On a two-fold mission, Clift Dates summoned several people of like minds to meet him at the offices of The New Tri-State Defender on Tuesday morning.
“We are going to declare war on crime in our neighborhoods,” said Dates, a principal organizer of Memphis Boxing Group LLC, a boxing group created to provide training to young men and women. “Our other mission is we’ve got to rescue our youth.”
Dates and his partners unveiled a “faith-base initiative” that will more formally debut with a boxing-centered event in December. Helen Cole-Washington, who co-founded the non-profit Battlefields of Life Foundation with Santi B. Smothers in 2016, is on board.
The budding partnership with Memphis Boxing Group LLC will further the foundation’s goal of helping young people who lack ambition and a sense of direction and who are caught up in a web of crime, domestic violence, teenage pregnancy and anger-management issues, said Cole-Washington.
“Let their families be there first coach. From there we team up with these great men and give these young men and women something to look forward to,” she said. “We’re looking to partner up with the community, the businesses here and all of us come together collectively for this one mission and that is to take on this war.”
Cole-Washington was senior manager when Dates operated CDA, Inc., the first minority-owned private security guard company in the Memphis/Shelby County area.
“I have a trust in him and he definitely has a trust in me that we can come together and make this happen.”
Eldridge “Pete” Mitchell, who founded Restoration House Boxing Academy in 2014, also has a long history with Dates. He first started training boxers in 1990, eventually deciding to restrict his focus to amateur boxing.
“Clift and I have been talking for the past year about doing something with the kids. …Clift, Monyette Flowers (of Flowers Power Boxing) and I had been talking about putting (boxing) shows on in Memphis…making boxing good again. …
“Clift is the head of this thing but I can do the boxing. I can do the ring, I can do the judges, the officials. I have trained people to put on a boxing show. “
Amateur boxing is governed by the USA Olympic Boxing in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“It’s pretty intense on what you’ve go to do to run an amateur boxing program,” said Mitchell, who was the three-times Tri-State Boxing Champion and three times runner-up while attending Melrose High School.
Mitchell left Tuesday’s meeting early, heading for the Memphis Police Department gym, where he was scheduled to make a pitch to all of the boxing coaches in Memphis.
“I’m introducing this program to them, telling them that let’s make boxing the thing in Memphis. …If we put this program together right … we will have people coming in here from all over the country…just to be exposed in our amateur program…
“The more we expose boxing, the more kids we are going to get in. And as Battlefields of Life says, they are trying to reach out and teach kids discipline. …There are many kids out here that can get passed that (anger), we’ve just go to find them. We’ve got to make something attractive to them.”
Flowers Power Boxing is looked to for magnetism. The team of Memphis-born and raised brothers has amassed 25-plus years in professional boxing.
Reached in Las Vegas where he lives, Monyette Flowers said, “We’re planning on doing shows very soon in Memphis. We’re trying to give the children a different mindset on their goals and plans. When I was young, I used to box out of Memphis, Tenn. It kind of kept me disciplined, and I had goals set.”
Flowers said the Flowers Power Boxing group will usher in amateur and professional boxing, making use of a strong connection to Floyd Mayweather Sr. and his renowned son, Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“We’re good friends. He (Mayweather Sr.) said whenever I want to do a show to let him know. He will be down, hopefully, in December as well.”
Dates said the initiative is well-founded, well thought out and has the much-needed support of the law-enforcement community.
Tyrone Curry, president of the Memphis Afro-American Police Association, said, “We’ve gotta start putting in love, guidance and direction and we’ve got to educate our children on how not to kill each other; on how not to hurt each other.
“I’ve seen a thousand or more murders and I’ve see a thousand or more kids saved. I see this (the boxing initiative) as a bait to get them in. …Give them something to be a part of. You can’t play with these kids. They know your spirit and when you are passionate about what you are doing…”
Ike Griffith, Director of the City of Memphis Office of Youth Services, said, “We’re living in some difficult times with our young people and the home structure is not always perfect. To have positive opportunities for our young people is a necessity. …If we don’t take a firm stand, you think we going through something now…”
City government needs helpmates, Griffith said.
“This (initiative) is a helpmate to the city… My job is helping children find jobs, introducing them to the world of work. We have over 5,000, 6,000 to apply but I am only able to help 1,500. Next year I will be able to do 1,750. But the remaining ones that I couldn’t help, I’ve got to have something positive that we can embrace …”
Dates referenced the fatal shooting of Greater Memphis Chamber President/CEO Phil Trenary on Sept. 27, noting that those charged with murder are 16, 18 and 22.
He looked further back and said, “We shoot up each other all the time and no reaction from our community. I’m so tired of being tired of this stuff. I am not going to sit here and tolerate it any more.
“We are on a mission and we have declared war on this crap. We are also (on) a mission to save our youth. That’s the main point. I’ve talked to the ‘Man’ upstairs many nights about this problem. He said, ‘If you are going to do something Clift, you better do it while you still got your mind strong.’ …I’m going out on faith.”