WILDWOOD - Middle Township light-heavyweight Chuck Mussachio doesn't have much free time.
The 33-year-old spends his weekdays at Ocean City Primary School, where he is putting his master's degree to use as a first-year guidance counselor for children in grades kindergarten through third grade.
"I'm having a great time working with the kids," Mussachio said. "It's so much fun. They definitely keep me on my toes."
After school, he heads to the Wildwood Boxing Club or Bullpen Vale Tudo gym in Egg Harbor Township to train for what is shaping up to be one of the biggest fights of his 13-year boxing career.
Mussachio (18-2-2, 5 KOs), who just signed a contract with Philadelphia promoter Russell Peltz, could soon be in line for a shot at a world title if he wins Saturday's eight-round fight against Lionell Thompson (12-2, 8 KOs), of Buffalo, N.Y., at Bally's Atlantic City.
"Now that he has his teaching career straightened out, it's time for Chuck to figure out what he wants to do with his boxing career," Peltz said in a phone interview.
"He's finally at the point where he can start making some serious money, especially overseas. If Chuck can win a minor belt and get into the top 15 in the (world) rankings, he's exactly the type of guy - a fighter with a good record but not a lot of knockouts - that a world champion would want to fight in a voluntary defense."
Mussachio has spent the bulk of his pro career as boxing's version of a minor-league baseball player who for some reason never gets called up to the majors.
Boxing fans from Cape May to Atlantic City routinely attend his bouts. Mussachio is extremely popular locally because of his outgoing personality and his boxing talent.
He usually enters the ring sporting a fedora and a Phillies, Eagles or Flyers jersey while Frank Sinatra's "Come Fly With Me" blares from the speakers.
He has also earned some impressive victories, including wins over former junior-middleweight world champion Carl Daniels and former unbeaten Anthony Ferrante.
But his refusal to sign with a promoter until recently may have cost him the opportunity to capitalize on his success. While other fighters with big-name promotional firms such as Top Rank and Golden Boy moved up the rankings, Mussachio has been stuck toiling in casino showrooms and a few bouts at the Wildwoods Convention Center.
"I had offers from some of those other promoters," Mussachio said. "But I was always hesitant because they didn't seem ready to make a serious commitment to me. I was afraid that they would sign me and then just put me on the back burner and forget about me.
"But I'm at the age now where I can't wait any longer. Russell is a local promoter and I trust him. He has the connections and the power to move me along and get me to where I need to be."
Mussachio signed an 18-month contract that includes a minimum of three fights in that span. Depending on how he fares in those fights, Peltz has the option of extending it another 18 months when the original contract expires.
Inactivity has been a problem for Mussachio. He had just one fight in 2012, an eight-round decision over Billy Bailey at Bally's last May. He also had only bout in 2011, when he moved up to cruiserweight to challenge USBA champion Garrett Wilson. Mussachio was winning the fight before getting knocked out in the 12th round.
"Chuck is a nice guy and he's a loyal guy," Peltz said. "And those two qualities are in short supply in this business. He's a throwback and that's something I need after 43 years in boxing."
He also spent some time getting his teaching career in order.
Ocean City superintendent Dr. Kathleen Taylor, principal Dr. Joanne Walls and director of pupil personnel Erik Ortolf hired him full-time in August.
"I'd really like to thank them for believing in me and giving me a chance," Mussachio said. "It means a lot."
That stability has enabled Mussachio to devote more time to his boxing career.
It won't take long to see if it pays off. Although Thompson has lost two straight after a 12-0 start, the 27-year-old is regarded as a dangerous puncher who was serious enough about getting his own career on track that he moved to Florida for four weeks to get ready for Mussachio.
Mussachio was dedicated enough that he spent his lunch hours at school watching videos of Thompson on YouTube.
"I'm giving myself three more years to see what I can do with boxing," he said. "I have a great job, so I don't need boxing to make a living, but I'm not ready to give it up. I want to see how far I can go before I stop."
Contact David Weinberg:
Chuck Mussachio (18-2-2,
5 KOs) vs. Lionell Thompson (12-2, 8 KOs)
Where: Showroom, Bally's Atlantic City
When: Saturday, doors open at 7 p.m.
Tickets: $50 and $75 and are available through Ticketmaster.