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How a Local Boxing Club Prepared This Alexandria Native to Be a National Champion

Troy Isley keeps winning tournaments, and now has his sights set on Tokyo 2020.
Troy Isley has been training at the Alexandria Boxing Club since he was eight. Now he’s preparing for the Olympics. Photograph by Matthew Staver.

Two-time national champion boxer Troy Isley got his start brawling in the streets of Alexandria. “I wasn’t the type of kid who took a lot of crap,” says the 19-year-old, who grew up near Old Town and graduated from T.C. Williams High School. It didn’t take long to find his way to the Alexandria Boxing Club, where his instinct for fighting made him a natural competitor.

Isley still lives in the area, though he’s on the road a lot defending his rank as the country’s top middleweight amateur boxer and training for the 2020 Olympics. We caught up with him shortly after he returned from the President’s Cup in Kazakhstan.

What’s it like coming home after traveling so much?

I’ve now been to Germany, Kazakhstan, Honduras, Ireland, and Bulgaria, so I’ve gotten used to traveling. But I find new changes every time I come back. I’ve seen the community get richer—they’re knocking down all the projects, building new homes. Some of the new houses across the street from the Charles Houston Rec Center are where the projects used to be.

What is something every Alexandria native knows?

T.C. Williams was the school in Remember the Titans. I tell my teammates I went to the Remember the Titans school, and they’re like, “For real? You went to that school?”

What’s your favorite place to eat in Alexandria?

Blue and White Carry Out—everyone goes there. You have to get the fried-chicken sandwich. They sell everything, like breakfast sandwiches and lunch. But the fried chicken and bread is the most famous thing.

Why should people train at the Alexandria Boxing Club?

Because it’s not just a boxing club. We’re a family. When you come in here, we treat everyone with love and respect. Everyone sees that we go in the gym to laugh and have fun. The coaches treat the boxers who are just starting the same way they treat me. If you go to other gyms, they only pay attention to the good boxers and not the stragglers.

Where do you like to work out around Alexandria?

I make sure I jog if I have a day off. I run at T.C. Williams or do the steps at the Masonic temple. The coaches have us run up “Cannonball Hill,” right by the rec center, five, six, sometimes even 12 times. If I don’t run in the morning, I’ll call one of my friends and we’ll go to LA Fitness to lift.

How did you get into boxing?

A staff member at the rec center named Miss Sonya walked me over to the club and was like, “He’s always fighting—do something with him.” I started when I was eight years old, and I couldn’t stand it at first, even though I had a knack for fighting. The working out, the discipline—that came later. I was a kid at the time, so I still wanted to do kid things. When I started boxing, it was a sacrifice. When other kids were going to play, I had to go to practice. I would purposely leave my gym bag at school and use that as an excuse, but my dad would come find me at the playground and take me to practice to train in my regular clothes.

What’s something that people who aren’t from Alexandria should know?

There’s a lot of talent coming from here, such as [former T.C. Williams basketball players] Fahmmi Mamo and Samer Khalil, and Ryan Thaxton [now a football player at the University of Tennessee]. Don’t just overlook Alexandria. When I was in ninth grade, I won the Junior Olympic Nationals. I was number one, but I didn’t get a lot of attention from that.

What’s next?

Right now I’m working towards qualifying for the 2020 Olympics. Once I qualify, I want to be an Olympic gold medalist. From there, I want to take over the pro ranks.

This article appears in the August 2018 issue of Washingtonian.

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Elliot joined Washingtonian in January 2018. An alum of Villanova University, he grew up in the Philadelphia area before moving to Syracuse to pursue a master’s in journalism. His work has also appeared on Syracuse.com, TheAtlantic.com, and Catholicnews.com. He lives in Eckington.