By DAVY MEISTER FOR CULPEPER STAR-EXPONENT
Jon Russell looked at a huge pile of logs his boys had cut. He remembered what he had been told that day.
“Now I know what it’s like to have a dad show me how to do things like that,” the boy told him.
Russell fell silent while speaking with the Star-Exponent. And, left, overwhelmed by emotion.
Recomposed, he said: “We are raising a whole generation of young men who will no longer be broken.
Two men opened their doors to a new adventure, and two dozen boys – desperate to find male role models – learned a lot… But above all, that they were loved.
And, for five days, they belonged…not broken.
No one ran the streets of Culpeper to the “Eye of the Tiger” soundtrack.
Inside, no spokesperson in a tuxedo spoke the imperative to prepare for a rumble.
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Still, the judges reached a unanimous decision: The first round of Kelly Street Boxing Club’s youth boxing camps was a winner – by knockout.
The local club, proving its credo, ‘Giving young men a fighting chance in life’, sponsored the event for youngsters aged seven to 17.
Jon Russell was the cornerman, mixing his shots with a very attentive audience of 23 lads, most calling Culpeper home. Others came from Madison and Orange. Target: historically underserved, seeking, eager, goal-seeking youth.
“I’m really having fun!” said camper Jeremy Mimnaugh, 16, seconds after hitting the heavy bag twice during Culpeper’s inaugural five-day pugilistic-themed teaching and training session. “They taught me to keep trying hard,” he said, keen to put more bumps in that bag.
Russell, who is the CEO of public relations firm Identity Culpeper, opened the Kelly Street Boxing Club last March at 405 N. Kelly Street.
“Our camp and classes are primarily for boys who would be considered at-risk,” Russell told the Star-Exponent.
In addition to camp, 90-minute classes (50 for boxing, 30 for life skills) are available for three different age groups on Mondays and Tuesdays, in the spring and fall. Curious parents can always take a look.
Russell’s heart pours out transparently for these children, living himself, at an early age, with the deep pain of a father who wanted no part of his son. Surrender eventually became his motivation, positively turning rejection into acceptance – reaching young men through one of the most disciplined sports: boxing.
The opening of the boxing club was cathartic. For Russell and every kid who laces the gloves.
The refuge for these boys was the camp week in the form of four hours a day – from 8 am to noon in a well-equipped boxing gym, without a ring.
Russell said he plans to buy a used ring for around $6,000, with future fundraisers, like the pro-rodeo coming to town in September. Campers ate breakfast, performed community service activities (e.g. litter pick-up), participated in team-building competitions (tug-of-war, etc.), were introduced to various life, then…
Chasing chickens wasn’t part of the training, though there were chickens clucking in a nearby chicken coop, hoping that a “Rocky” training fixture wasn’t in their future. But the camp organizers went all the way, teaching various boxing techniques.
Harry Brady – unrelated to QB 12 – was the boxing guru who meticulously broke down dozens of fundamentals, drawing on his vast resources and experiences as veteran Golden Glover, originally from Patterson, NJ
The gloves were off when this boxing historian barked orders in a choppy, quick pace like a pro working the overhanging speed bag.
“You are losing your form! Sit on your punches! Next three! Come on, Gage… get in there! One. Two! One. Two! On the bell! Brady said, all without taking a single breath.
“Set those feet!” No stupidity ! To concentrate! To concentrate! Big punches! Good job!” Brady continued. At age 20, he was about to step into the ring professionally, but instead Brady gave it all up to become a highly decorated lawman, now retired.
Brady was the leader of a hive of activity as the boys rotated to different stations: matching bags, ropes and ellipticals.
The Russell-Brady duo, two powerful, strong and passionate role models, are committed to reaching the types of children who sign up for camp. Those who crave to face people like these two men. They both share a common vision and tenaciously plan to mend the breakup, using the multiple benefits of boxing as a stepping stone to healing.
Exercise. Self defense. Discipline. Stress relief. Health.
You don’t have to watch all those Rocky movies to learn that boxing builds character and strength by overcoming adversity. Life knocks you out on the canvas, you beat the standing tally, and you…
The young boxers at the Kelly Street Boxing Club learned exactly that. They also discovered that boxing is much more than a sport, it’s school… with to concentrate and control headliner of the program. These are essential subjects before moving on to the graduate class: adulthood.
“Boxing is just the hook,” said Russell, who is extremely proud of all the life skills taught at his camp. Before the camp opened, the boys learned the basics of running their own business. On Friday, they sold some of their merchandise, leaving with the money earned.
Campers also built a bike ramp, learned how to mix and pour concrete, and also cut a ton of wood.
Undefeated and undisputed champion…Kelly Street Boxing Club Kids Boxing Camp.
A rematch is definitely in his future.
Davy Meister, a retired teacher and coach with a background in print journalism, is a freelance writer living in Culpeper. Contact him at [email protected]