A new year always brings new resolutions and the most common is to get in shape. On the East Side of Buffalo, a husband and wife team uses the sport of boxing to strengthen body, mind and community.
The trip begins at the back entrance of 307 LeRoy Ave. Up three flights of stairs is a gymnasium, where on Monday night, coach Terry Williams was leading a mixed group of sweaty people in conditioning training reflecting his eight years in the US Army.
The youngest is 16, the oldest 65. There is a stage at one end of the gymnasium, a boxing ring at the other and punching bags along the walls, which are covered with pictures of boxers which are passed through the nonprofit Bombshell Academy over the years.
“The key to boxing is to get in shape,” said Williams. “I don’t put anyone in the ring until I know they’ve had that type of training. You have to be in shape, you have to be in shape and have the right mindset to come out and perform this. that you have to do to survive, because someone is trying to hurt you. So you have to be prepared mentally and physically to go out and fight. Be the smartest person in the ring. “
Williams said he learned this from his coach, the late National Golden Gloves lightweight champion Johnny Green, who fought with world welterweight and then middleweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson. Williams himself has been a coach since 1994.
“My main goal is that we try to work with whoever comes to the gym if they give 100%. If you only have one soldier ready to fight, I’m here,” he said. .
Tazia Jackson, 18, was there to fight. She recently had a baby and joined the Body Strengthening Program before entering the Marines.
“I go into the Marines because I want to learn hand-to-hand combat and things like that. So someone told me about boxing,” Jackson said. “I can go there knowing something already. So I won’t be too far behind. I will actually be further than most people, you know.”
How does it feel to hit someone?
“It feels good,” she said. “It lets out your pressure. It lets out your anger, your emotions. It feels good.”
Lawyer John Elmore was far west of New York City in track and field and played basketball as a child, but agreed there was no feeling other than stepping into a boxing ring.
“When somebody gets in the ring, in a real fight, they have the opportunity to walk, to deflate themselves.” he said. “But if you can face that fear, with the butterflies and the nerves, and go there knowing that someone is going to try and knock your head off you, nothing in life is going to scare you after that.”
Elmore not only serves as a coach for the academy, but also a mentor for the downtown youth who participate in it. He said the program is a haven that builds physical and inner strength.
“We’re just trying to show them a new normal,” he said. “We bring in speakers – whether it’s a banker or a judge, a doctor – so that it’s normal for them to see people doing well. And to be surrounded by people who genuinely care about them. We expect them to be great here. and to be great when they leave here. “
This is also the theme behind EmpowerMe Fitness, a new boxing program for women only that meets before the BombSquad. Also a 501 (c) 3, he’s run by Terry Williams’ wife, trainer and RN, Regina Williams.
“I really wanted to start a program for women that would empower them, that let them know that fitness should be a way of life, not just a destination. Boxing fitness,” she said. “So besides boxing, I add things like dumbbells. We do a lot of things called Tabata HIIT workout. It’s just different ways of exercising the core. I’m going to throw things like an obstacle course. . So I try to be really versatile with it. “
Pretty much now, you’d think just about every woman has joined a workout program in their lifetime – and maybe quit soon after. But as a newcomer, the sensation at EmpowerMe – like the Bombsquad – was the immediate camaraderie and support.
“You see women who are like you and who are looking for the same goal, so it’s encouraging and it also makes you want to help each other,” Kimberly Johnson said.
Johnson works as a senior billing clerk for the Erie County Probation Service during the day and attends classes two evenings per week.
“I mean, someone new is always welcome to join the fold. How often you come is up to you. There is no bodily shame. It makes you feel good in any shape, the size. It’s awesome, ”Johnson said.
“Momentum and energy have you always ready for anything,” said Hilda Ramos. “We’re here because we want to be here. It’s not about wanting to look cute.”
Ramos is a semi-retired teacher who met Regina Williams while working together in summer school. She likes the program to develop her physical and inner strength.
“I love the coordination. I love the fact that I am building endurance. I love the fact that I feel empowered. And I love the fact that I stay healthy,” said Ramos. “When you have your box, you have to be very attentive at all times. It’s kind of like a dance form, you know? You really have to have coordination. You have to think about a lot of things at the same time. C So it’s almost even a mental simulation. You can’t just sit down and do sit-ups and daydream. “
Both programs end each session with a prayer and a high five before sending people back out into the world. Because as Terry Williams said, “God is in the method”.