Two weeks after participating in the unveiling of an initiative pitched to “declare war on crime in our neighborhoods” and “rescue our youth,” Ike Griffith met with Mayor Jim Strickland.
The director of the City of Memphis Office of Youth Services (MPLOY), Griffith set up the meeting having already declared that city government needs “helpmates” to assist local youth in meeting and surmounting challenges posed by myriad social ills.
With Strickland’s full support, Griffith is spearheading the City of Memphis’ sponsorship of a boxing event designed to lure local youth and propel the fielding of a Memphis amateur boxing team that would compete regionally, nationally and internationally.
The Nov. 28 event is planned for the Pipkin building at the Memphis Fairgrounds. It is the first yield of a collaborative linking Memphis Boxing Group LLC and the nonprofit Battlefields of Life Foundation, along with the support of Restoration House Boxing Academy, Flowers Power Boxing, MPLOY, the Memphis Afro-American Police Association and The New Tri-State Defender.
Griffith met with Strickland in the company of Clift Dates, Memphis Boxing Group’s principal organizer, and Eldridge “Pete” Mitchell, who founded Restoration House Boxing Academy.
“To really kind of explain the urgency to help young people in our city,” Griffith said, putting the meeting in context. “One of the ways we are going to do it is through boxing, which was a staple in the city years ago, especially with our young men.”
The end result, Griffith said, is to have a boxing team to represent Memphis.
During a meeting Monday at The New Tri-State Defender, Mitchell reiterated that USA Olympic Boxing – based in Colorado Springs, Colo. – governs amateur boxing and puts on shows throughout the country.
“Our plan is to have a boxing team with Memphis on it. …We are working with the gyms in Memphis, getting more kids in boxing. …We’re real excited about this thing. We think Memphis can have another Kennedy McKinney.”
At the Summer Olympics in 1988, McKinney, who was born in Hernando, Miss., won the bantamweight gold medal. After turning professional, he won super bantamweight titles via the International Boxing Federation and the World Boxing Organization.
The goal is to have a Memphis team of about eight boxers competing at the Southeastern Elite Boxing Tournament in Chattanooga next fall. The November event at the Fairgrounds is a major step toward arousing the interest of Memphis youth to get them involved in having a Memphis team.
“If you look at the sports that we have in the city, we have soccer team now, we have our basketball and we have this new football league. Boxing is a sport also,” Griffith said.
Strickland was asked to support MPLOY in “providing another opportunity for youth in the city. …It’s another positive alternative for our young people to turn to. This sport is not for everyone but we have a lot of young men who would like to get into this sport but didn’t know where to turn or how to get involved. This is an opportunity for them to actually see through the exhibition that we will be putting on.”
The event is dubbed “Boxing at the Pipkin” presented by Mayor Jim Strickland and the Office of Youth Services in conjunction with Memphis Boxing Group. The projection is for 10 to 12 bouts. A table will be set up for youth (including girls) who want to sign up to get involved in the evolution of the idea.
Griffith said he had a solid starting point for broaching the concept and the event with Strickland.
“He has passion for our young people and … it’s one of his top priorities – youth. He has entrusted me to find those avenues, to find those ways that we can be of benefit to young people in our city. We are (already) providing jobs…we are getting more businesses involved….”
Boxing is proven commodity when it comes to capturing the interests of young people, Griffith said. “We’re trying to put more air into that balloon that has been deflated and make it a positive for our city.”
An amateur-professional event initially projected for December is being reset for early 2019 to make way for the November event.
Griffith said the participation of Tyrone Curry and the Afro-American Police Association and MPD in general is vital.
“Through this you don’t know what type of relationship that we can build with our young people in getting them to somewhat curb violence,” he said.
Boxing, said Curry, is “symbolic to life issues – fight for education, fight for jobs…it’s simply a bait to get underserved people to a venue … where we can influence them with a positive word.
“What better way to do it than with boxing and the rappers who inject positive messages through their music that hit them down on the inside, in their souls.”
Dates said there are ongoing conversations to bring others into the initiative, which he stressed is a faith-driven “mission…to save our youth.”