His family has done more than offer hollow sound bites about education. They made sure Cassius Chaney has lived it, honoring the significance of the classroom.
And so for future reference, just in case Chaney's story needs to be told in the wake of perhaps a championship bout, there's no stereotype that applies. He is not fodder for a maudlin television piece about the African American kid from the city for whom sports is the corridor to a better life.
Yes: Cassius Chaney is from the city. Baltimore. Now he lives in New London.
Yes: He has decided to pursue a career in boxing.
But his decision comes from want, not need.
Chaney's sports management degree from the University of New Haven would qualify him to run the arenas in which he might be the primary attraction one day.
For now, though, Chaney, 23, who played basketball at Old Saybrook High and at New Haven, has opted for the sweet science over other sciences he learned in college. In five fights, he's unbeaten, the New England Golden Gloves superheavyweight champion, novice division.
And at 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, would you bet against him?
"A lot of potential," says Kent Ward, who runs Strike Zone, a mixed martial arts enclave downtown, a place of sweat, teamwork and no excuses.
"He's extremely coachable. He listens. He's a good athlete," Ward said. "His biggest advantages are great reach and great movement. He has good footwork and a good perception of movement. He reads opponents well. In any combat style sport, it's important to understand angles. He implements it well."
Chaney, whose younger brother Allan is one of the all-time greats at New London High, wasn't exactly insignificant as a high school player either. He led Old Saybrook to a state title. He was about to take a chance at playing overseas when he walked inside Strike Zone for the first time.
"I started liking it," Chaney said. "Coach Kent asked me one day if I'd be interested in fighting. I said, 'I was waiting for you to ask me.' That's when I shut basketball ball down."
Soon, Chaney was in the ring for the first time, with Ward, former pro middleweight Brian Macy of Ledyard and the great Rollie Pier coaching him. Who knew?
"Fighting is nothing new. I mean, I grew up in Baltimore," Chaney said. "I'm not going to say I like to get hit, but to me, boxing is fun. The first fight I had was one of the best experiences I ever had in my life. The crowd is different, you're with your coaches, representing the gym (Team Strike Zone). I went in there punching."
Which certainly beats the alternative. Success aside, though, fancy poor Arthur Chaney, Cassius' dad, upon learning that his college-educated son won't sip punch at the company cocktail party, but deliver them to some poor soul across from him.
"I'm going to take a fatalistic view of this," Mr. Chaney said. "He doesn't have to do it. It's not the path I thought he would take. When I realized he was serious about it, I came to the realization that it's cool, as long as he takes it seriously."
Among Arthur Chaney's first conversations with his son and Ward was about Mike Tyson's old line about how everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.
"That's really what it will come down to," Mr. Chaney said. "At some point it'll be about how he responds to when he gets hit. But this is what he wants to do. I'm OK with it. This is the path he's chosen."
And the stories about boxers leaving the ring to slurred speech and memory problems later in life?
"If he's in the right hands and if Cassius is prepared when he steps in the ring," Mr. Chaney said, "that can be mitigated to some degree. But you never know when someone gets hit the toll it takes."
Ward reiterated that Chaney's demeanor - yes sir, no sir - would benefit him as his career expands. It's a career that will stay amateur for the moment, likely moving to the open division of Golden Gloves, which could land him a spot in the national championships.
"That combination of personality and skill is rare," Ward said. "He has the respect of everyone he's met."
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.