Boxing clubs in inner-cities have produced champions like Riddick Bowe of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and Hasim Rahman of Baltimore. One boxing coach in Rochester, N.Y., though, is looking to produce more than just boxing champions. He uses the sport of boxing to build self-esteem for some of the hardest to reach young people, believing that “self-confident children will be successful.”
Phil Greene, a construction worker in Rochester, came up with the idea of using boxing as a vehicle to keep kids off the street 10 years ago, and he’s been volunteering his time ever since. He uses money he earns from working construction, along with grants, and volunteer workers to keep the boxing club afloat. Coaches like Charles Murray, former IBF World Champion and Robert Johnson, 72, train the children on their own time, from their own hearts.
“This is all from the heart from the whole staff,” says Greene, founder of Future Boxing. “This program is not just about boxing, it’s about strengthening the body, strengthening the mind. That goes together. When you’ve got a strong body, you’ve got a strong mind.”
But more than just building future boxers, he is building disciplined and well-rounded individuals. One of his former boxers recently became a fireman, another a police officer: “We build a lot of self-confidence. Matt Brown was a chubby kid. His mother brought him in, he played video games and couldn’t even do one push-up,” remembers Green. “We had all of the kids cheering him on. In one month, he was doing 15 push-ups, just because of the kids pushing him on.
Green says every ethnicity and socioeconomic group comes through the gym. “White, black, Chinese, Spanish – kids from suburbs, kids from cities, all come in there. They are able to interact with different kids, different lifestyles.”
Kids from the program travel all over the United States. Two of Green’s fighters, Randall Williams and Levias Williams (ranked No. 1 in the country for the past 3 years) represented the United States in Russia last year. “Underprivileged kids see cities they will never see in their life,” says Greene, who thinks some of his fighters this year will be good enough to make the Olympics.