I have been working with a local Boxer who will be the subject of another new book I will be writing about his life both in, and out of the ring. It is an interesting sport to learn more about but there is one aspect of it that I think needs to be considered. Boxing used to keep kids in the gym, working out, training, instead of on the street getting into trouble. It was a very cheap sport to be involved in and you didn’t need a team of kids interested in it to play. You didn’t need massive coordination of schedules to get a practice. You needed a kid, he needed some time, some gloves, sneakers and shorts.
Bobby Christakos is the name of the boxer I have been working with. Bobby won 5 Golden Glove titles, which in of itself is an amazing thing. However, what is even more amazing is that Bobby never had any legal trouble (beyond the occasional traffic ticket). Considering his background, and family history that is kind of interesting. His father ran a coffee shop that doubled as a bookie joint. None other than Whitey Bulger occasionally visited that shop.
In order to better understand the sport (and Bobby) I reached out to another local boxer named Micky Ward (we all know of Micky from the Mark Wahlburg movie).
These two clued me into something that is the subject of this blog post. Lowell Massachusetts is where they both grew up. There is an area of Lowell known as “The Acre.” To put it mildly it was not a great part of town. Back when they were kids and then teenagers it was full of bookie joints, bars, and all manner of oh so fun things that are not the place to raise children who are never in trouble.
Bobby’s entrance into boxing came when his father saw him get into a fight at the age of 16 when the other person in the scrape was 22. The size difference alone was enough to make most people run and hide. Not Bobby, he stepped into the fray. He lost, and his father then told him to learn to box before he got hurt.
What happened next somewhat parallel’s Micky’s story. Bobby spent so much time in the gym training, learning to box, exercising, and building friendships with other kids that he didn’t get into any legal trouble. He and Micky even came up through the same gym.
The point to all of this isn’t to tell the story of an upcoming book or even to say that Bobby was a good boxer.
The point to this is to say that in Lowell at this point in history there were five boxing gyms. Today there is one, and that one is likely about to close. Today Lowell has a need to keep kids out of trouble like never before. Perhaps the closing of places for kids to go and do things (other than video games) is causing some of this problem, perhaps not, but I am sad to say that I think if we could get more kids into sports like boxing they would stay out of trouble.
On that note I asked every boxer I have been interviewing for this book about that subject and ask why no one goes anymore. I got a series of differing views so I reached out to a few kids from the millenial generation. The answer I got was interesting, so I took that answer called the boxers and came up with a possible answer.
For the millenials, some of whom were interested in boxing, the mechanics of being involved are much different today than what they were in the 1970s. Back then if you wanted to try out a sport like this you went to the gym, they put some boxing gloves on you, showed you a few things and you tried it out. Today according to the twenty something age millenials I spoke with in order to try something like boxing out you have to have a load of equipment, sign a waiver, buy ten classes and if under 18 get your parents permission (and them to sign a legal waiver). I confirmed this by calling several boxing gyms. The only alternative is a watered down version of boxing where you put on the gloves and pound on a heavy bag (also requiring a waver in case you hurt your wrists).
Let’s think about that for just a second. Why are things so different now? Well, I call some folks who own boxing gyms about this. The answer is simple, regulations, lawsuits, insurance costs, and other such junk. In other words we have become such a litigious society we can’t take our teenager to the gym and have them learn how to box. Why? Because some kid somewhere got hurt once and the parents sued for more money than the gym will ever make meaning everyone else in the business has to either close up or adhere to new government regulations and CYA kind of business practice.
The other interesting point I heard from a gym owner is that parents tell them “I don’t want my son exposed to that much violence.” So, let me get this straight…ultra violent video games, movies, UFC, and Pro-wrestling on television good…boxing bad. Sounds strange to me.
We need to turn our society around…stop looking for who we can sue, get back to basics and realize that sometimes competition is fine. Not everyone deserves a trophy and occasionally even winners end up with a back eye.