Gloves in the Glass city: boxing and it's role in the city of Toledo
Toledo, Ohio (WNWO)-- For some it's the sound of leather on leather, the theatrics, or simply the sport itself, what's undeniable? There's a pull that happens when a pair of gloves is involved.
"It takes courage for a kid to walk through that door, and even more so when he climbs in that ring, because there's nobody in there to help him," said Bill Griffin, former Team USA Boxing coach.
The rise of boxing in Toledo has been a quiet but steady force. Most corners you turn there's a gym. Two are owned by the city: “City” Savage Park gym and Glass city Gym, where hometown hero Robert Easter Jr. still trains.
"One of my first pictures, I had on a pair of gloves," said Easter. The two-time IBF world champion has put a national spotlight on the Glass City. He's defended both of his titles at fights that happened in Toledo.
" Before I won a world title, I had a big following in my city, [people] traveling out of state just to come see me fight," said Easter.
"He’s a youthful world champion," said Bill Griffin. "This is something they’ve been hoping for for a long time."
Griffin or Griff as many call him trained the champ’s father. His influence has touched many, including greats like Muhammed Ali and Toledo's first IBF world champion Lindell Holmes.
"He came to the gym when he was just about 11," said Griffin. Griff doesn't coach anymore, but he's still over City Park. There are more than 30 athletes signed up for his gym including super featherweight UBC champion Albert and youth Olympic gold medalist Jared Anderson. They're both coached by Darrie Riley.
"I saw all my elders and all my peers. I saw what it did for them and what it could do for me," said Anderson describing why he got into the sport.
For him and many others the sport is a way out and a positive solution when faced with negatives like drugs or gangs. Boxing represents a chance to get into a world they might not otherwise have access to.
"I've been all over the country, been outside of the country, it's done everything for me," said Anderson speaking of his time visiting and going to various tournaments.
He' s one of the lucky and talented ones. Many private boxing programs are funded by outside dollars. The city keeps the lights on and pays for basic maintenance at its two facilities, but when it comes to other fees like traveling to out of state programs there's often little to no funding. Big name boxers like Floyd Mayweather have become famous for their million dollar paydays. Most professional fighters might walk away with a few thousand dollars
"Every young kid in every ghetto around the world is striving to be like Floyd. To have that kind of money, to have that kind of job security to have that kind of financial security," said Coach Otha Jones,former boxer and co-owner at soul city gym.
Though some boxers find success inside the ring, others are lost to the life outside of it.
"I’ve got some in prison now some murderers and different other things," said Griffin speaking of former fighters.
"Last year we had three kids that attended our gym that's no longer here," said Coach Otha Jones,former boxer and co-owner at soul city gym.
While boxing isn’t a solution for everyone, for those that do find success, Jones says it's worth it.
"We have the most champions in the Midwest," said Jones speaking of Soul city gym. While winning is important, Soul City focuses on mental and physical discipline along with mentorship. Their boxers pay a fee to be a part of the gym, but also go through financial literacy classes and tutoring.
"Everybody doesn't want to send their kids somewhere just to have fun all the time," said Jones talking about the discipline and exercises the kids go through.
To be a champion, boxing requires intense training, sacrifice, and focus—but for the past, present and future boxers,the love for the sport is enough to keep the gloves going for a long time.