There are a few things that youths are guaranteed to gain when they sign up at the Upton Boxing Center in West Baltimore: great training, toughness, work ethic, discipline and skills.
But there’s also a bonus that most gain from training at the legendary boxing gym: championship status.
More than 15 boxers actively training at Upton have won at least one championship tournament/match during their tenure with the gym. State titles; regional titles; Golden Gloves and Silver Gloves awards; and junior Olympic championships have all been acquired by the boxing faithful of Upton Boxing Center.
The list of champions includes 27 year-old Cecil McCalla; 12 year-old Mia Ellis; 16 year-old Josh McKoy; 20 year-old Roger Blackburn; 12 year-old Rico Todd; 12 year-old Juan Jenkins; 12 year-old LoRenzo Simpson; 16 year-old Malik Hawkins; 27 year-old Jeremy Tressell, 14 year-old Mack Allison IV; 30 year-old Tyrell Samuel; 17 year-old Gerronta Davis; 23 year-old Theresa Davis and 23-year-old pro Tyriesha Douglas.
Gerronta Davis and Roger Blackburn even took their championship status international, as both won gold at an USA vs. Ireland event in Ireland earlier this year.
Each of these champions worked hard for their success, but they’d also be the first to acknowledge that their triumph wouldn’t have come without the guidance of Upton’s trainers, Kenny Ellis, Calvin Ford and Mack Allison III.
The center, along with Ford and Allison, were in some of the boxing scenes in the HBO series The Wire, Allison said. He also noted that a boxer trained by Ford, Tyriesha Douglas, considered competing in the 2012 Olympics but instead is going to box professionally.
“It’s a little emotional just seeing them all hold their championship belts just now because I almost forgot how many they have,” said Allison. “This is truly ‘Baltimore’s House of Champions!’”
Ellis and Ford was just as emotional as Allison was, seeing how far their trainees have come from when they first step foot in the gym.
“It’s a great feeling to have because we remember how it was when we first got most of these kids and how they knew nothing about boxing at all,” Ellis said. “So to see them coming into play and to see their hard work pay off, it feels so good just to be a part of the process.”
Ford told the AFRO that training youths to box is a rewarding process for both the trainees and the trainers.
“We love to work with them, coach them and mold them up to be not just great boxers but hard-working people in general,” Ford said. “It keeps them out of trouble, but you what? It keeps us out of trouble too.”
Leon Fitzgerald, director of Upton Boxing Center since it opened in 2000, feels just as proud as the trainers about what he has witnessed from his boxers.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with these kids; these kids are literally my life,” Fitzgerald said. “You have to love it to do it, because if you don’t love it, you won’t be here.”