PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A local boxing-mentoring program in the city is aiming to keep kids on the straight and narrow.
Knock-Out Kings Boxing Club is well into its second year at the East Bluff Community Center. The program’s founder, Robert Bell, said with learning to box comes hard work, commitment, loyalty, dedication, and discipline.
Bell said these are all of the traits he wants to teach the next generation. He said the training for boxing can be life lessons in disguise.
“It’s structure, it’s discipline,” Bell said. “They’ll learn not to cheat themselves with boxing. You know how you want to take the easy way out, the shortcut, there are no shortcuts in boxing,” Bell said. “It helps to teach them to finish whatever they start and never cut themselves short.”
Bell, a former boxer and drug dealer, said he brought the program from Michigan to Peoria three years ago.
He said he’s noticed boxing is a good way to redirect negative energy into positivity.
“I knew boxing saved a lot of kids’ lives, and it kind of changed my life too,” Bell said.
He also said with all the recent violence in the city involving the youth, boxing offers kids an outlet for aggression and is an alternative route to the streets.
“You have a lot of kids that are in gangs, you have a lot of kids that are in the streets, you have a lot of kids that don’t know what they want to do in life,” Bell said. “And what I do is, I look for that kid and offer that kids to come to the boxing gym.”
He said the sport is good for letting kids settle their problems with each other rather than fighting in schools or the streets.
“If you have a problem with someone, parents contact me, whoever your son or daughter have problems with, let’s settle it with the gloves,” Bell said. “That way we can come in here, close the doors, let the shades down and it’s just me, the parents, and those kids and they can fight it out and when it’s done, it’s done.”
Bell said between 35 and 40 kids participate in the program, from as young as five years old, and it’s continuing to grow. He said he puts them through the wringer with intense exercising and training in the effort to build muscle, character, and champions.
He said they often take trips to different cities and compete in various competitions. One of the participants is Bell’s 12-year-old grandson, Deairee Bell, who just won a championship this past weekend.
“I feel proud of myself,” Deairee said. “This is what you can do instead of fighting in school, outside, and in the streets and stuff.”
Bell said even if people don’t want to compete, he’d invite the public to just come and at least experience the workout. He said he noticed the program can also help strengthen kids’ relationships with their parents.
“They understand their kids are doing something constructive and positive so they’re not worried and they understand their kids are somewhere good and safe,” Bell said. “It’s a family feel when you come here.”
Bell said Knock-Out King Boxing trains girls, boys, kids, adults, and anyone who’d like to try.
He said lessons take place Monday through Thursday and are optional on Fridays for $75 a month.