ENGLEWOOD— Antoine Cobb has fought most of his life — it even got him kicked out of college.
But now he’s been able to channel that energy into a more constructive pursuit: boxing.
And he's quickly seen positive results: He entered the Chicago Golden Gloves last year, where in his first tournament he won the state title in the novice division for 147-pound fighters.
This year, he is competing against boxers of all ages in the 152-pound weight class. He won his preliminary bout by an unanimous decision last month. On Saturday he’ll seek his second straight title in the finals.
It's a long way from where Cobb, 21, was just a few years ago: in a homeless shelter after his family's home was foreclosed on during his junior year at Simeon Career Academy high school, 8147 S. Vincennes Ave. The family later moved in with his grandmother.
“The situation has totally changed,” Cobb said. “We’re in a stable household now, and no longer living with my grandmother.”
In high school he was a wrestler with strong potential, but now he’s dedicating his time toward boxing. His father first taught him when he was 6 years old so he would learn self-defense. Over the years he picked up other sports and didn't box again until 2015.
Cobb was offered more than 10 wrestling scholarships for college, but because of shoulder pain, he declined them. He did, however, attend Central State University in Ohio, which is a Historically Black College, but after a year returned home.
He admitted that he was always getting into fights, which got him into trouble in college. But he finally learned how to channel his energy into something more positive.
“I was just thinking that if I keep getting into trouble for fighting, then it must be what I should do,” Cobb said. “Fighting must be a sign, so I got back in the gym fighting and I’ve been winning ever since.”
“I won the Chicago Golden Gloves last year,” he said. “I won the citywide tournament. I won a lot of other tournaments and I’m in the finals for the Chicago Golden Gloves now.”
Antoine Cobb (left) and his coach Montell Griffin. [Provided by Antoine Cobb]
When he’s not working, he’s in the gym training with his coach, Montell Griffin, who is a former professional boxer and WBC light-heavyweight title holder.
“I took on to him real fast,” Griffin said. “He’s a good kid, real nice and quiet and I like working with him.”
Griffin said that boxing is a great alternative for young people like Cobb who find themselves getting into fights. It’s also a way to reduce the violence.
“They have all this energy and want to pick up a gun,” he said. “No, take out the frustrations with [boxing], pick up the gloves instead. Boxing is like therapy.”
That’s exactly what it is for Cobb, who said 15 people he knew have been lost to violence over the last two years.
“I feel like everyone who has lost their life ... that I have known, friends, family, and just in Chicago in general, is on my mind. It’s on my chest and I’m trying to get it off.”
The boxing ring is a “neutral” place that's calming for him, he said.
He’s been working to stay out of trouble and even got a part-time job at the retail chain Ross, where he’s been working at for almost two years. But he said getting a job wasn’t easy.
It took eight months to land a job, he said.
“I was wearing a dress shirt, shoes, had a fresh haircut and it just wasn’t working,” he said, about walking from store to store, inquiring about employment. “I was in the house every day. I would come home from the gym and be in my room all day like chilling, but I knew I needed to find something to do.”
The goal Cobb said is to win Saturday’s competition so he can compete in the nationals, which will be held in Louisiana in May.