Updated: Mar 3
From Hometown Life
By Shelby Tankersley --
Boxing isn't about being able to throw a punch. It's about being able to take one without losing your cool, too. Most of the kids at Kronk Boxing Gym in Westland aren't trying to be Rocky Balboa. But regardless of whether they're there for boxing lessons or fitness, the life skills they learn in the ring will follow them for the rest of their lives.
"Boxing teaches a lot of discipline," Chris Raymond, the program's mentor, said. "If you’re going to be a good boxer, you’ve got to put a lot of time in. You can’t pretend to be good at boxing. If you do, you’re going to jump in the ring and get your ears boxed off."
Kronk, a well-known name in the boxing community that's churned out a host of world champions over the years, partnered with the Norwayne Boxing Gym in the Jefferson-Barnes Vitality Center, 32150 Dorsey St., in October 2021. Kronk has operated in Detroit on and off since the WWI era, but the Westland location is the only one today.
Kids ages 8 to 18 can come to Kronk after school and learn to box from professionals for free. In return, they
promise to do well in school and be good at home. Local high school students are on site for free tutoring, too.
"Everybody learns differently, and there’s different ways to teach," Zakya Wilson, one of the tutors, said. "Having fun with it is one of my favorite things. Seeing them being excited about learning and finally getting something is the best part for me."
The gym also pays for equipment and, if kids compete, travel to competitions. Many of the kids have no desire to step in the ring, and the program meets them where they're at.
Jeff Styres, who owns the gym and started Norwayne Boxing Gym, would like to see Kronk's brand become even more well-known than it already is an impact kids all over the metro Detroit region. The gym is also looking to start a paid boxing program for adults.
"Kronk is the world's most famous boxing gym of all time," Styres said. "We'd like to restore the glory that Kronk once had and, more importantly, impact more kids than we were before."
Bit of history:
Raymond, formerly the chief probation officer for the City of Westland, says one of the ways the gym tries to prepare kids for a future is teaching them to set goals. He likes to get all of the students — even the ones who are just 8 years old — thinking about where they want to be in five years. The gym encourages kids to consider college, trade school or the military.
"They need to understand how many choices they have," Raymond said. "A lot
of times, if they’re not taught to think that way early on then they don’t think about their future. It makes life a lot easier if you can goal set."
According to Raymond, those lessons normally translate to more confidence and better grades. Some boxers use the program to get in shape, learn to defend themselves or cross train for another sport.
Many of the program's referrals come from the kids themselves, and it's not hard to see why.
Teens at a variety of skill levels can hop in the ring, duke it out and have fun. A pop in the nose elicits good-spirited laughs from the boxers and their onlookers.
The advanced athletes help out the rookies, and the adult coaches in the room keep things fun and constructive. Kronk looks less like a somewhere people workout and more like a place where friends can gather to do something they love.
"It is a family," Styres said. "It's very much a family environment. A lot of the kids come from really horrible backgrounds and many of them have very tough circumstances at home. This is a place they can go where they can hear an adult say they believe in them."
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Contact reporter Shelby Tankersley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248-305-0448. Follow her on Twitter @shelby_tankk.
Photos courtesy of: John Heider/hometownlife.com