It was crazy, good, fun designed to be another step in getting a youth boxing revolution to take hold in Memphis.
“Boxing at the Pipkin 2” on the campus of the old Fairgrounds brought out families from Memphis and the Mid-South to watch budding, young boxers bump gloves and throw punches. It’s a presentation of Mayor Jim Strickland and the Office of Youth Services (directed by Ike Griffith).
The place was brim-filled packed with spectators shouting for the sparring boxers in the ring. There were seven matches of boxers (young women included), all in different weight classes.
These weren’t just some kids with boxing gloves slugging it out. Professionally trained amateurs ducked and punched with the referee in the middle keeping the action clean. They were disciplined and subject to the calls of the referee. Polished, focused young men and women.
“Isn’t this great? There will be ‘Boxing at the Pipkin’ from now on,” said Pete Mitchell, founder of the Restoration House Boxing Academy in Frayser. “I am responsible for the ring, the boxers and their matches. There are even teams that have come from other cities to compete.”
The crowded space was filled with supportive parents, friends, neighbors, siblings, and others who just wanted to come out and enjoy an exciting night at a sporting event. No hissing or booing. Just applause and cheers for the two boxers when a winner was announced.
Between rounds, Melrose High School Cheerleaders climbed into the ring with signs noting the sponsors who helped make it happen.
Karmen Winters came out to support the event and see student boxers in action.
“I participate in M.A.P., the Memphis Ambassadors Program with the Office of Youth Services,” she said. “It was actually required of us to be here this evening. But I am enjoying the fights. It isn’t like the boxers are trying to really hurt each other. It’s just a sport that seems like they enjoy doing, and people enjoy watching. I would come to see them, even if we were not required to come and watch.“
Mitchell started Restoration House Boxing Academy in 2014.
“Youth boxing is a growing interest all across the country. Boys and girls are learning the value of self-control and discipline,” he said. “We wanted to create more opportunities for children whose prospects may be limited by economic or social conditions. But all young people are welcome to come and participate.”
The first event of this kind was staged in late November. The next scheduled event is slated for April 6.
So, what is really the end game for Boxing at the Pipkin?
Griffith sees so many possibilities.
“We wanted to partner in these events to give more opportunities for our young people,” said Griffith. “Boxing takes a strong, aggressive individual. It helps eliminate the possibility of high-risk youth engaging in some criminal activity or taking the wrong path.
“Boxing requires discipline, self-respect and respect for others, and it’s just good, old family fun. Kids get to come out and see their peers up in the ring, and everyone is enjoying it. Boxing at the Pipkin will always, always be free because we want parents to come out and bring their families. Most would not be able to buy tickets at $15 or $20. We want everyone to continue enjoying this event.”
Mitchell and Griffith envision nothing but more positive outcomes for youth training to box.
“When I was in school, there was actually boxing in high school,” said Mitchell. “That would be wonderful if schools got involved at some point. But for now, these boxers are learning life lessons. Aggression is channeled into a positive endeavor. These are teachable moments. We foresee young boxers growing and developing in their craft. We’re working on building a strong team that will compete in the Olympics.”
For Griffith, the take-aways can be that and so much more.
“We are being proactive in directing our young people, guiding them to become responsible, successful adults in whatever career or work they choose,” he said. “Some colleges up north have a boxing team, and competing now may give our youngsters the opportunity to win scholarships and continue their education.
“I agree with Pete. We would love to see the sport adopted in Shelby County Schools. Right now, we are teaching young boxers that in life, you’re going to win some and lose some. But I always tell them, ‘Winners never quit, and losers never win.’ The lessons they are learning extend way beyond just the physical training required for climbing into the ring.”
Event sponsors include The New Tri-State Defender, Memphis Sports Council, the Memphis Police Department, and Memphis Express.
Griffith and Mitchell also envision a Memphis box team than would complete regionally, nationally and internationally.
Mayor Strickland was on hand for the event, as were numerous other notables, including Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Singletary, coach of the new Memphis Express football team.
Here are some images from Boxing at the Pipkin 2 by Tyrone P. Easley: