Silver Gloves youth boxing program teaches lessons in, out of the ring
His game face on, Omar Ingram waited for the chance to shine in the ring he calls home with dreams of the Olympics and a professional career.
And a few minutes later Saturday, the 15-year-old Detroit boxer used his blue gloves to throw and land punches at a furious clip on his way to an easy victory in the 125 pound weight class.
Ingram fought in the Michigan Silver Gloves tournament at the Downtown Boxing Gym in Detroit, which featured more than 10 teams from as far as Port Huron and Ann Arbor. The event continues with more bouts on Sunday.
"It means a lot. I've been training for four months now," Ingram said before his bout. "It definitely showed me how to work harder and go get what I want to do in life."
The Silver Gloves state championship tournament is an extension of the after-school academic and athletic program that primarily focuses on academics for 150 southeast Michigan students between the ages of 8 and 18. The students come from 30 different ZIP codes and 57 schools across the city and nearby suburbs.
Those who want to compete in the Silver Gloves matches can, and those who win move on to regionals and then national matches in the coming weeks.
Khali Sweeney, founder and CEO of the Downtown Boxing Gym who serves as director for the Silver Gloves in Michigan, said this program is not just about boxing. It helps build character with an emphasis on the fundamentals of the sport.
"This is where you build your foundation," Sweeney said. "You don't jump in a tournament at 21 years old and think that you're going to be successful at a tournament of boxing. In boxing, if you don't start at 8 years old, you're not going to be good."
Sweeney said others can start later and still have a chance at the tournament, but to be the best, it's better to start early. He also was clear about the expectations for the boxers, especially for those who want a future in the sport.
"You can't cut corners at this," Sweeny said. "It teaches you to be on time. It teaches you to be disciplined and focused," he said. "And it teaches you to be mindful of your body."
Kahlil Harvey Jr., 11, of Detroit has seen the fruits of boxing success. The 65-pounder has won eight national amateur championships in various tourneys, including the last two national Silver Gloves titles in his weight class.
The young pugilist already has 56 fights under his belt. He attended the fights Saturday to watch This time, he said, he was "taking a break."
"Boxing means a lot to me. It's life to me now at this point," said the 4'2, soft-spoken Harvey who began when he was 8 years old. "I love it. It's me all the way."
His father, Kahlil Harvey Sr., who also boxed when he was younger, was a little nervous about his son starting out but now they travel all over the country for bouts.
"Some days I still have the gassy stomach and the nervousness watching my baby do his thing," he said. "But he's good at it. We've been to Louisiana, Las Vegas, Texas, Atlanta, Philly, New York, D.C.. Utah."
Ferris Dixon, 16, of Detroit, also dreams of being a world champion. He fights at the 138 weight class and will be fighting for the Michigan Silver Gloves in the regional tournament later this month.
"You can win, lose and draw, but you never take an L. An L is a lesson," he said. "You never lose. There's always a lesson learned. Every lesson that I learned, I went in the gym and came back harder."