Boxing Gym Blog

Airbnb at the DBG!

The Downtown Boxing Gym is an Airbnb Experience

The Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program is proud to be part of Airbnb’s unique program called “Trips.” Guests can visit our gym and test their skills in the boxing ring.

Khali training with a Downtown Boxing Gym student. Photo Credit: Katie Alexis Photography

San Francisco-based Airbnb wants you to experience Detroit (and so do we) by immersing yourself in our community and visiting local organizations like ours for an unforgettable experience that’s distinctly Detroit. Visitors can sign up for a training session and tour of the Downtown Boxing Gym through the Airbnb app or website. The company enables travelers to rent private homes and rooms in cities around the world. They plan to double their economic impact in Detroit to $20 million in 2017.

“We’ll meet just before the kids get out of school, and I’ll tell you about our founding story and mission,” our founder and CEO Khali Sweeney is quoted as saying on the Airbnb website. “Then it’s time for us to train – right in one of our rings. Once the kids are all in, we’ll wrap up our training lesson so I can focus on mentoring. You can stay to watch our program in action – and even try out some of your moves.”

Click here to learn more about the Downtown Boxing Gym experience and sign up or share the link with friends!

To participate, visitors just click on the link (above) to sign up for the $59, two-hour training session with Khali. 100% of proceeds go to the Downtown Boxing Gym. All guests must be 18 old older.

Airbnb launched its Trips platform along with its app in November. Detroit is one of the first cities to participate along with Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Havana, London, Paris, Florence, Nairobi, Cape Town, Tokyo and Seoul.

“We are thrilled to have this partnership with Airbnb which helps out of town guests learn more about our program and see firsthand the important work we’re doing with Detroit students,” says our executive director Jessica Hauser. “It’s fun, too! We welcome anyone to try it.”

The Good Fight!

Dynamic Duo Visits Downtown Boxing Gym

The Fight 2 Fight program, created by the husband and wife team of singer/songwriter Brynn Marie and boxer Josh ‘The Handsome Hitman’ Himes, fuses music and boxing together. The duo is committed to using music and sports collectively to empower “everyday fighters.”


Fight 2 Fight visits the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program, February 2017

An entrance or “walk-out” song gives a boxer the motivation they need before entering the ring. Music can also inspire people for a fight outside the ring. Brynn and Josh recently visited the Downtown Boxing Gym to share their innovative program with our students.

“Josh and I were so excited to empower the kids at the Downtown Boxing Gym,” Brynn said. “Fight 2 Fight fuels the importance of education, fighting for dreams and sharing our love of music.”

Everyone’s a Fighter

The motto of Fight 2 Fight is that everyone is a fighter, no matter what obstacle they may face. Brynn and Josh believe that, every day, we stand face to face with a fight. Fight 2 Fight encourages everyone to come together and support each other’s daily battles.

When they first met, Brynn admits she knew nothing about boxing. But it didn’t take long to realize that she and Josh had a lot in common. They each had to work their way up in their respective industries. Josh had 43 amateur fights before turning professional.

They started out in Nashville working with various charities and have since continued in places around the country and even internationally. The program features Brynn performing uplifting music and a brief boxing lesson by Josh.

Detroit Talent Shines

After talking with our students and getting to know more about them, Brynn performed her song “Phoenix,” the fight anthem song for Fight 2 Fight. Some of the talented students from our gym jumped in on the piano and drums to accompany Brynn during her performance.

Josh then talked about his boxing career and the obstacles he’s had to overcome. The experience left quite an impression.

“I love how the Downtown Boxing Gym stresses books before boxing,” Josh said. “Study hard and get rewarded with boxing. It’s an incredible concept that’s making an impact. The students welcomed us with open arms.”

Click here to learn more about Fight2Fight.
Click here to support the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program.

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Upward Bound!

Boxing Gym Student Pursuing UCLA

Not every ninth grader has a clear vision of what his/her future looks like. But Kalonnie isn’t your typical ninth grader. He wants to attend UCLA and major in graphic engineering. And with the help of the Downtown Boxing Gym and the Horizons Upward Bound (HUB) program, he’s well on his way.

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Kalonnie flashes a winning smile at the Downtown Boxing Gym computer lab

HUB is a program through Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills that prepares students from the Detroit metro area to enter and succeed in post-secondary education. Students receive academic support that helps them pursue and achieve their goals and dreams. HUB offers enrichment activities, college readiness preparation, and extra help with high school coursework.

Not only does HUB help students graduate from high school and get into the college of their choice, it also provides them support once they’re in college.

While the program offers students like Kalonnie an incredible opportunity, it requires a lot of dedication, determination, and above all, discipline. Participants attend classes 3 Saturdays a month. Once they’ve completed their freshman year of high school, students take part in a 6-week summer residential phase at Cranbrook.

Downtown Boxing Gym Connection

Kalonnie first found out about HUB through the Downtown Boxing Gym. When he learned more about the program, he knew this was something he wanted to do.

“I thought it was too good to be true,” Kalonnie said.

Brenda Gatlin serves as the Academic Dean of Students for HUB. She says Kalonnie’s demeanor from the beginning indicated he was exactly the type of student they were looking for.

“He seemed ready, focused, and able, “ Ms. Gatlin recalls.

Kalonnie had to write an essay about why he wanted to be selected for the program. Of the more than 100 applicants, 45 were selected. And Kalonnie was one of them.

“I was shell-shocked. I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

Winning Foundation

Life as a high school student and a HUB student has been an adjustment. But Kalonnie is succeeding thanks in part to those around him. He says the Downtown Boxing Gym’s Khali Sweeney has been one of his biggest supporters, and so has his mom.

“It gives me so much inspiration. I’m doing this for myself and for her,” Kalonnie says.

Brenda Gatlin credits Kalonnie’s mother with giving him the foundation to succeed.

“When you have that parental support, that’s half the battle. His mother is such a supportive entity in his life.”

Thanks to the opportunities provided to him by the Dowtown Boxing Gym and HUB, Kalonnie’s mother also has a clear vision of the future. Seeing her son become a first-generation college graduate.

“I see my son walking across the stage at UCLA,” she says. “I see it. “

To support the Downtown Boxing Gym, click here. To learn more about the HUB program, click here.



Meeting the Challenge!

Challenge Detroit Unveils Outdoor Plans

The sky’s the limit as Challenge Detroit fellows share their innovative ideas for our outdoor space at the Downtown Boxing Gym.


Challenge Detroit unveils plans for the long-term growth of the Downtown Boxing Gym’s outdoor space

Imagine a running track that flows from inside to outside. Imagine a butterfly garden for students to get closer to nature. Imagine an outdoor learning space for science projects in the warm spring and summer months. These are just some of the creative ideas specially designed for the Downtown Boxing Gym by a program called Challenge Detroit.

Challenge Detroit is a fellowship program that brings together innovative, community-minded thinkers to dream big for our city. Since its inception 5 years ago, Challenge Detroit has served more than 40 local non-profit organizations. Add the Detroit Boxing Gym to the growing list!

“We really believe in the mission of the boxing gym,” says program director Shelley Danner. “We truly believe it’s important to develop our youth – they are the future of our city.”

Ready, Set – Grow!

At the start of the challenge, the fellows visited the gym to see firsthand what our program is all about. Coach Khali Sweeney spoke and the fellows got to meet some of the students in our free, after-school program. The impact was immediate and profound.

Khali has always dreamt of having a functional and fun outdoor space for the students at our gym, a clean, safe place where they can learn and play. Thanks to the hard work done by the fellows from Challenge Detroit, Khali’s dream now has a vision and a blueprint.

The “Green Space Activation” challenge sought to create a space our children can enjoy while also providing a greater variety of educational opportunities and activities. The goal was also to connect this space to the community and the surrounding neighborhood. With that in mind, the fellows spent a great deal of time speaking not only with our students, staff and volunteers, but with the community.

A crowd gathers at the Downtown Boxing Gym for Challenge Detroit's presentation

A crowd gathers at the Downtown Boxing Gym for Challenge Detroit’s presentation

Team Approach

The Challenge Detroit fellows worked in 4 teams: seasonal programming, community, sustainability, and long-term growth. At the end of the 5-week program, they unveiled their concepts during a February 17, 2017 presentation at the boxing gym. The program included renderings and implementation plans, which will help guide the Downtown Boxing Gym’s leaders as we look to turn these concepts into reality.

“What’s most important to us is that the work that our fellows do on these projects, the ideas they generate, will be tangible, useable, and implementable, “ Danner said. “It’s a collective community idea. That’s what excites me and energizes me. My hope is this accelerates bringing that space to life.”

Want to help implement Challenge Detroit’s creative ideas? Champion a Child.
Donate today to support our efforts.

Stretching Our Minds!

Yoga at the Downtown Boxing Gym

The sounds of the boxing gym are unmistakable.

From jumping rope to gloves hitting the heavy bag to the ringing of the bell, the gym has a rhythm all its own.

Students at the Downtown Boxing Gym participate in a Monday evening yoga class.

Students at the Downtown Boxing Gym participate in a Monday evening yoga class.

It may seem like an unusual setting to roll out a yoga mat. But the Downtown Boxing Gym and the Humble Warrior Project are proving that right hooks and downward dogs can co-exist in a powerful and peaceful way.

Every Monday at 5 pm, yoga experts Dan Gottlieb and Nikki Fayne Jacobs lead a yoga practice that incorporates movement and meditation. Nikki says the goal is to teach the kids the “spirit-filled connections between mind and body.”

Humble Beginnings
It all started when Nikki and Dan attended a benefit for the gym. That experience inspired them to collaborate with the Downtown Boxing Gym, and the Humble Warrior Project was born.

Nikki and Dan lead our students through a variety of movements and poses, the benefits of which extend far beyond the yoga mat.

The goal is to help each student open up to the physical and emotional power they posses. The students tap into their “prana,” or power. They begin to let their light shine, which in turn, allows others’ lights to shine.

Through the practice of disciplined movement, the mind and body work in unison. Nikki says the students learn to be a master of their actions, rather than a prisoner of their reactions. The goal is teach students they can thrive in any environment; they can do anything they set their minds to.

Sense of Purpose
Dan says he feels a deep sense of purpose when sharing his love of yoga with students at the Downtown Boxing Gym.

“I’m not giving back, as much as I’m being given the opportunity to learn from these future political leaders and business owners. It has honestly changed my outlook on Mondays,” he says. “Before the Humble Warrior Project, Mondays were not high on my favorable list. Since we launched in November, I look forward to Mondays, and the drive down Vernor to the gym.”

Nikki agrees that the most meaningful part of the program is the relationships she is building with our young people at the boxing gym.

“I love having the opportunity to enjoy the company of the kids whose paths I might not normally cross,” she says. “Sharing space, time and love.”

Winning in the Ring!

Meet Our Silver Gloves National Champion!

The Downtown Boxing Gym has a new national champion. 13 year-old Josue won the Boys Open 12-13 year old title at the National Silver Gloves Competition in Kansas City, Missouri on February 4.

Josue defeated Isaac Strother of Houston, Texas by decision to win the title. The victory also earned Josue the number one national ranking in the 12-13 year-old age group.

“When they raise your hand after all that work put in, it all pays off,” Josue said about the moment he was crowned a champion.

Josue National Championship

Congratulations, Josue! 2017 Silver Gloves National Champion!

This was just the teen’s 8th fight and he now has 4 belts to show for it. Not bad for a student who only started boxing 2 years ago.

Josue trains under Coach Sonic Luna at the Downtown Boxing Gym. He says Josue’s ring IQ is far more advanced than most 13 year-olds. He can also throw “punches in bunches,” according to his coach.

Perhaps most importantly, Josue wants to put in the work required to become a great boxer.

“If you can find a kid that listens to you and has great work ethic, you can make him a champion,” said Coach Sonic, who can now boast his first national champion after having two fighters make it to the semifinals.

Strong Boxing, Strong Academics

Josue is also making great strides outside the ring. In addition to completing his regular homework, he increased his math skills this summer with ALEKS (Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Space). He participated in workshops where he learned about health education and got to meet one-on-one with former pro boxer Tarick Salmaci during one of our many career exposure sessions.

Back in the ring at the Silver Gloves, Coach Sonic and Josue came up with a game plan to come out aggressive from the opening bell. The strategy worked as Josue won all three rounds clean.

“Going into the fight, I was a little nervous when I saw the size of the crowd,” Josue explained. “But that all went away when the bell rang. I told myself I got this.”

Josue trained 5 to 6 days a week for the fight and sometimes traveled out-of-state to find sparring partners.

“It teaches me that hard work will always pay off,” Josue said of his big win. “You’re going to be successful if you make the choices that you need to.”

Next up for Josue could be a trip to the Arnold competition in Columbus, Ohio in March. The Junior Olympics are also on his radar.

For now, he’s just happy to hang another championship belt in his bedroom.

“It feels good,” he said. “It feels like I’m unstoppable.”

Mentoring For Success!

Gym Becomes TV Studio for a Day

The Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program recently hosted a panel of experts for a special taping of the American Black Journal Roadshow with an engaging discussion led by Stephen Henderson on the importance of mentoring.

Mentoring for Success panel

Mentoring For Success panel

There are so many benefits to mentoring; the list can get long quickly! Here are just a few:

  • Boosts confidence
  • Improves relationship skills
  • Helps determine career goals
  • Teaches students to accept feedback
  • Encourages young people to speak up and be heard
  • Helps increase self-worth

The Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program does all of the above and more every single day. We are proud to have a 100% graduation rate among students who have attended our free after school program since 2007. Mentoring and providing strong leadership are some of the keys to our success.

Our Founder and CEO Khali Sweeney joined panelists from Rock Ventures LLC/Quicken Loans, University of Michigan-Dearborn College of Business, ACCESS, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit, Shinola and more to discuss the subject of mentoring on DPTV’s American Black Journal. Several of our students also spoke on-camera to share their insights. Kenedi explained why our rule is “books before boxing” and why students hit the books first each and every day.

“Education is the key to everything,” she said. “You can’t have fun before you do your homework. The fun is not going to help you do [anything], but the homework will.”

Tune in to Detroit Public Television (Channel 56) Sunday, February 5 at 9:30am to see our amazing students in action and watch the full program.

Updates from the Gym: August 2016

Books Before Boxing

Did you know 100 percent of our students graduate from DBG youth program? Now that’s a point of pride. We do all we can to encourage and prepare students for their future. One of our 2016 graduating seniors, Christal Berry first stopped by to visit us in 2011 with her mother. She enrolled and stuck with the program all the way through graduation this spring. Christal is headed to college at Central State University before transferring to Alabama State University. She’ll study social work and sports management. Before she left, Christal shared a piece of advice to students in our program: “It was a very special experience. Take advantage of every opportunity they have. When you get off track, someone will be there to keep you focused.” Best of luck to you, Christal!

In the Gym

Downtown Boxing Gym's Coach Tamika

Downtown Boxing Gym’s Coach Tamika

Meet Coach Tamika Hogan

When Coach Tamika Hogan learned more about Founder and Program Director Khali Sweeney’s mission and plans here at DBG, she couldn’t help but get involved. “I really appreciate what he does, not only to help my children, but all students” she said.

“It’s more than just boxing. When I saw he needed help, I jumped right in.” Coach Tamika is celebrating 3 years with us. She is a coach, parent and president of the DBG Booster Club. We often see Coach Tamika wrapping the hands of competitors or fundraising to make sure as many students as possible can travel to tournaments. To join her in the booster club, send an email to


Meet Janelson Figueroa

Meet Janelson Figueroa, 17. This DBG champion won his first professional boxing match at The Bomb Factory June 29 in Dallas, Texas against veteran competitor Anthony Hill. Judges scored their four rounds in the ring 40-36. Janelson has trained with Founder and Program Director Khali Sweeney and with his father and Coach Nelly Figueroa. “We’re so proud to see any of our students succeed, whether it is academically or in the ring,” said Sweeney. “But the news of Janelson winning his first pro match was particularly exciting. We know this sport is something he loves and are here with him as he continues to grow and progress.”


Sponsor Highlight

Play It Foreward Charity Golf Outing

Play It Foreward Charity Golf Outing

Raising more than $135,000 in total this year at Play it Foreward, the event drew a crowd of 275 golfers and 62 volunteers for its charitable endeavors.

On July 11, we were proud to be among the beneficiaries of the annual Play it Foreward Golf Outing, an event with a 17-year history coordinated by Sachse Construction. Owner Todd Sachse has been a board member since 2013 and we appreciate his support – and skills on the links.

“The DBG is so much more than boxing,” he said. “It is a valuable community resource that transforms the lives of students in some of Detroit’s toughest neighborhoods. Because I have been so close to the program and seen the difference it makes, I am dedicated to building its sustainability and creating greater awareness. I want to see each of the 600 kids currently on the waiting list have the opportunity to experience the program, but to make that happen we need broader support and financial investment from the community.


In the Community

The Rachael Ray Show

In case you missed it, Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program was featured July 20th on The Rachael Ray Show for a second time as our Founder and Program Director Khali Sweeney and Executive Director Jessica Hauser flew to New York to appear on the show. We can’t thank The Rite Aid Foundation’s KidCents program enough for the generous donations announced on the show. KidCents is providing $25,000 to the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program to support our academic program and operations. In addition, The Rite Aid Foundation has provided $5,000 worth of school, office, first aid and cleaning supplies to us! Learn more at

Volunteer Day

More than 100 volunteers joined us at the gym for our first Downtown Boxing Gym Volunteer Day extravaganza. We could not have achieved the results we saw – and in a flash – without help from our friends at PwC, Quicken Loans, Hard Rock Café, Detroit Diesel and more. From new flowers around the building to a shine on our floor and books filling our library – we’re ready to show you what Books before Boxing means in any season. Want to volunteer with us? Learn more here.