Nine-year-old B.J. Santana Brown first picked up boxing gloves when he was seven years old. Despite his young age, his heart was set on becoming a boxer. Coincidentally, his mother, Denise Worsley, ran into Coach Mack Allison III outside their local YMCA.

Coach Mack Allison III (Courtesy Photo)

Allison, known around Baltimore as Coach Mack, owns Time 2 Grind Boxing Gym, located at Transforming Life Church of God in northeast Baltimore. He trains boxers as young as seven, and immediately took Brown under his wing.

“I’m always wary about who’s coaching my son, because he started off with early-developmental delays and special needs, so I’m wary about who’s influencing him,” said Worsley, 31. “But Coach Mack seems like a man of integrity, very honest, very straight forward, and we’ve been with him ever since.”

Coach Mack opened Time 2 Grind in summer 2015, after spending 16 years as a trainer at Upton Boxing Gym. Since then, he’s had dozens of boxers of all ages train at his gym, including B.J., who admits he still gets nervous before a fight.

“At first, I was a little scared, but when I got into the ring, I just believed in myself,” said B.J. “I did what I would usually do: a lot of jabs.”

With the city of Baltimore in a stalemate regarding the funding of new recreation centers, parents like Worsley are looking for youth programs to keep their kids occupied after school.

New mayor Catherine Pugh inherited an unresolved issue between former mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young. Pugh must decide whether to sell downtown parking garages to increase recreation funding; the garages are expected to be worth about $60 million, according to The Baltimore Sun.

“It’s good for these young boys to see positive role models, even in their teammates,” said Worsley. “Some of these guys are in their twenties, and he gets to interact with them like big brothers.”

Mack Allison IV, 19, has been boxing since he was younger than B.J., at the tender age of five, and started his professional career in July. Since his professional debut, Allison’s record is 7-0 with seven knockouts. It wasn’t always easy training with his father, but Allison realizes the positive impact boxing has made on his life.

“I don’t just react (to challenges) as a madman. I have to sit back and think about consequences,” said Allison.

“When you think about boxing, you think of aggression, but it actually calmed (B.J.) and gave him an outlet to get those things off his chest,” said Worsley. “He knows that between the four corners of the ring, it’s safe.”

In addition to his growing boxing career, the younger Allison plans to follow in his father’s footsteps by creating a program for Baltimore youth. He’s still working out the details, but it’s one of his resolutions for 2017.  

“I just want to keep working as a team, stay undefeated and help better the kids,” he said.

Breana Pitts

Special to the AFRO