Paul Bamba's Mom Tried To Sell Him Off As A Child. Now He's A Pro Boxer Who's Changing Lives.

Photo: Paul Bamba
Paul Bamba's Mom Tried To Sell Him Off As A Child. Now He's A Pro Boxer Who's Changing Lives.

New York boxer, trainer, and philanthropist Paul Bamba is the ultimate success story. When he was a child, his mother sold him for drugs, and his father signed his rights to custody away, leaving Bamba to struggle through a difficult foster care experience. 

Now he is a US Marine veteran, a highly sought-after celebrity trainer and combat fitness expert, and the founder of Trifecta, a boxing and fitness training facility. He’s also building an app this year that he hopes competes with Peleton.

“I would say my success is probably because of how I grew up,” he says. “Everyone has a choice ... to succumb to the BS or ride it out and make yourself better because of it. It determines who you are, the circumstances are irrelevant. I was meant to be someone and do good things.” Bamba says.

This drive to succeed hasn’t stopped even though it seems to some he’s at the highpoint of his career already. During COVID-19, he started to actively pursue his childhood dream to become a professional boxer and says it’s “going pretty well,” understating his success as a quarter-finalist in New York’s Golden Gloves match. 

For Bamba, boxing was originally a way out of poverty. The 31-year-old remembers back to being 25 and homeless when he first moved to New York.

“I had watched some YouTube films [on boxing] and I hadn’t eaten in three to four days, and I barely had any money. It was bad. I found out if you knew how to box you could fight for $10 per round which is 3 minutes,” Bamba says.

He discovered he wasn’t bad at it at all. “Then I realized you could teach. I tried to teach the first time but I was terrible and I had to refund the kid the money,” Bamba recalls. “I got good at teaching. I thought, ‘Hey, if I can’t become a world champion, I can make one.’”

But teaching inadvertently improved his boxing skills exponentially as well.

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He currently likes to focus on empowering women through self-defense lessons. He recalls realizing that women weren’t really enjoying boxing classes originally because they were “intimidated based on stuff that goes on in their actual lives.”

So he helps them harness that fear into empowerment, using real-life scenarios to educate women on how to defend themselves.

“It’s very rewarding and I see the confidence and how it permeates into other parts of their lives. It makes them feel more comfortable,” he says.

But Bamba hasn’t stopped there with helping and empowering others.

He donates to causes that benefit women and children, especially those in the foster care system like he was.

He works with the Precious Dreams Foundation which gives comfort backs with personalized items to those in foster care, such as pillows, socks, and “little fun things,” he explains.

He remembers being in the position of some of the kids he now donates to. “[When] you're in someone’s house you don’t really know, a [simple travel] bag makes you feel better at night.”

He chooses charities based on ones he can relate to. For example, on Thursday evenings you can find him volunteering to teach teenagers how to box in Queens, NY.

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Bamba recalls his 5th-grade principal who told him an old adage that drove him to accomplish his dreams. “Two guys have drunken fathers. One ended up in the military, and one in jail. Both said ‘It was because of my father,” Bamba recalls. “I still remember that and it helped a lot.”

Bamba’s military career started when a Marines ad fell out of a magazine he was reading at Gamestop as an almost-18-year-old.

Almost as a joke, he called the number to see what would happen. “A staff sergeant showed up at my door an hour later. I was terrified, this big guy. [The sergeant] said [the military] was a chance at a new life and he had a similar background to me, so I said screw it and on my 18th birthday [a week later] I arrived at Parris Island. I knew I needed to make a good decision.”

He said that lesson of just “showing up” like the staff sergeant did made him feel he was in the right place. Plus he thought “the uniform was really cool.” He credits the military with amplifying the person he already was, rather than changing him into something else. “I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself.” 

While it seems like Bamba has made it, he still says he’s looking for his true calling.

He and his nearly 15,000 Instagram followers can’t wait to see what he will do next.

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Alexandra Frost is a Cincinnati-based freelance journalist and content marketing writer, focusing on health and wellness, parenting, education, and lifestyle. She has been published in Glamour, Today’s Parent, Reader’s Digest, Parents, Women’s Health, and Business Insider. To read more of her work or to connect, check out her website.