He's a Banker by Day and a Boxer by Night

By Christina RexrodeFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

There's something unusual about one of the boxers who will take part in the HBO Boxing After Dark tripleheader this weekend: He's also a personal banker at PNC Financial Services Group Inc.

For Antonio Nieves, that means his schedule veers from opening checking accounts by day to throwing punches by night. On Saturday, his televised fight will take place at the StubHub Center in the Los Angeles area. By Wednesday morning, he plans to be back at his desk at a branch in inner-city Cleveland.

Continue Reading Below

"A lot of people think it's cool I'm able to do both things," the 30-year-old Mr. Nieves said. "Some guys, boxing is all they have."

Mr. Nieves, who the World Boxing Organization ranks as No. 7 in his weight division, describes himself on LinkedIn as a "Banker/Boxer." He is the underdog in his upcoming fight with Naoya Inoue, which is for the WBO championship in the 115-pound division. His professional boxing record over 20 bouts features 17 wins -- nine by knockout -- one loss and two draws.

Fame and money in sports go to a handful of superstars, overshadowing the lower ranks of pro athletes like Mr. Nieves who make ends meet through workaday jobs. Mr. Nieves is unusual not for having a day job but for the job he chose.

"Boxing is boxing, there's nothing like it in the world," said Thomas Hauser, who worked as a Wall Street litigator before writing the biography "Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times" and other books. "One involves man-on-man or woman-on-woman combat under very scary circumstances, getting in a boxing ring to do battle with somebody who's trained in the art of hurting. And the other involves paperwork."

Still, Mr. Nieves isn't the first pro to tread between fight nights and fiduciary roles. Leland Hardy worked as an investment banker at Bear Stearns during a boxing career in the 1980s and 1990s. Calvin Brock earned the alias "The Boxing Banker" because he worked in operations at Bank of America Corp. while boxing on the 2000 Olympic team.

Mr. Hardy said that the dual roles can have benefits. "It might help him gain some new clients, through the notoriety," said Mr. Hardy.

Mr. Brock, though, noted how tough it is to do both. "When you're an athlete, your whole day is part of your training," said Mr. Brock. "When you have to go to your job, that's eight hours of the day that you may be off your eating schedule and your resting schedule."

A Cleveland native who works in the neighborhood where he grew up, Mr. Nieves was the first in his family to earn a college degree. He was involved with boxing from an early age. He even met his future coach, Joe Delguyd, when he was a child attending a boxing program for inner-city youth.

Mr. Nieves didn't give much thought to banking until about five years ago, when he grew tired of selling shoes at Finish Line Inc. and applied to PNC for a job as a part-time teller.

Being a personal banker appealed to him, he said, because of the chance to help people. "A lot of people don't know how to manage money," said Mr. Nieves, who is married with two young children. "They're just getting up and going to work." The worst part of his job, he said, is telling customers when they don't qualify for a loan.

"I've had people cry at my desk," Mr. Nieves said. "It's heartbreaking."

For the most part, his two worlds are separate. Mr. Nieves said he runs about 4 miles before reporting to PNC at 8 a.m. After leaving work around 5 p.m., he visits the boxing gym for two or three hours.

Mr. Nieves will be paid a flat fee for Saturday's fight. He declined to say how much it was, or how it compared to his pay as a personal banker.

Occasionally, customers in the branch have recognized him and asked for photos, and sometimes people at the gym will ask him about credit cards or mortgage rates. He doesn't think his boxing career has turned off any potential customers.

And Mr. Nieves has attracted attention among his bank colleagues, even at the highest ranks. William Demchak, PNC's chief executive, said he plans to watch the match from home.

Mr. Demchak said doesn't plan to bet on the fight. "I am not a bettor," he said. "When you run a bank -- the basic notion of making raw bets is counterintuitive to someone who takes calculated informed risks."

One risk Mr. Demchak, who is an avid triathlete, said he would be willing to take: a sparring match with Mr. Nieves. But that's "only because he'd be afraid to hurt me," the CEO said.

Write to Christina Rexrode at christina.rexrode@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 08, 2017 09:14 ET (13:14 GMT)