DOWNTOWN — Three hundred spectators crowded into a hot and muggy Daley Plaza Tuesday afternoon to watch young boxers duke it out in the ring.
The Youth Boxing Showcase was organized by the Chicago Park District, which has 20 boxing centers scattered in parks across the city.
Tuesday’s card featured six bouts comprised of five rounds per fight.
The boxers, who competed against opponents in their respective weight classes, hailed from throughout the city and got into fighting for myriad reasons.
“I needed the discipline," Camyrn Clay, 14, of the Far South Side, said.
“I was really nervous the first time I stepped into the ring, but after that I got used to it”, the Perspectives Charter School student added a few minutes after winning her second career fight.
“She did need the discipline and I supported her 100 percent when she told me she wanted to do this," Taneen Clay, her smiling mother, added.
Thomas Hayes, a professional boxer, is the coordinator and head coach for the Chicago Park District’s boxing program.
“It’s not just a workout. It’s building their self esteem”, Hayes said as two 8-year-olds traded blows in the ring behind him.
The youth boxing program, which admits both male and female Chicago residents, currently has 200 to 250 student participants, who enrolled online.
Its instructors are trained and licensed by the United States Amateur Boxing Federation. They provide individual and group coaching, along with fitness and sparring training.
Participants receive headgear, gloves and training equipment.
The boxers, ages 8 to 18, train at the local centers in preparation for events such as the one held in Daley Plaza.
“This isn’t personal. Once the fight is over in the ring. It’s over. We love it. I love it. This is what they train for," Hayes said.