Basement Boxing Gym Keeps Kids Off the Streets (VOA On Assignment Jan. 3, 2014)


WASHINGTON HAS SEEN ITS FAIR SHARE OF INNER
CITY PROBLEMS THROUGHOUT THE YEARS. EVEN NOW, NEARLY 1 IN 5 PEOPLE IN THE U.S. CAPITAL LIVE
BELOW THE POVERTY LINE, AND CRIME AND VIOLENCE ARE A CONSTANT PRESENCE IN LOW-INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS. BUT IN THE MIDDLE OF IT ALL, ONE MAN IS HELPING
YOUNG PEOPLE KEEP THEIR LIVES ON TRACK BY TEACHING THEM TO BOX IN HIS BASEMENT. VOA’S
ARASH ARABASADI SPENT SOME TIME AT THE BASEMENT-TURNED-GYM, AND BACK IN SEPTEMBER, OUR OWN DOUG BERNARD
CAUGHT UP WITH ARASH AMID THE SPEED BAGS AND WEIGHT BENCHES. LET’S TAKE ANOTHER LOOK. THIS IS THE LIME LITE BOXING GYM. IT’S A NONPROFIT
BOXING GYM, AND THE GUY WHO RUNS IT, HIS NAME IS TONY SIMMONS. HE IS A METRO BUS DRIVER
HERE IN DC. AND WITH HIS EXTRA TIME AND EXTRA DOLLARS IN HIS POCKET, HE PUT TOGETHER THIS
GYM. AND THEY SUPPLY NEIGHBORHOOD KIDS EVERYTHING FROM BOXING GLOVES TO SHOES TO ENTRANCE FEES
IN COMPETITIONS AND IT’S ALL JUST TO KEEP KIDS OFF THE STREET. SIMMONS HAS SOME BASIC GROUND RULES. BOXERS
MUST KEEP A C-AVERAGE IN SCHOOL AND CAN’T GET INTO FIGHTS OUTSIDE OF THE RING… BUT
SIMMONS SAYS IT’S MORE THAN TEACHING KIDS THE “SWEET SCIENCE” OF BOXING TODAY; IT’S
GIVING THEM HOPE FOR TOMORROW. “ALL OF THE COACHES DOWN HERE WORK, AND MOST
OF THE TIME, KIDS EMULATE THE GROWNUPS THEY’RE AROUND. SO WE TEACH SCHOOL. WE TEACH WORKING.
” …BECAUSE MOST OF THESE STUDENTS WILL HAVE
TO GO PRO AT SOMETHING BESIDES BOXING. “THESE KIDS ARE GOING TO GO OUT AND GET JOBS
AND BE LAW-ABIDING CITIZENS.” SO THERE’S NOTHING GOING ON RIGHT NOW, BUT
ON AN EVENING TIME OR WHEN THERE’S PRACTICE, WHAT WOULD ACTUALLY BE HAPPENING IN THIS ROOM? THEY START IN THE AFTERNOONS WHEN HE’S DONE
WITH HIS SHIFT DRIVING THE BUS AND IT’S A COUPLE OF DOZEN KIDS IN HERE SWEATING. AND
I MEAN WHEN I WAS MAKING THIS VIDEO, I WAS SWEATING, HOW HARD THEY WERE SWEATING. I MEAN
IT’S JUST UNBELIEVABLE. AND THIS PLACE DOESN’T HAVE A WHOLE LOT OF VENTILATION TO BEGIN WITH.
WE’RE KIND OF WARM STANDING HERE. SO YOU CAN IMAGINE 20 KIDS JUMPING UP AND DOWN, DOING
PUSH-UPS, AND HITTING BAGS. I CAN’T ACTUALLY. IT’S CRAZY. IT’S CRAZY BUT IT’S REALLY…IT’S
SUCH A COOL THING TO SEE. [[TAKE PKG]] SIMMONS SAYS THE FEW HOURS SPENT IN THE GYM
EACH DAY KEEP THESE KIDS OFF OF THE STREETS. “MORE THAN ANYTHING BY THE TIME THEY LEAVE
THE GYM THEY BE SO TIRED THAT THEY JUST WANT TO GO HOME ((LAUGHS)) DO THEIR HOMEWORK AND
GO TO SLEEP.” WHAT DID TONY TELL YOU ABOUT WHY HE DOES THIS? HE SAYS FOR HIM IT’S ALL ABOUT GETTING BACK
TO THE COMMUNITY. HE GREW UP IN DC, AND HE HAD THE FORTUNE OF, THE GOOD FORTUNE OF HAVING
BOTH HIS PARENTS. HE SAYS MOST OF THESE KIDS DON’T. AND IN AN INSTANCE WHERE YOU DON’T
HAVE YOUR WHOLE FAMILY, HE AND THE COACHES AND IT’S HIS FAMILY WHO’S HELPING HIM COACH,
THEY REALLY KIND OF STEP IN AND THEY PROVIDE THE ADDED ROLE OF ANOTHER FAMILY MEMBER. AND
HE SAYS, YOU KNOW, IT TAKES A VILLAGE AND CLEARLY THIS VILLAGE IS COMING TOGETHER. SO YOU’RE USED TO GYMS. BELIEVE IT OR NOT
I USED TO BE USED TO GYMS. LOOK, THEY’RE SMELLY, THEY’RE UNCOMFORTABLE, YOU SPEND MOST OF YOUR
TIME IN DISCOMFORT. SO WHY DO THE KIDS COME HERE, WHY DO THEY PACK THEMSELVES IN HERE
AND PUT THEMSELVES THROUGH IT EVERY, EVERY WEEK? AS FAR AS I COULD SEE, AND THE, REALLY THE
ONE KID THAT I TALKED TO WAS THIS KID MALIK JACKSON WHO IS NOW ON THE US NATIONAL BOXING
TEAM, AND THAT’S NO SMALL FEAT. AND IN FACT TONY SIMMONS WAS RECENTLY INVITED TO COME
BE A COACH FOR THE US NATIONAL TEAM. WHEN YOU HAVE A KID WHO, BY ALL ACCOUNTS WHEN HE
STARTED WAS TERRIBLE, HE LOST NINE, 10 STRAIGHT FIGHTS. BUT HE STUCK WITH IT AND NOW HE’S
BECOME THE ELITE OF THE ELITE. AND SO IT’S A MOTIVATING THING THAT THESE KIDS ARE LIKE,
HEY I KNOW THIS KID. HE’S PRETTY GOOD. WHAT IF I CAN BE PRETTY GOOD TOO? WHAT IF THIS
IS SOMETHING I CAN EXCEL AT? “I GET A LOT OF RESPECT FROM THE KIDS, BECAUSE
THEY LOOK UP TO ME. THEY RESPECT WHAT I DO. I’VE BEEN PUTTING IN THE WORK FOR TEN YEARS
AND THEY SEE THAT.” MALIK JACKSON STARTED BOXING AT LIMELITE WHEN
HE WAS JUST 9 YEARS OLD. “I USED TO GET PICKED ON A LOT BECAUSE OF
MY SIZE.” SO HE’D GET INTO FIGHTS. “I KEPT GETTING SUSPENDED SO I NEEDED TO CALM
MYSELF DOWN SO I JUST CAME TO THE GYM.” BACK IN MY TOWN, MY HOMETOWN DETROIT, THERE
WAS THE CROCK GYM. AGAIN, IT WAS IN A BASEMENT. IT WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE ON A NONDESCRIPT
STREET AND YET THEY PRODUCE SOME AMAZING FIGHTERS LIKE, YOU KNOW, TOMMY HEARNS JUST TO NAME
ONE. WHAT IS IT ABOUT BOXING GYMS DO YOU THINK? I MEAN DO THEY HAVE TO BE KIND OF GRITTY AND
DIRTY AND NASTY? WHAT IS THAT? YEAH I DON’T… I THINK IT WAS… WAS IT MAYBE
ROCKY 3 WHERE HE WAS HAVING TOO MUCH MONEY AND TOO MUCH SUCCESS? WHEN YOU GET AWAY FROM
THE BASICS, WHEN YOU GET AWAY FROM THE THINGS THAT MADE YOU HUNGRY, THAT MADE YOU WANT TO
EXCEL , AND I FEEL LIKE A PLACE LIKE THIS… YOU KNOW, EVEN WHEN I WAS DOING MY MARTIAL
ARTS BACK WHEN I WAS YOUNGER, IT WAS NOT A FANCY, YOU KNOW, RESULTS TYPE GYM, IT WAS
AT SOME SWEATY, DINGY, CHALK AND, YOU KNOW, DISGUSTING, FILTHY MAT… BUT YOU NEED THAT.
YOU NEED THAT MOTIVATOR THAT’S LIKE MAN I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS FOR THE REST MY LIFE.
I DON’T WANT TO BE IN HERE THE REST MY LIFE. I WANT TO GO OUT THERE AND I CAN DO THAT BY
PUTTING IN THE WORK IN HERE.

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