Shortly before Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, Long Beach’s Martin Luther King Center was developing a boxing program geared toward at-risk youth.
But the storm damaged both the center and the equipment needed to launch the program — heavy bags, gloves, speed bags and more.
“Before Sandy … we went to Modell’s and bought gloves, heavy bags and other gear — we had everything but the storm wiped everything out,” said MLK Center Chairman James Hodge. “We weren’t able to get things back together until now.”
This month, however, after teaming with Long Beach professional boxer Seanie Monaghan as well as K. Harris, of Rockaway Ropes Boxing, and renowned trainer Joe Higgins, of the Freeport PAL’s boxing program, Hodge said the center was finally able to get the new youth boxing program off the ground.
“It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a while,” Hodge said. “It’s something we really wanted to do knowing it can help change a lot of lives in Long Beach.”
On April 4, more than 150 people turned out for a reception at the center to commemorate the 51st anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination and mark the start of the boxing program, the only one of its kind in Long Beach, organizers said.
The program is designed for children, teens and young adults to improve a participant’s overall coordination, endurance and strength “while having fun and making friends in a safe, welcoming environment.”
The program will go beyond teaching students punches and defensive techniques and place an emphasis on education, academic achievement, teamwork and building self-esteem.
“I wish there was a boxing program in Long Beach when I was a kid,” said Monaghan, 37, a light heavyweight fighter who officially announced his retirement on Tuesday. “The boxing program at the MLK Center will be a great asset to the community and if it saves one kid, it’s worth it. Boxing saved my life.”
According a news release, the program offers “non-contact instructional training” in the fundamentals of boxing that will not focus solely upon a student’s physical ability, “but more so upon his or her ability to conduct themselves with the utmost integrity and perseverance in life.”
“Boxing doesn’t just consist of you getting into the ring and fighting — there’s discipline, focus, integrity and respect,” said MLK Center coordinator Henry Hall. “There’s a bunch of stuff we plan on doing, and our thing is to get young people to be productive citizens.”
To date, Hodge said that more than 40 people have registered for the program. He added that he hopes to expand it for those suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
“We’re going to be teaching how the heart of boxing relates to different things in life,” he said. “[Boxing] will definitely help younger people make better decisions in life — that’s our task and one of our main goals. Boxing teaches you life skills and life lessons.”