At first glance it appears barbaric — two people throwing punches at each other, often in flurries, sometimes drawing blood when they connect.
Insiders call boxing the "sweet science'' — scientific because to do it right, participants must learn angles, distance and combinations.
But to really do it right, they must also learn life's lessons, things like hard work, dedication and respect for others.
So say leaders of the Haverhill Boxing Club, which has undergone renovations to its building and philosophy.
"If any kid comes here to learn to box to beat up on the other kids at school, they learn pretty quick that's not what we're here for," said Norman Fraza Jr., director of training at the club who is basically chief-cook-and-bottle washer of the organization.
The club is at an old church at 75 High St., where children as young as 6 and 7 learn to box.
A regulation-size boxing ring fills the first section of the 10,000-square-foot club. Behind the ring are punching bags hanging from frames. Around the ring, boxers train, jump rope and tape their hands before entering the ring.
Fraza and his co-organizers moved the club into the old St. Michael Catholic Church to attract neighborhood kids from this tightly packed urban area — the Mount Washington section of Haverhill. It helped that the rent was affordable, a deal from a friend and supporter of Haverhilll boxing.
Fraza wanted to give local kids something to do that burned off energy, made them responsible and hopefully will instill the importance of hard work in their lives. The club's members are boys and girls, young men and young women from the area.
He did not want to use names when explaining how discipline and rules work at the club.
"A kid made trouble a school, thought he was a tough guy, and we heard about it,'' Fraza said. "So I suspended him from the club from a month.
"Two weeks into it, he came to me, tears running down his face,'' Fraza said. "He had nowhere to go, nowhere that made him feel good about himself. I let him back in and he learned.
"We aren't training bullies, here,'' he said. "We don't want that. These are the guys that don't allow bullies to happen, and we stress that. That's what this place does for kids, one of the things we can do for the kids from the neighborhoods where they don't get much opportunity. This is about discipline and listening, about keeping yourself sharp and aware and willing to try."
Boxing clubs have come and gone in Haverhill. In his popular book "Townie'' about growing up in Haverhill, local author Andre Dubus says he saw his first gym and boxing ring here in the early 1970s.
That club faded and closed. Norman Fraza and his supporters and friends pieced together the Haverhill Boxing Club in 1991. It faded for a while, but never died.
Fraza wants to put boxing further on the map in Haverhill.
"These kids go from the streets to the nationals," he said about the level of competition his fighters have achieved.
The club struggles to attract the money needed to turn it into somewhere members want to say they come from.
The club has a Board of Directors headed by a Dr. Sam Amari of Haverhill. Everyone wants to see the club succeed, Amari said.
Not everyone can provide the money to keep the club moving and improving, but organizers are happy with whatever they receive in support.
At the club, Norman Fraza's late son, Jeff Fraza, who was killed last month when he was hit by a train in Haverhill, took his first swing in the ring at age 13 and trained under his father and professional trainers. That led him to several boxing championships and an appearance on "The Contender'' — a TV reality show about boxers.
Norman Fraza's father, Norman Fraza Sr., also trains young boxers at the club. The Frazas know potential and understand how to develop it. Boxing will help put Haverhill on the map, they said. They also know it's a way for a lot of local kids to gain a sense of accomplishment.
At the club recently, 12-year-old Jadiel Gonzalez and his trainer Joe Ferguson paired off in the ring. Jadiel moved around, and then Ferguson jabbed and sent a flurry of punches toward the young boxer.
The boy punched back and Ferguson returned a punch, a swing of his hand over Gonzalez's head. Jadiel stepped back and they started again. The lessons of the ring — and life — were on.