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.”
This article appears in the October 2017 issue of Washingtonian.