Fly Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bald Eagle

Boxing Trend in the District Grows

Bald Eagle Recreation Center is filled with kids of all ages, both boys and girls participating in all sorts of sports and activities. In the gym there are kids playing basketball and others watching and talking.

The doorways are crammed with onlookers, the halls are crowded with kids running from room to room, and then there’s the boxing room in the back that is only occupied by boxers.

There are no kids running back and forth from the room, no spectators watching from the doorway and the door is closed. In the boxing room, which is no bigger than a classroom, there are only dedicated boxers working-out, competing in the ring and working up a sweat.

Bald Eagle Recreation Center in southwest D.C. has one of the largest boxing programs in the District, with nearly 30 kids who participate between the ages of eight to 24. Practice is held every weekday from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and can involve traveling to different states and countries throughout the year if participants qualify.

Boxing represents a spor,t other than basketball or football, that has been successful in keeping kids occupied, having fun and out of trouble.

Parents and coaches are usually the boxers’ spectators. Dwight Martin is one father who attends practice with his son every day. Martin sits at the side of the ring and watches his son, Kareem,11, practice with the other kids in the program.

In addition to accompanying Kareem to all the practices, Martin goes to all of the tournaments, the last being in Kansas City, Mo. Martin is also an active participant in the boxing program, helping kids don their gear, and critiquing them on their boxing techniques in the ring.

Although his son has been boxing for only two years, he already ranks number one in the 2007 National Silver Gloves Tournament for age division 10 and 11 in the 90 pound weight class. The tournament displays the talent of the country’s best 10-15 year old amateur boxers exclusively. Kareem wishes to go pro and his father supports this dream wholeheartedly by helping at the practices, showing support and coming up with the finances to travel across the country.

Ron Thomas is another parent who brings his son to practice on a regular basis. Thomas’ son, Renaldo Gaines, is 15 and has been boxing since the age of six.

Thomas uses boxing as motivation for his son to do well in school. Renaldo, a sophomore at Suitland high school in Forestville, Md., is only allowed to attend boxing practice if he completes his homework and keeps his grades up. “He wouldn’t be here if he didn’t maintain his grades…. This right here [boxing] is extra.” Thomas said about his son’s participation in the sport.

He went on to say that kids from good homes should be associated with boxing too. “It always seems that when a boxing story comes out about a kid, there always has to be a tragedy behind it.” Thomas said. “Either he’s from a broken household, or was involved in some crime. Kids who come out of good backgrounds should be credited too.”

Thomas said that there was no negative behind his son boxing; Renaldo simply liked the sport and has grown to be good at it. Because of boxing, Renaldo has gone to Ga., Tenn., N.Y., and N.C., to participate in numerous tournaments. Currently, he is getting ready for the Junior Olympics where he will represent the United States.

Marquis Moore, 15, a sophomore at Friendly high school in Fort Washington, Md., has been boxing since the age of 12. Moore got into boxing by watching the sport on TV with his father and since becoming a boxer, he has traveled across the country.

Moore also stands as one of the players who received ranking in the National Silver Gloves Tournament and will be going to Russia for two weeks in May, to box for the Silver Gloves International Team.

Boxing has become the sport of choice for a number of boxers at the Bald Eagle Recreation Center, and pro boxing has become a goal for many of the kids who go to the gym everyday like, Gaines, Moore and Martin.

Coach Patrick Harris has been at the center for five years. He said that boxing is an alternative for keeping kids productive and off the streets, not only because it involves practice, but because the coaches and parents are close to the kids. “They travel and the coaches take the kids out to eat and to the movies.” Harris said on boxing at Bald Eagle kept kids out of trouble.

The coach went explained how the sport was different from most others like football and basketball. “Boxing isn’t a team sport, it’s just one-on-one…it takes a lot of training, discipline and time. It’s more responsive to hyper or angry youth.” Harris said about the advantages of the sport.

“With boxing, you take full credit for the loss or the win, it’s not like basketball where you can blame or credit someone else for winning or losing the game.” Harris continued. “Kids like boxing because they get the attention for their matches and that’s what keeps them coming back.”

Harris has helped coach eight youth who have been nationally ranked out of region three. Region three includes boxers from D.C., Md., Va., W. Va., N.C., S.C., Ga., and Fla. From region three, only 34 boxers advanced to the tournament and from those 34 boxers, eight came from Bald Eagle Recreation Center; about 24 percent.

“We had the most players coming out of a single gym, going to the tournament.” Harris said. It has been those claims that have brought more kids to the gym.

There are kids who hang around the gym and Harris invites them to take part in the sport, while others come to the gym because they hear about it in school or from friends.

It is free to box at Bald Eagle Recreation Center, but boxers across the country must pay a yearly $40 fee with USA boxing for registration. At Bald Eagle Recreation Center, the boxing program has been recognized by D.C. Parks and Recreation, for coming in third place overall within region three at the National Silver Gloves Tournament.

The coaches and the parents said that the kids were dedicated and worthy of praise just from deciding to go to the gym everyday.

At Bald Eagle Recreation Center, boxing has a loyal following with the most youth participants in D.C.

Both boys and girls are welcomed by the coaching staff to participate in a sport that has given the gym and its members’ local, regional and national attention.

All the kids involved are excited and active during their practices and according to Harris, would rather be at the gym than outside. Harris simply said, “They love to be here.”