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  April 10, 2017

Baltimore's Mack Lewis Gym: Uplifting Youth through Boxing

TRNN visits Mack Lewis gym and speaks to members about how it serves as a vital safe-haven and community hub
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MAN: For those who don't know though, Mack Lewis' Boxing Gym is a foundation that was founded probably about in 1940s, 1950s. My grandfather boxed for him. Several people from my neighborhood boxed for him. And Mack Lewis has, you know, been used as a mechanism tool to help people release stress, to give them hope, you know, change and all that for the longest... It's not the same as it used to be because Mr. Mack Lewis, he passed away you know? God rest his soul.

So, you know, people don't know. It's not as big as it used to be. But it consists of young kids and people coming in and having a chance and you know, boxing, protecting themselves, maybe giving them a safe haven, you know, away from the streets. You know, if you want to, you can learn boxing, if you want to, you can take it up and make it a profession if you want to. You can just use it as a recreational thing. You know, you can actually just come in and release some steam, and learn to protect yourself.

That's what it's about, you know? Monday through Friday, the gym, the doors are open 5:00 to 9:00 o'clock. You know, you come in and you just let it all hang out and have fun, you know, and box and learn to do something different. That's what Mack Lewis Foundation is about. You know, people like me, that's what I box for. You know, I had opportunities to leave and go other places, but this is my home. You know, this is all I know, and it's my... I feel it's my job to bring it back.

You know, with one successful person brings many. You know, so I feel like if I make it happen, and I do what I'm supposed to do, people are going to know the name Mack Lewis, and they're going to want to come. They're going to want to be around it and see what it's really about.

We're in a process right now, you know, things have been a little slim lately because now, you know, the times we're living in, kids don't really want to come in here. You know, at times they think it's boring, and they'd rather run outside and run the streets and whatnot. But, you know, we've got some things going on, where we'll be setting up, where you kids can come in after school and we'll, you know... We're working on getting mentors where we can help them with their homework, or whatnot, and maybe plan trips and, you know, give little things in the summer time... back to school nights, and cook-outs, and what not.

I also do mentorship, and so, I come and pick up a certain amount of kids, as many as I can, and I bring them here after school. And you know, not only just give them, you know, just help them with school, but also to give them that food for thought about, you know, their predicament in life and if they work hard, you know, their life -- what they could really receive, and they don't just have to be an athlete.

If you don't want to be an athlete, you can be something greater, and making real change in your community, and in the world.

MAN 2: All you've got to do is look at the news, and you can easily see Baltimore is pretty bad with, as far as crime, and a lot of different other things. So, you know, we just try to keep as many young kids off the streets as we possibly can. Because that's what Mr. Mack did for us. He did it for years and years, and we're just trying to live out his legacy, and do some of the same things that he's done for us by, you know, keeping most of his fighters off the street.

And we just try to, you know, return the favor, and keep as many kids as we possibly can off the street; we try to keep them busy by taking them to fights. And just keeping their mind focused on boxing, instead of, you know, just being out there on the corner selling drugs, or robbing somebody. You know, we just really try to keep them focused on boxing. That's why we have shows every three months to try to keep them tuned in, keep them ready, and you know, keep their minds channeled toward positive things in our community.

And I think that's what we're all here for, is to try to give back to our community, and keep as many of these kids off the street as possible. It's self-funded. A lot of city politicians played a big part in getting us the gym. But we're funded by ourselves, and we try and raise, you know, with those shows. Other than boxing events, we throw parties, fund raising events, and we do things in the gym to try to raise money to keep the doors open and, you know, keep these kids off the street.

MAN 3: Yeah, I met Ern when I first came here, but through a close friend of mine. She introduced us, you know, and I'd seen him fight a couple fights, and I saw a couple things that could be straightened out, and I pulled him up and talked to him about it, you know? And not in a critical manner, just, you know, to try something another way.

And he was receptive to it, and we clicked. You know, and we've been together ever since, and he has been winning, you know, with the formula. You know, with the few things that I've shown him, and continue to show him. He's real studious, he takes to it like a fish takes to water. And I see him as the next champ coming out of this town. That's what I see, and I'm coaching him towards that. I think he has the discipline, you know, the heart that it takes to become a champion.

I've spoken with him, you know, on countless occasions beyond boxing -- you know, just life, you know, life issues. And you know, how they should be dealt with, you know, using your mind instead of your muscle, at all times. You know, think things through, and most of the time, if you think it through, you know, you won't act, you know, irrational. You know I teach them about rational thinking, critical thinking, you know, things like that -- the same things that I would teach my children, you know, in conversation.

I do that with Ern, because it was done with me. You know, Mr. Mack did those things with me. So, it's just beyond boxing, which is genuine love and concern for the young guy. Well, all of the young guys in the gym, I try to do it with them all. But right now he's at the top of the chain, because he's, you know, fighting professionally, and requires a lot of attention.

MAN 4: Well, my story is not a typical boxing story you see on TV, where somebody stole your bike, or you know, you was getting bullied -- that was never the case with me. I don't know, I'm not saying I'm a tough guy, or I was... but I never had those problems. I just wanted to box because I liked it. I saw it on TV, and you know I always wanted to do it. And when I got introduced to the gym, I came down to Mr. Mack, you know, he took a liking to me and I stayed in the gym.

But it wasn't one of those sad stories where... and it's a lot of fighters that have problems on the street, or problems in the household, this is like a safe haven for a lot of fighters. You know they have nothing to eat in the house; they have problems with their parents. Here, you know, we're like family.

So, I think that helps out a lot of kids in school and believe it or not, kids who are acting up in school, when they come in the gym, and start training, they actually... behavior gets better when they... it gets better in school from coming to the gym. I think that for one, I think a lot of parents, and people in high places, they don't... boxing is more like a brutal sport to them, but really, actually it's... it builds character and builds the person.

It's not about just fighting. It's about learning a skill. So, I think that a lot of people out there they're not really drawn towards... they're more like putting their kids in basketball, and football. But boxing, you know, they learn that skill, you know, it's a good thing. It's good to learn how to defend yourself.

MEN: (all talking)




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