It was almost too good to be true — kids shunning the streets to get into the best shape of their lives.
They reached their top physical condition, but also sharpened their minds, learning lessons in self discipline.
It all happened in the shadows of God’s altar, in the old St. Michael’s Church, which closed in 1998 and most recently housed the Haverhill Boxing Club. Teenagers and even younger children, many of them street kids from the inner city, flocked there to work their bodies and minds.
Turns out it was indeed too good to be true. The boxers and their coaches have lost their home in the old church due to financial problems. (See story, page 1.)
They have taken to training outdoors, most recently going through their paces next to the running track behind Haverhill High School. With the temperatures falling and snow sure to follow, club leaders are looking for a new home.
Theirs is a worthwhile cause. The coaches have found ways to convince kids to steer away from the problems that tempt them in the streets — violence, drugs, other tests of their youth.
To train properly, these kids had to show up at the club on time, rested and with clear heads. If they stepped out of line, maybe getting in a fight at school, they were disciplined, losing permission to train at the club for a while. Several talented members had aspirations of fighting in highly competitive events in the future.
Club members worked round after round on heavy bags, speed bags and in the ring, developing their punching power and technique. They listened to their coaches — not just gaining the knowledge of how to outbox their opponent, but how to outthink him and always respect their sport. Their skills were meant to provide them with confidence and be used only in the ring or for self defense.
It added up to a group of young people steadily gaining good habits, perhaps beyond what they had ever experienced before.
We hope the club does find a new home, that a property owner opens up an affordable space for the young boxers so they can follow their dreams.
It’s important, not just so they can train toward a possible appearance in a regional boxing tournament or even an Olympic trial.
The health of their bodies and minds — their very future — depends upon it.