Advertisement: IBO Boxing
Advertisement
Boxingscene.com
Advertisement

America's Boxing Gyms Fight To Survive During COVID-19 Pandemic

image

TOLEDO, OH—Junction Avenue in Toledo looks like many low-income neighborhoods in America. Faded white houses built in the 1940s, some with plywood boards covering their front doors, spaced out between vacant lots and empty fields the state government has promised to turn into amphitheaters and parks.

Amidst all of that stands a glowing Soul City Gym, painted in vibrant tribal-inspired pastels. Though it advertises boxing and wrestling training, the figure painted on the front of the gym facing the road is neither a grappler nor a fighter, it’s a child with a pencil, eagerly finishing their schoolwork.

Soul City has been like the ray of light that’s enabled struggling flowers to blossom through the cracks of the city’s most fractured neighborhoods since 2008. According to the gym’s website “in the neighborhood, only 37% of parents are high school graduates and 70% of the children come from single parent households,” but “since its inception in 2008, Soul City has been able to successfully contribute to a 30% drop in crime on Junction Avenue in the heart of Toledo.”

Now, in the midst of a global pandemic caused by COVID-19, the gym finds itself fighting right alongside everyone else. As a non-profit gym run by volunteers, it operates solely on donations, without governmental aid. When the gym started to get too cold in the winter, a group of a dozen apprentices from Toledo installed a furnace, ductwork and a new air conditioner. When the gym wanted to build a jungle gym in the facility’s basement for younger children, donations came in for that too.

But now, with no extra cash floating around for anyone during these times, nor the ability to operate as usual during social distancing, Soul City and gyms like it are simply trying to hold on until it’s over.

“We've been open for ten years and we've been in tougher situations than this. Some days we've been like man, how are we gonna pay these bills, and all of the sudden a donor comes along and is like hey, do you need help with the gas bill, light bill and the WiFi bill so you can stay open,” said co-founder and coach Roshawn Jones. “As long as we have community support, we can stay open. As long as we've got the lights and the gas going, we're good. We're gonna make it happen, because this is all we've got.”

soul-city-boxing-gym

In the meantime, Soul City has tried to get creative. It’s been able to leverage its high-profile members, namely Olympian and undefeated junior middleweight Charles Conwell, numerous-time National champ-turned undefeated prospect Otha Jones III and his sister, Osha Jones, Pan-Am Games gold medalist, to boost the signal of fundraising efforts. The three were already in camp during the COVID-19 breakout and have remained there, so they have been able to at least safely work out together. The gym has been streaming live daily workouts, led by Otha and Charles themselves, and even doing classic fight watchalongs on YouTube with Conwell.

As its frontal design suggests, Soul City is a boxing and wrestling gym in name, but its service to the community is as an after-school program, a tutoring aid, and in general, a free provider of healthy activity in an underserved area. The gym offers SAT tutoring via volunteers from the University of Toledo, as well as financial literacy courses from a local bank. If the children taking part in those programs also go on to become successful athletes like Conwell and the Jones siblings, that’s a bonus, but the needs gyms like Soul City meet for at-risk youth are ones that would otherwise be beyond the economic means of many families in neighborhoods like Junction Avenue.

“We're in the heart of the ghetto, the hood, where the crime rate is sky high, with unsolved murders, unsolved shootings. We've got to keep these kids on a narrow path so they don't fall off into the fast lane,” said Jones. “They're getting life lessons, to learn how to deal with things after high school or college. We're known for our great fighters, but we wanna be known for making another Bill Gates as well.”

There are many non-profits and charities throughout America in a similar position to Soul City. According to a recent study by CNN, one in five Americans benefit from non-profit organizations, and recreation is one of the major “sectors” of them. Without meaningful relief during the pandemic—namely a freezing of tax, rent and utility bills--and then stimulus afterwards, it’s frankly inevitable that many of America’s most important boxing gyms will close. Realistically, corporations will receive aid far before the non-profit sector will, even after the pandemic has passed.

Unless that help comes, the gyms will rely on the generosity of the public. Boxing gyms are in a difficult spot when looking for financial aid, because many boxers themselves are at worst struggling financially right now and at best are in a precarious financial position where saving is paramount. In other words, the people who best understand the value of the gyms are likely in the worst position to help them.

With a collaborative effort however, with small donations from community members who can spare the money, it may be possible to stop the bleeding long enough to enable many of these gyms to stay open.

"We've all gotta come together. And if some gyms do close down, we've got to partner up to keep these after school programs for these inner city kids going, because we can't let this kids go back to the streets, we all know what's going to happen if they go back to the streets," said Jones. "Start grinding. Start saving everything and coming together."

All they’re asking for is what they provide to so many communities across the country: A fighting chance.

(For those in a position to do so, visit www.soulcitygym.com, or consider donating to your local non-profit boxing club.)

Tags:
User Comments and Feedback
Comment by Oldskoolg on 03-24-2020

A boxing gym is a den of bacteria and viruses....it’s hot, they usually don’t have the AC on, it stinks, people don’t wash the bags, machines, floors, rings, the bathrooms and showers are filthy.....it’s where poor hungry fighters come up…

Comment by MeanestNiceGuy on 03-23-2020

This sucks but it's what needed at the moment. I feel that the sooner we cooperate, the sooner this mess will be taken care of. I love the sport and gyms and whomever contribute to it, but we're ALL dealing…

Comment by Dasmius Shinobi on 03-23-2020

F[I]uc[/I]k! This article made me sad. Those small gyms are the only ones who save youth for straying to the dark side and helping them guide to the correct path of righteousness. :boxing:

Comment by Mexican Bidness on 03-23-2020

Not a good title for the article, but a good article. boxing gym is the worst place during a pandemic. even if not many in the gym, hardcore breathing (droplets in the air) and the excess amount of fluids are…

ADD COMMENT VIEW COMMENTS (4)
Advertisement
Top Headlines
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr vs. Mario Cazares in Play For September 12 Regis Prograis, DiBella Entertainment In Process Of Finalizing Separation Agreement Rob Brant-Vitaliy Kopylenko ESPN+ Co-Feature For Alvarez-Smith Show 8/22 Peter Nelson Expected To Leave HBO Sports in Coming Weeks Jerwin Ancajas Wants To Unify, Open To Facing Joshua Franco Omar Rosario, 6x National Champion, To Make Pro Debut On August 21 Telemundo Bill Carl Frampton, Darren Traynor - Face To Face at Final Presser Duke Ragan Inks Promotional Pact With Top Rank Fedor Chudinov Pushing For Mandatory WBA Shot at 168-Pounds Michael Conlan: Takoucht Fight is a Good Test For Me Arum: Fury-Wilder Will Happen, Even in 2021 - Then Joshua or Whyte Angulo: I Was Ready For Benavidez Before, Much More Prepared Now DiBella: Serrano-Taylor Revivable, But I Doubt Within Next 18 Months Or So Darren Traynor Secured As New Opponent For Carl Frampton Porter: If Spence Isn't The Same As When We Fought, Garcia Very Well Could Win Berchelt: Valdez Will Need To Make Changes if He Wants To Face Me! McCaskill: Fully Confident Of Beating Braekhus; If Not Now, When? News: Ryan O'Rourke, Troy Williamson, Jonathan Lopez, More Jonas: I'll Push For Rematch, Not Sure Harper Will Want It Whyte Warns Joshua Not To Get in His Face in Aftermath of Povetkin Fight Rashid Kodzoev Ready For Clash With Dmitry Sukhotsky Michael Hunter Finds Peace In The Chaos Of The Boxing World Jamie Foxx on Being Mike Tyson: It's The Most Dedicated I've Been! Alexander Besputin is Eyed To Return on Beterbiev-Fanlong Card Munguia Hopes For October Return, Says Canelo Fight is Not a Career Goal Mike Tyson-Roy Jones Exhibition Bout Reportedly Postponed Fortuna vs. Tanajara Looking Likely With Withdrawal of Linares Cristian Mijares vs. Fernando Montiel Exhibition Tops Charity Card, September 11 Lou DiBella: I'm Behind Sergio Martinez, I'd Rather See Him Stay Retired Jamal James: I Would Really Like a Shot at Manny Pacquiao Erickson Lubin Working With Gallimore, Luis Arias, Jonas Sylvain For Gausha Fight Judging The Judges: Santamaria-Fox Scorecard Analysis Jamal James Boxes Past Thomas Dulorme For WBA Belt Leo Santa Cruz: Gervonta Davis Will Be Tired After Five - Then I'll Drown Him! A Look at Golovkin's Legal Fight Against His Former Managers David Morrell Tops Lennox Allen To Win WBA Belt Chris Billam-Smith Ready To Fight Anyone After Latest Win Saunders: If I Don't Beat Canelo - They Don't Have To Pay Me! Dana White: Still Speaking With Floyd Mayweather Regarding Return Kerman Lejarraga Decisions Tyrone Nurse Over Ten Rounds
Advertisement
Advertisement
Latest Forum Threads
Advertisement
Advertisement