"We all family here", says Nate Boyd. Peoples' reasons for boxing vary widely. One thread that keeps people coming back is the camaraderie, welcoming atmosphere and discipline boxing gives its practitioners.
Officially opening its doors in 1980 as Bedford-Stuyvesant Boxing Association some of the world's best fighters, including Riddick Bowe, Mark Breland, Leon Taylor and Henry 'Hot Pepper' Brent have come out of this neighborhood boxing gym in Brooklyn. Things changed since the death of iconic trainer George Washington in 2006 who was the beating heart of the Center in recent times. Like the cracked leather of the gym's punch bags, the once respected, feared and envied name of Bed-Stuy boxing has faded.
The gym has a full size ring, boxing bags and some weights equipment.
"You wanna be beaten by a cop?", shouts Nate Boyd as he encourages Shakka to get closer to a police officer with the New York City Police Department (NYPD). NYPD officers use the gym to train for competitions such as 'Battle of the Badges'. This is a way for NYPD to develop relationships with the Bedstuy community, especially with some mistrust among some members of the community and law enforcement.
Amateur heavyweight Dan Mason (26) warms up on a punch bag. Former boxing Golden Glove champions from the gym adorn the wall behind.
"Some days, I've so many kids I don't know where to put them, so I put them in the gym and get them moving around", says Nate Boyd, head boxing coach at the gym.
The gym is a safe place for youth to escape the streets for a while.
Things changed since the death of iconic trainer George Washington (shown here in a photograph hanging high on a wall above the gym entrance) in 2006 who was the beating heart of the Center in recent times. Like the cracked leather of the gym's punch bags, the once respected, feared and envied name of Bed-Stuy boxing has faded.
"Everyone is welcome here, no matter what skin color you are". Dan Mason (26) shakes hands with another boxer.
Nate Boyd (50) puts strong insulation tape around a splitting punch bag. Situated in an economically disadvantaged area, maintaining, heating and opening the gym is a constant struggle. "I'm tired man. Everybody's tired", says Nate Boyd (50), head coach at the boxing gym.
"Bedstuy, we do, we don't die", says former world champion fighter Henry 'Hot Pepper' Brent.
"I've been here 35 years", says Nate Boyd (50) in a resonant, strong voice. Nate, who lost his son to gun violence on the streets of Bedstuy, trains youth at the Bedstuy boxing gym 6 days a week, all year long. He does this for no financial reward.
Manhattan's skyline is visible in the distance. Increasingly, new people are moving to Bedstuy, changing a traditionally African-American demography. As rents rise, families move from the area further into Brooklyn. "You know man, change is coming", Nate Boyd says. It's time again for Bedstuy boxing to 'do' rather than 'die'.
Bedstuy is changing. Traditionally an African-American neighborhood, recently rising rents, encroaching gentrification and continuing violent crime contribute to often difficult individual and family situations.