Boxing Gym Blog

Art and Science

You’re Invited to ‘The Sweet Science’ Exhibit at the Downtown Boxing Gym

The multimedia project of WDET-FM begins Wednesday, September 20. It’s free and open to the public.

Did you know boxing is referred to as “the sweet science?” One expert says that’s because, “you have to find the perfect balance… between hitting and not getting hit. The special requirement of this simultaneous contrast is what makes boxing so amazing.”

At the Downtown Boxing Gym, our students study the sweet science — and reading, math, history, science, computer coding — and so much more. Our program is a safe haven where young people from across city of Detroit are nourished in mind, body and soul. It’s a place where kids who want to better themselves can get a square meal, hit the books, then hit the ring. Our motto is books before boxing. We have a 100% high school graduation rate over the last 10 years, and we’re proud.

You can see the gym through a new lens when WDET-FM brings “The Sweet Science,” a multimedia exhibition, to the Downtown Boxing Gym (6445 E. Vernor Highway) on Wednesday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m to 8 p.m. The exhibit is part of Framed By WDET, a series of audio-visual installations that combine photography and storytelling from the public radio station journalists.

“The Sweet Science” will showcase the gym through the stories of four of our amazing students: Quintin, Rakeem, Ferris and Jordan. The exhibit will pair 16 photographs (you’re getting a sneak-preview of some of them here on this page) from Detroit photographer Cyndi Elledge and audio storytelling from WDET journalist Laura Weber-Davis. You’ll be able to listen to the stories on cordless headphones, or from your mobile device.

Here’s part of the description of the exhibit:

The Sweet Science is an audio-visual storytelling exhibition of youth from the Downtown Boxing Gym in Detroit (DBG). The youth of the boxing gym gather every afternoon to study with tutors and train with coaches. They find strength in the ring and the classroom and learn to navigate the limitlessness of life’s possibilities.

Registration is free on WDET’s website or on Eventbrite.

You are cordially invited to attend, view the exhibition, tour our facility, and meet some of boxing gym staff.

Serving Our Country!

Downtown Boxing Gym Graduate Stationed in Alaska with U.S. Army

We are proud of our high school graduates pursuing winning futures and doing amazing things. Jasmine Grant is one of them. The U.S. Army specialist is far away from family and friends serving our country.

Jasmine Grant, a Downtown Boxing Gym student from 2011 to 2014, has traveled a long way from her days in Detroit. She is currently stationed in Alaska, nearly 4,000 miles away, where she serves as an automated logistical specialist in an aviation unit with the U.S. Army.

“Alaska temperatures go from about -50 in the winter to mid-90s in the summer,” she says. “During the fall we begin to lose a few minutes of daylight every day. By the winter, it’s dark all day. During spring, we start to gain back daylight and the sun is always up during the summer. The winters are long, dark and cold. The summers are beautiful and amazing, but go by so fast. Plus, we’re in a different time zone. Alaska is 4 hours behind Detroit.”

Jasmine, who is 19, began basic training two months after graduating from Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine in Detroit. Her Army career has also included stops in South Carolina, Virginia and Florida.

Always a good student, Jasmine says the Downtown Boxing Gym helped prepare her mentally and physically.

“Khali taught me to never give up! He also taught me, along with the others, to keep my head up, hang around people you have stuff in common with, and stay away from trouble,” she says.

Jasmine also learned discipline and teamwork. In 2014, she served as a tutor at the gym, sharing her knowledge and love of learning with fellow students.

“I tutored every subject. I wanted to do it because I’m all about giving back and helping everyone,” she explains. “It’s great to be the reason why someone else is happy.”

When her deployment ends in 2019, Jasmine plans to enroll in classes and pursue her goal of becoming a physician. She says she’s drawn to medicine out of a desire to help others and adds she’s eager to learn more about the human body and its many complex systems.

Jasmine offers the following words of wisdom to current students:

“Love yourself. Plan for your future and make short-term and long-term goals. Stay focused on your goals and keep your head in the books.”

Jasmine, we salute you! Thank you for your service and dedication.










Beautifying Our Space!

The Downtown Boxing Gym Plants a Rain Garden

Our students, staff and volunteers got to work and got their hands dirty — digging along the side of our yard  — as part of a project that’s both beautiful and practical.

The Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program is nurturing something new! It’s our new rain garden and it was planted this week. So what’s a rain garden?

According to experts, it’s a shallow area filled with native plants that can tolerate a wide range of soil types and weather conditions. Rain gardens are designed to help hold rainwater from big storms, thanks to the deep roots they send into the soil. Those roots let water slowly permeate the ground and prevent stormwater from rushing into drains where it can overwhelm wastewater treatment systems and flush pollution into our local rivers and the Great Lakes.

The rain garden will also help the gym save money over time, thanks to reduced drainage fees on stormwater processing.

“We have kind of a unique sewer system in the Great Lakes watershed, the River Rouge watershed,” said Kyle Kentala, a regular Downtown Boxing Gym volunteer who organized the rain garden project. “When the system can’t keep up with the rain during a heavy rainfall, the drainage system hooks up with the sewer system and washes into the Great Lakes.

“The more we can educate people on this and get people on board, the less stormwater is going to go into the system, which can help with that sewer backup,” she said.

The roughly 200 square-foot rain garden sits in a spot near East Vernor that often floods after heavy rains. It’s fed by redirecting some of the downspouts that carry rainwater off the gym’s enormous roof.

Kentala says sewer and stormwater processing fees are the highest part of the gym’s water bill.

“This is a way that the gym can actively work on bringing some of those costs down,” she said.

Our rain garden features six native plant species that will provide beauty, wildlife habitat and educational and enrichment opportunities for our students:

A $600 grant from the Friends of the Rouge, the Sierra Club Great Lakes Program and Keep Growing Detroit under the Rain Gardens to the Rescue program funded the project.

We are grateful to these organizations, our students, staff and volunteers for bringing the rain garden project to life. Be sure to stop and take a look!


Rocking Out!

New IPrevail Video Filmed At Downtown Boxing Gym

Our gritty, urban boxing gym set the stage for a hard driving rock song about resilience and endurance through tough times. It was exciting to watch the project unfold.

Thick fog, dramatic lighting, drums and heavy metal transformed the Downtown Boxing Gym into a video set during filming of the music video for “Lifelines,” the title track of the record released last October by Detroit band I PREVAIL. The gym was rocking during the epic production in our facility, a former bookbinding factory that is now home to our free, after-school academic and athletic program for Detroit students ages 7-18.

“It was a thrill to participate in this project,” said Khali Sweeney, Founder and CEO of the Downtown Boxing Gym. “Many of our students have musical aspirations of their own. It was amazing to see this video come to life right in front of our eyes.”


Here’s how the band describes the song and the project:

In the words of singer Brian Burkheiser, “Lifelines” is no doubt our proudest video to date. We set out to create something that embodied what “Lifelines” as a song and as an album really meant to us. It centers around the harsh reality that life doesn’t care about what you have planned. The biggest moments, whether ones of amazing opportunity or painful loss, are coming no matter what. How you choose to respond makes you who you are. That’s what we wanted to express.

This video became even more special to us when we had the chance to turn our creative process into a way to bring awareness to an amazing cause. The video was filmed at a magical oasis of hope called the Downtown Boxing Gym in Detroit, with great inspiration and support from founder and CEO Coach Khali Sweeney. Coach Khali and his team are straight up HEROES, changing the lives of young people in Detroit. They bring students in from the public school system and provide a safe environment with a focus on education first, using the self discipline of reading books together with the camaraderie of a sport like boxing. They build bodies and minds with an eye to the making of future leaders. There is no such thing as a “bad kid” to this organization. To see the positive impact this is having first hand was truly inspiring and something we couldn’t be happier to support. They are truly making positive lifelines and we are honored to have worked with them in their home base.

I PREVAIL is Brian Burkheiser (clean vocals), Eric Vanlerberghe (harsh vocals), Steve Menoian (lead guitar), and Dylan Bowman (rhythm guitar).  From all of  us at the Downtown Boxing Gym, thank you for sharing your spotlight with us!

Setting the Stage for Success!

New Multi-Purpose Stage to Feature Student Performances

Our newly fenced-in backyard space continues to become more functional, enhancing the Downtown Boxing Gym’s educational mission. Now we’ve added an innovative performance stage designed and assembled by Challenge Detroit volunteers.

Challenge Detroit fellow Claire Babala, a 2016 graduate of Michigan State University had a big idea – and now it’s become a reality. While participating in the “Green Space Activation” challenge, Claire dreamed up a performance stage made of 12 wooden blocks arranged in a grid that can be separated and used for seating and easily moved and stored. The design lends itself to the stage’s multi-purpose, transitional nature.

“It can be used to host musical and dramatic performances by students at the boxing gym, as well as others from the neighborhood and throughout Detroit,” Claire says. “We have discussed hosting improv classes as well as a student play from another nonprofit. The stage can also be utilized to host speeches and community events.”

A wood frame attached to the sage can be used to hold up a screen for movie nights or to project logos and other images. The eyelets on the frame can hold wiring to display artwork. Holding it all together are 14 pieces of plywood, 30 two-by-fours, nails, screws and other materials. It came together thanks to the efforts of 18 volunteers and the help of Babala’s friends and family members.

“Part of the process also included fundraising to cover material costs and food the day of the event, and I found support at my host company, Brooks Kushman, at local businesses like Belle Isle Pizza, and from individuals in my network and beyond,” Babala explained.

Challenge Detroit is a fellowship program, launched five years ago, to bring together innovative, community-minded thinkers to dream big for our city. It has since served more than 40 local nonprofit organizations.

The original “Green Space Activation” challenge involved four teams working on seasonal programming, community, sustainability and long-term growth. The goal is to create a space our students can enjoy and use to further their educational opportunities.

Babala, who double-majored in professional writing and arts and humanities at MSU, each with a focus on community development and writing for the community, says she can envision many other uses for the outdoor space: a soccer field, expanded garden and basketball court.

“I hope that stage will be used for many years to come,” she says. “I believe that it is a versatile enough piece that new ways to take advantage of the structure will constantly be discovered. I also hope that it becomes a place where students can express themselves and explore their passion for performance.”

Babala says she was inspired by the talent of the many students at the Downtown Boxing Gym.

“It’s important to realize that we all have the potential for greatness,” she says. “With access to support and resources, there is no limit to an individual’s chances for success.”

Our heartfelt thanks go out to Claire, the rest of the Challenge Detroit fellows, and all the wonderful volunteers and contributors who took part in this summer’s projects.


Cracking the Code!

Computer Coding ‘Boot Camp’ at the Downtown Boxing Gym

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, our middle and high school students learn the high-tech languages of computer coding, thanks to support from Grand Circus and the Detroit Auto Dealers Association.

Our students are learning to ‘crack the code’ for success this summer with computer coding classes — mastering the basics of HTML 5, Java Script, CSS positioning and web design. Instructors Chrissy Lee and Chris Davis of Grand Circus are helping to lead our middle school and high school students on a journey into the fascinating world of computer programming, an important skill for anyone seeking high tech jobs of the future.

“Java Script is the coolest to learn because we get to make things move and create animations,” says Khoury Walter, 13.

Most of our students have no background in coding but they’ve been picking up the new skills quickly, and enjoying it too.

“For me personally it’s important for our students to gain these experiences because there are not a lot of African Americans or minorities in the coding field,” our academic coordinator Kristin Lusk explained.  “It’s a way to lead students to a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) career. Coding boot camp also touches on other subjects they have learned in school.”

Students gather in our computer lab for the classes three times a week. This intro to coding is expanding their horizons and opening their eyes to exciting new career possibilities.

“My favorite part is being able to create something and learn how things we use everyday work,” says Khoury Walter, 13. “I would recommend coding to anyone of any age. It’s something new and interesting, but you have to pay attention to create something great.”

The classes are made possible thanks to the support and generosity of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association which is providing a grant to cover two cycles of coding extending into the fall. The Downtown Boxing Gym is grateful for the opportunity. We’re excited to see where the classes lead our students into their winning futures.

Growing Our Fleet!

Six New Vans to Transport Downtown Boxing Gym Students

You’ve likely seen them lined up in front of our building on E. Vernor in Detroit. The Downtown Boxing Gym now has six new vans to safely transport our students to and from our free, after-school academic and athletic program each day, thanks to generous support from GM Fleet and the Dresner Foundation.

As we look ahead to a new school year, the Downtown Boxing Gym is excited to announce we have six new vans to transport our students to and from our program. The addition of a new, 6th van is a big deal for us as we continue to expand our program and add more children (and more van routes).

Did you know? We currently transport approximately 80 students each day, Monday through Friday, picking them up at various schools and homes across the city of Detroit and in some surrounding communities. Our dedicated van drivers are the first point of contact with our students. Drivers welcome the children onto the bus and chat with them about school, life, various successes and other milestones, as they make the daily trek to the gym.

When our program first began in 2007, Khali would drive students to and from the gym himself along with other staff members. We’ve racked up a lot of miles along the way.

Thank you to GM Fleet for providing the vehicles and to the Dresner Foundation for covering expenses, insurance, fuel, maintenance and wages for our van drivers. We are incredibly grateful for your support which is helping to drive our continued success.

Fun fact: Our vans drive 50-100 miles each day, depending on the route.

Click on the animation below to see where we go!

Van Driver Wanted!

We’re seeking a responsible, experienced part-time van driver for our newest 15-passenger van to safely transport students to and from our program each day. The position is approximately 20 hours per week year-round, at a rate of $15 per hour, with the option of picking up additional field trip shifts. The routes change slightly each day but generally remain consistent. You”ll be picking up 14 students from home and school beginning at 2:30 pm and bringing them to the gym. Then, transporting them home beginning at 7:00 pm.
You must have a Michigan Chauffeur’s License and clean driving record. You must be at least 25 years old. Experience driving passenger vans is preferred, as is experience working with children. The ideal candidate will be reliable, flexible, trustworthy, have good communication skills with both boxing gym staff and families, and enjoy working with students.

Interested in the van driver position? Meet our qualifications?


Supporting Our Students!

Downtown Boxing Gym Graduates Receive College Scholarships

The Downtown Boxing Gym is proud to present our first-ever Al (Blue) Lewis Scholarships. Three deserving graduates were selected to receive $1,000 each to help with college expenses. The scholarships will be given out annually to students who demonstrate positivity and productivity.

A new scholarship program at the Downtown Boxing Gym pays homage to a hero of Detroit’s boxing past while boosting our leaders of tomorrow.

Tonight, the Downtown Boxing Gym awarded its first-ever Al (Blue) Lewis Scholarships to three graduates, bestowed by the H.T. Ewald Foundation, a family-run organization that supports charities and nonprofits worldwide. Each student received $1,000 for college expenses.

Scholarship winners were: Cala Oatis, a pre-med Wayne State University student; David Davis, a student at Alabama A&M University majoring in business; and Charisma Parker, an incoming sophomore at Alabama A&M studying biology.

“This scholarship will impact me so much because now I can purchase all of my books, along with other schools supplies I need,” said Charisma. “This scholarship has taken a huge weight off my shoulders.”

To be considered, students had to submit a video, a letter of recommendation and an essay. Recipients were chosen by the gym’s academic committee.

“Our mission is to provide the best support possible to empower our students and their futures,” says Carolyn Geck, the boxing gym’s development director. “This scholarship program means that our ability to empower students continues after they leave their Downtown Boxing Gym safe-haven and head out into the next phase of their lives.”

For the winners, the money helps ease not only the financial burden of their next chapter – but an emotional one as well.

“I’m so thankful for all of the support the boxing gym has given me,” said David.

“I feel like now I can accomplish anything,” added Cala. “I’m proud and honored to be selected.”

Power of Potential

For Wendy Ewald, a member of the H.T. Ewald Foundation’s board and granddaughter of its founder, the scholarships mark the beginning of a partnership between the foundation and the boxing gym — the program is funded for three years — and the end of her search for Al Lewis, a former heavyweight boxer she considers family.

Wendy’s father, Ted Ewald, was a well-known boxing promoter in Detroit and the son of H.T. Ewald, founder of the Campbell-Ewald advertising empire. Although Ted didn’t go into the family business, he was immensely dedicated to the family’s foundation and established its scholarship programs.

Ted believed in the power of potential.

“What he really wanted was to find people who were motivated, not necessarily the top students, but those who would really do something with their education and give back to society,” Wendy says.

When he wasn’t scouting scholarship recipients or working at his auto dealership, Ted was managing boxers.

“He became involved in boxing because he felt it was a way to create opportunities for talented people in Detroit’s African American community,” Wendy says.

Her father mentored many fighters, she says, but Al was special.

A young man with a troubled past, Al knew little about life outside the ring. But in Al, Ted saw a determined soul destined for greatness. Taking Al under his wing, Ted served as his manager and a father figure who taught Al a lot about boxing, but even more about life.

An incredible bond was formed.

“He was really a part of our family,” Wendy says, and he knew it. “He always used to joke with me that I thought I was the oldest (sibling) in the family, but that really he was.”

After Al’s heavyweight boxing career ended – a career highlighted by a bout with Muhammad Ali — he turned to coaching, passing down the lessons he learned to the next generation of boxers, some of whom now coach at the Downtown Boxing Gym.

A Man And A Mission

For years after her father passed away in 1996, Wendy often wondered what had become of Al. A recent search to find the man who meant so much to her brought Wendy to the Downtown Boxing Gym. Not only did she learn of Al’s whereabouts, but she discovered a place with a mission that mirrored her dad’s.

“I was very intrigued and wanted to help” she says.

From there, the scholarship program was born.

“If my dad were alive today, I think he would be thrilled about the new scholarship program at the Downtown Boxing Gym,” Wendy says. “Al Lewis was certainly a model as a talented fighter, trainer, and mentor who came from an incredibly tough environment. This new scholarship program connects two of my dad’s passions for helping people in Detroit.”

When it came time to name the new scholarship program, Carolyn says the choice was clear.

“The H.T. Ewald Foundation left the naming decision up to the boxing gym, but we wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says. “Naming the scholarship after Al (Blue) Lewis allows us to honor his work and influence, while we combine the two most important aspects of our program — books and boxing.”


Out And About!

DBG Experiences Detroit City FC

Our students had a blast taking in the excitement and high energy of a semi-professional soccer game under the lights in Hamtramck. Thank you to fans who also donated soccer equipment to our program.

Multi-colored smoke exploded from the stands and settled onto the turf as 30 students and chaperones from the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program cheered. That was just one of the highlights of a thrilling, fast-paced soccer game July 14 at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck. It was the Detroit City Football Club’s regular season finale against Lansing United. For some of our students, it was their first time at a stadium, let alone a live soccer match.

“It was fun and exciting,” said 14 year-old-Madison who added that the atmosphere was “hype.”

Since the team was founded in 2012, Detroit City FC has been dedicated to supporting the community through partnerships and philanthropy. Not only did the club donate tickets to the game, they teamed up with Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers to collect gently used soccer gear for our students to enjoy in our fenced-in outdoor space. Even though our focus is books and boxing, we have some budding soccer players among our 140 students.

“It was great to see the kids having fun and experiencing something new,” said academic coordinator Mike Mroz. “At the Downtown Boxing Gym one of our goals is to give our students access to events and activities they’ve never tried before.”

Thank you to the fans who donated soccer balls, cleats and shin guards to our program and a huge thank you to DCFC for an unforgettable night. For the record, the game ended in a 3-3 tie. Good luck to the home team as they head to the playoffs!

Summer Fun!

From Ringside to Riverside: Our Kayaking Adventure

Every Wednesday, a group of students from the Downtown Boxing Gym goes kayaking on the Detroit River. Detroit River Sports is teaching us everything we need to know to be safe on the water. Check out our blog post below including writing contributions from two of our 6th grade students, Makyla and Roderick.

What’s it like to kayak on the Detroit River? “It’s fun,” says 11 year old Makyla.

“First, you have to paddle and stay focused. I like how much experience you can get from doing this, when you are in the water. Now I feel like I can do anything challenging in the world.”

Every Wednesday for the next five weeks, 10 elementary students are participating in two clinics: one is “kayak boot camp” to learn the basics; the other includes games and water safety skills. Middle and high school students will participate during the following five weeks. The experience shows our students a new side of Detroit many have never seen before – two miles of canals into the Detroit River, ending at Belle Isle Beach.

“Most students from the inner city do not have access to pools or water sports, but water safety is important to learn,” explains our academic coordinator Kristin Lusk. “It is also important for them to learn about the natural resources in our city.”

“I like it because when you’re in water, you have to be focused and strong” Roderick, 11, said about his experience. “At first I felt like I was going to fall off, but after about 5 minutes of practice I got used to it.”

While kayaking, Roderick described the water as “deep,” and the sky “blue with a few clouds.” He also made a note of how hot it was outside. Scenery from the kayak included “lots of trees, houses along the canal, and dogs.” He even saw a fish that swam under his kayak.

“I learned that you need to listen,” Roderick added. “I would tell my friends to try it, and teach them, but make sure to tell them that they need to be focused and listen.”

The Downtown Boxing Gym thanks Detroit River Sports for providing the training and equipment our students need to enjoy this weekly kayaking adventure. We are excited to hit the water and keep working on our skills over the next 10 weeks.


Winning in the Ring!

Congratulations to our 2017 Junior Olympic National Champions!

The Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program is celebrating this holiday weekend after three youth boxers won national championships at the Junior Olympics.

Josue Feliciano, 13, Yusef Mohammed, 9, and Ferris Dixon, 13, all won their weight classes to bring national titles back to Detroit. All three also won at during the Junior Olympic Regional Competition (held at the Downtown Boxing Gym in May) in order to advance to the national Junior Olympics competition.

The Junior Olympics took place at The Charleston Civic Center in Charleston, West Virginia from June 26-July 1. The program is the most visible youth athlete developmental program in the world. The Junior Olympic championship is the biggest US tournament these boxers could possibly win. Their hard work and dedication truly paid off!

As is the case with all of our students, Josue, Yusef and Ferris take part in our free, after-school academic and athletic program where the rule is “books before boxing.” All are focused on their schoolwork and excelling in school as well as in the boxing ring.

Fueling Young Minds!

More Books for your Bucks

Studies show that reading during the summer months helps students retain what they’ve learned and prevents ‘summer slide.’ Now through July 1, donate $33 to our book drive and a Downtown Boxing Gym student will receive $50 worth of brand new books.

‘Brain Bags’ – just the sound of them makes you feel smarter. Usborne Books and More, a Tulsa, Oklahoma based company that sells children’s books, wants to put together dozens of brain bags for our students at the Downtown Boxing Gym, filled with brand new fiction, non-fiction and activity books to keep them reading all summer. Studies show that access to books during the summer prevents students of all ages from slipping behind.

“Regardless of economic background, children who do not keep reading over the summer can lose a grade level or more in their schooling ability,” says Laura Bratby, Usborne’s educational consultant. “Children who do read during the summer months improve and are more prepared to move ahead into the new school year.”

Bratby actually lives in Michigan, but she first learned about the boxing gym by way of the British TV show Unreported World. The show recently focused on the Downtown Boxing Gym’s literacy programs that are helping our Detroit students get to the appropriate grade level in reading. Laura knew right away she wanted to get involved.

“My in-laws live in the UK and they saw the show,” Bratby explains. “I looked up [the Downtown Boxing Gym] and was blown away by the amazing work they do.”

Laura helped set up the book drive. Now though July 1, anyone can donate on our homepage support the effort. Thanks to a matching gift from Usborne, a $33 donation will get a student $50 worth of brand new books to take home and keep. Click HERE to donate now.

Illiteracy is a huge problem in our country. 93 million American adults have basic or below-basic literacy. Statistics show this contributes to poverty and crime. Through a generous grant from the women’s group Impact100, the Downtown Boxing Gym currently has an intensive literacy intervention program underway for 60 children. Brain bags and brand new books will go a long way toward helping our students practice and retain the wonderful lessons they’re learning all summer long. Our free, after school academic and athletic program runs throughout the entire school year and summer.

“A book is an amazing gift to give to a child, especially those in need,” Bratby says. “You never know, the book you give them could be the one to change the world.”

Click HERE to donate to the book drive today! Thank you!

Our Outdoor Space!

Our New Yard Levels the Playing Field for Students

The Downtown Boxing Gym now has a beautiful, safe, grass-covered yard for our students to enjoy, thanks to generous donations from three local businesses.

Our students are getting a kick out of the warm, summer-like temperatures and the chance to play soccer and other sports in the sun. We are incredibly grateful to the Edw. C. Levy Co. and Slante Excavating for their work leveling the uneven surface of our fenced-in field, improving the alleyway between the lot and our gym, and seeding the topsoil to produce a lush green lawn. Their work improves drainage following rains, but more importantly it gives our students a safe and nurturing place to play, learn and unwind after hitting the books.

The yard also features a 6-foot chain-link fence, courtesy of American Fence & Supply Co. of Warren, that was installed earlier this season.

The new playing field allows us to expand our educational and enrichment mission by giving us a place to do gardening work and host outdoor activities throughout the spring and summer months.

Eliot Weiner, general manager for Southern Michigan Aggregates Edward C. Levy Co, says the company has long track record of giving back to the communities it serves.

“The Edw. C. Levy Co. and Stante Excavating wanted to support a safe place for students to play after they have completed their school work,” Weiner said. “When their homework is done, it’s important these students have options that support a healthy lifestyle.

“Our goal was to create an environment that is more attractive to the students, the neighborhood and the Downtown Boxing Gym leadership.”

The Edw. C. Levy Co. is a family owned business that traces its beginnings to Detroit in 1918. The nearly 100-year-old company provides services to steel mills, construction materials, asphalt paving, ready-mix concrete and fertilizer.

Slante Excavating of Wixom provided equipment, engineering and grass seeding.

The Downtown Boxing Gym thanks all three companies for their donations. Not only does our new yard improve our physical appearance and add green space and fun, it also represents an investment in Detroit’s children.

Investing in the Future!

Detroit Diesel Partners with the Downtown Boxing Gym

The Detroit-based company, a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America, has selected the Downtown Boxing Gym as its first-ever targeted campaign partner, pledging financial support, job training opportunities and volunteers.
When Detroit Diesel generously donated $150,000 to the Downtown Boxing Gym in early June, it was more than just a financial gesture. They see our students as the future. They share our vision.

Jeff Allen, head of operations at Detroit Diesel, presented the big check and gave our students a brief overview about his company.

“We make big diesel engines and transmissions and axles that go into the big trucks you see, the really big trucks that drive all around the country,” he said. “I’m the guy who’s responsible for making these big engines.”

Allen toured our facility along with Rakesh Aneja, head of engineering at Detroit Diesel. They walked through the boxing gym, classrooms, library, kitchen, music studio and outdoor space and also met with some of the 140 children who take part in our free after-school academic and athletic program.

“Since we’re so close we hope that one day some of you can come work for Detroit Diesel because we need a lot of really smart people to help us design and build these engines,’’ Allen told the students. “What you guys are doing here is really inspirational and what Khali (Sweeney) and Jessica (Hauser) and you guys are doing really has inspired us. The hard work that you do every day to continue to learn and do well in school is something that’s very, very important and we want you to continue to do that. We want to help you continue to do that. We brought you a gift today for your organization to continue to develop.’’
Proud Partnership
It’s always a boost when our students hear from those who believe in them. That is exactly the message Allen delivered. In turn, Allen and Aneja were inspired by what they saw.

“What an amazing, heartwarming story that restores my faith in humanity and makes me optimistic about the future of mankind. It is indeed a very special honor for Jeff and me to be here to get to meet Coach Khali and get to meet all of you and see this place firsthand,’’ Aneja said.

The Daimler team emphasized how proud they are to partner with us. Detroit Diesel encourages employees to take two paid days off to volunteer, work in the community and make a difference.

“At Detroit and Daimler Trucks North America, we take a lot of pride in our work — we want to make a difference to the environment, to our people, to our customers, but we also want make a bigger impact on our communities, ” Aneja said. “This is absolutely a great opportunity to partner… and we’re looking at it [as] the beginning of a long-term, fruitful partnership.”

Inspiring Words
Kahli, always the coach and mentor, seized the teachable moment and built upon the message from the Detroit Diesel executives. He thanked Allen and Aneja for the generous gift and encouraged students to think big as they think about the future.

“Here’s a group of people — they could invest in anything in the world — but they invested in the future, and the future is you all right here. Take advantage of it,” Khali told the group. “There are a lot of guys outside these walls who aren’t going to see this. They are never going to get this opportunity. And you know where they are headed? A hard road.’’

He reminded the group about the many job opportunities that can come as a result of education and learning, hard work, focus and determination.

“You all are getting the building blocks right now today, early on. Fiber optics. Computer coding. Possibly engineering school,” he said. “These people are here doing this, they don’t have to be here. They could be investing in their sons or daughters, cousins, or nieces’ soccer teams or whatever the case may be. Little League teams. But they are investing in something they feel is important. That’s educating the youth in our community. You all are getting the chance at being whatever you want to be.’’

Thank you to the entire Detroit Diesel team for your partnership and support. Welcome to our Downtown Boxing Gym family!

Growing Our Team!

Meet Mike, Our New Academic Coordinator

There’s a new face at the Downtown Boxing Gym. Academic Coordinator, Mike Mroz, joined us recently and he is passionate about working with students. Help us welcome him to our boxing gym family!

It’s easy to get to know Mike Mroz, the Downtown Boxing Gym’s new academic coordinator. First of all, he’s the guy at the door who is quick to greet students and direct them where to go.

“I love working one-on-one and getting to know every student who comes through the door. My first priority was greeting everyone at the door and asking them their name,’’ Mroz says. “From there, I have gotten to know each student on a more a personal level. They all know that homework and school comes first, but I am always game to have fun when work has been accomplished.’’

Students sign in and check in with Mroz every day. He’s a natural fit and has quickly integrated himself into our program. Mike’s goals are pretty straight forward. He wants to help improve the students’ grades and attendance, but that’s not all.

“I also want to help bring more awareness to the gym so we can increase our donor base and bring more students in off of our waiting list to expand this awesome place,’’ he says.

Mike is energized by the positive vibes and outgoing personalities within the gym — among both our students and staff.

“I love that the gym is a great place for children to come and work out and get quality one-on-one academic attention and intervention that they need to succeed,’’ he says.

Our “books before boxing” rule, 100-percent high school graduation rate, and ten-year track record of success are among the many reasons he was drawn to our program.

“That is huge, especially in Detroit. Having an opportunity to see the same students every day and make an impact with them regarding school and life has been awesome too. What Coach Kahli [Sweeney] has done with this place is truly amazing,’’ Mroz says.

This is not Mike’s first experience working with children. Mroz, 27, came to the Downtown Boxing Gym from the Michigan Science Center where he was the traveling science educator. He grew up in Rochester Hills and graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in elementary education. Before college he lived and worked at Disney World, the happiest place on Earth.

Mroz is a standout in another way, too. He is inked with 39 tattoos.

“The majority of them are music related, family, interests, and art that my friends have created. One of my favorite ones is the song lyric ‘Heart on My Sleeve’ located on my forearm that represents that all of my tattoos are things in my life that I hold dear and are showcased on me for others to see,’’ he says.

Maybe one day he’ll add a tattoo to remind him of the Downtown Boxing Gym. When you see Mike, be sure to say “hello.”

“I am very excited for this opportunity and am thoroughly enjoying the time I am spending with the kids,’’ he says. “The relationships I have built so far are truly rewarding.”

Making an Impact!

Downtown Boxing Gym Wins 2017 Impact100 Grant

The Downtown Boxing Gym was selected from among three finalists. The funds we’ll receive from Impact100 Metro Detroit will help dozens of our students learn to read, a gift that will last a lifetime. The intensive literacy intervention program begins this summer.

Women are a powerful force. The group Impact100 Metro Detroit is showing us just how powerful we can all be when we work together. One hundred metro Detroit women pooled their resources, each contributing $1,000 to establish a $100,000 grant. The Downtown Boxing Gym is truly honored and grateful to be this year’s Impact100 Metro Detroit grant recipient.

“Our purpose is to fuel transformation in our local community by uniting women in collective giving,” reads the Impact100 Metro Detroit website. “We provide an environment that’s inviting and rewarding, while giving women the ability to combine their money in order to make big contributions to local nonprofit organizations.”

The grant will fund an intensive literacy intervention program called Beyond Basics for 60 of our students. All of our students were tested and assessed; those with the greatest need were selected to participate.

“Some of our students have been through a six-week reading intervention pilot program already,” said Khali Sweeney, Founder and CEO of the Downtown Boxing Gym. “These guys tested below average, so low that they didn’t even have a score. Now, those same students who went back there and studied hard every single day without complaining, now they’re testing at a college level.”

This week, about 25 Impact100 Metro Detroit members and friends visited and took a tour of our facility. They also met with the students and delivered the first portion of the grant.

“These people are taking the time to pay for something that’s very important,” Khali told the kids who gathered around for the presentation. “Take advantage of it.”

Click HERE to learn more about Impact100 Metro Detroit. Click HERE to make an impact by supporting the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program.

Strong Leaders!

Leaders Quest Brings PwC to DBG

They stepped outside of their comfort zone when they stepped into the Downtown Boxing Gym and 15 employees of PwC, Xenith and William and Bonnie came away inspired. All of them took part in a Leaders Quest afternoon program at the gym on May 24 which included throwing punches, touring our classrooms and facilities, and talking one-on-one with our founder and CEO, Khali Sweeney.

“I’m really inspired, you’re an amazing mentor, and you guys are doing incredible things here,” one young leader told Khali.

Leaders Quest is a social enterprise that develops ‘wise, compassionate and adept leaders.’ The organization helps leaders increase their impact by connecting them with exceptional leaders doing great work around the world. This was the third time a Leaders Quest group visited the Downtown Boxing Gym.

“It’s clear from walking in here that the boxing gym prioritizes the success of young people as a mechanism to transform wider communities,” said Sayo Ayodele, a Director at Leaders Quest. “We think that’s amazing. The leadership behind this place and the personal connection they have with the young people makes it really special. We think people can learn  a lot from that. Plus, it’s really fun to try boxing for the first time!”

Khali’s story of personal transformation and his passion and drive for helping others, especially Detroit students, resonated with the group. They also loved seeing the program in action as students began arriving after school.

“I’m completely overwhelmed. I feel like I’ve been on the verge of tears for the last 30-minutes,” said PwC employee Natalie Teear. “Seeing the kids here and seeing it all come to life, how one human being can completely change the world – it’s amazing.”


Reaching New Heights!

Downtown Boxing Gym Receives Grant for Rock Climbing Wall

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan has awarded grants to 33 local organizations, including the Downtown Boxing Gym, from endowment funds created to carry on Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.’s legacy of giving. We are truly grateful for this opportunity to install new equipment and expand our programming.

Our after-school academic and athletic program is about to reach new heights thanks to a generous grant from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. The Downtown Boxing Gym was awarded the grant via an endowment fund which honors the legacy of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., the late owner of the Buffalo Bills, whose foundation is charged with making a positive difference in communities across Southeast Michigan and Western New York. His passions included caregiving, design and access, and youth sports. The funds will be used to build a boulder climbing system in our gym and implement related programming.

“This system will help our students build confidence and self-esteem and push them outside of their comfort zones. It’s also a great workout,” said Jessica Hauser. “Our kids will be encouraged to reach higher and try harder and they’ll see first-hand what they’re able to achieve by doing so. We are excited about this opportunity and thankful for the support.”

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan is a full-service philanthropic organization leading the way to positive change in our region. As a permanent community endowment built by gifts from thousands of individuals and organizations, the foundation supports a wide variety of activities benefitting education, arts and culture, health, human services, community development, and civic affairs.
“We are delighted to see the diversity of organizations receiving grants from the Wilson Legacy Funds this year,” said Mariam C. Noland, President of the Community Foundation. “Spanning across all the seven counties of southeast Michigan, the grantee’s projects will provide unique opportunities to the region’s residents, as well as create positive impacts on their respective communities.”

Junior Olympic Boxing!

Join Us! Regional Junior Olympic Boxing Tournament May 27-28

Make this Memorial Day Weekend a weekend to remember! The Downtown Boxing Gym will host the 2017 Regional Junior Olympic Boxing Tournament. Events are open to the public and we invite you to join us. Check out the details below!

WHEN: Saturday, May 27 and Sunday, May 28! Boxing begins at 1:00 PM each day with half-time entertainment featuring the Detroit Ghostbusters and Warped Rose!

WHERE: The Downtown Boxing Gym, 6445 E. Vernor Highway, Detroit

WHAT: Don’t miss your chance to attend this special event featuring food, fun, half-time entertainment, and of course fast action excitement in the ring! This tournament is a qualifier for the 2017 Junior Olympic National Tournament and 2017 Prep National Tournament. This family friendly event will feature the top talented athletes from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana ranging in ages 11-16.

TICKETS: Single day tickets are available for $15 or 2 day tickets for $25. Tickets can be purchased at the door. Sponsorships & VIP tables are also available.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call (313) 209-3029 or email

THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS: Johnson Law, PLC, ROSSETTI, Leon and Karen Halip

Class of 2017

Senior Spotlight: Congratulations, Zoe!

Zoe is a Downtown Boxing Gym graduating senior at Detroit’s Cass Tech High School. She plans to attend Bowling Green State University in Ohio this fall where she’ll study exercise science. The Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program is proud to have a 100% high school graduation rate since 2007 thanks to the hard work and dedication of our staff members, tutors and students alike.

Meet Zoe!

Zoe is a Cass Tech High School senior who will graduate in June. She first came to the Downtown Boxing Gym several years ago when we were in our previous location on St. Aubin Street. The varsity swimmer who also ran track says she was drawn to our program after watching videos of boxer, Laila Ali.

“She inspires me,” Zoe says.

The teen acquired many skills in the boxing ring including “hand and foot coordination” and learning “how to be quick, think fast, and outsmart my opponent.”

She also learned important life lessons while attending our free, after-school academic and athletic program.

“Coach Khali pushed us to do well in school,” she says. “He always pushed us to take the tutors seriously and to appreciate the opportunities we were fortunate enough to have.”

“Her grades improved with her tutor,” adds Zoe’s dad, Darryl. “She liked everything that was going on at the boxing gym. She liked the atmosphere there. She likes structure.”

Zoe says she will never forget her tutor, Ms. Brittany, who spent hours working with her one-on-one so she could master algebra II. She’s also grateful for her parents who supported her desire to attend the boxing gym and bought her boxing gloves and shoes.

Future Plans

Zoe plans to study kinesiology, or exercise science, with the goal of becoming a physical therapist. She also has other big plans; she dreams of someday opening her own nonprofit after-school program for children in Detroit – as a way of paying it forward.

“A lot of people I grew up with – if their circumstances were different, they wouldn’t be in jail or their lives would be different,” she says. “If they were shown something other than what they were used to, they could have been something. I want to provide that opportunity for more students.”

Congratulations, Zoe! Your Downtown Boxing Gym family wishes you a bright and winning future ahead!

Page 1 of 212»