see the fighters have a newfound respect for each other at the end of fights. They shared an experience that not a lot of people get an opportunity to share."

Thanks to this unique interaction between professor and students, a lot more people have a newfound respect for each other and the sweet science of boxing.

More information about the MMA Club at SRU is available on CORE, SRU's online platform for student organizations and activities.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 |