News & Politics

This Retired DC Cop Is Teaching Kids to Box, and He’s Not Playing Around

This Retired DC Cop Is Teaching Kids to Box, and He’s Not Playing Around

Tony’s Boxing Gym doesn’t look like much from the outside. The squat building on a shabby stretch of Mount Olivet Road in Northeast DC used to be a service shop for dump trucks. Inside, though, is another world. A red-white-and-blue ring consumes much of the space. Weekday afternoons, dozens of kids—such as Adam Dinkins Jr., pictured—line up for jumping jacks and push-ups, then take turns sparring. “I want to be a champion,” says an 11-year-old hanging out near the weight machines.

The place is run by Tony Bell, a retired DC police sergeant who knows firsthand the peril that can await kids with too much time and too little supervision. Though he and his staff train boxers of all ages, they’re especially invested in the afterschool set. Boxing, says Bell, is perfect for instilling hard work, discipline, and respect.

Sometimes the kids talk about problems at home or school, and coaches try to help. Head conditioning coach Abdul Saleem has paid visits to the elementary school up the street to alert administrators to bullying. Which isn’t to say he goes easy on the young athletes. “We don’t play in here,” Saleem says. “As soon as you come in the door, you work or you get out. This is not a daycare center.”

Retired DC police sergeant Tony Bell.
Adam Dinkins Jr., 11, and trainer Larry Bailey.
Endi Carter with trainer Orlando “Hollywood” Hollis.

This article appears in the October 2017 issue of Washingtonian.

Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 as a staff writer, and became a senior editor in 2014. She oversees the magazine’s real estate and home design coverage, and writes long-form feature stories. She was a 2020 Livingston Award finalist for her two-part investigation into a wrongful conviction stemming from a murder in rural Virginia.