Somehow in the epic saga of Muhammad Ali, we often forget an important part of the story. It’s the part where a kid was out in the neighborhood, maybe a little mouthy, maybe likely to get in to trouble. But boxing gave him a focus, a career and a legacy.
It’s an aspect of the Greatest that Louisville Select Boxing keeps in mind, and the organization hopes to expand the number of kids it helps stay out of trouble when it partners with Southwest Youth Sports to open a new gym dedicated to teaching youth the sport of boxing.
“We’ve taken kids that have struggled in school — they’ve had discipline problems, some of them have had run-ins with the law — we’re able to take these kids and put them in a positive environment, and literally some of these kids are now honor roll,” says coach Sean Bareis.
Bareis — one of several coaches and trainers working at the new gym — spoke with Insider a few days in advance of Saturday’s grand opening. He talked about Select Boxing’s history and successes, its partnership with Southwest Youth Sports, and the many benefits kids get from participating in the program.
Bareis and his brother Nicholas started training troubled youth on a shoestring budget. In a makeshift space in their basement, they practiced the fundamentals and used the nearby Iroquois Park as an outdoor gym for strength and conditioning.
Select Boxing is active on the amateur boxing circuit, and its members travel to nearby cities to compete. When they take their fighters on the road, they are often up against gyms with a much larger budget.
“It’s almost like the Rocky Balboa story,” says Bareis. “We’re competing with these gyms that have all these facilities, and we’re kind of in the basement hitting slabs of meat.”
And much like Balboa, Select Boxing found victory in the ring and has taken several national belts. Those belts were laid out with pride and on display when we visited the new gym, located across the street from Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
Well-loved heavy bags hang from the ceiling, and a DIY boxing ring occupies the majority of the room. But perhaps the most striking aspect of the space is the large boxing-themed art on the walls. Larger-than-life iconic moments of boxing — each focused around the aforementioned G.O.A.T. — are rendered in wood and bright paint, courtesy of local artist Christopher Birdwell.
The space is attractive, but looking pretty wasn’t the goal of the new space. The cramped confines of their previous basement facility greatly limited the number of kids Select Boxing was able to train.
“So we’re hoping, by having the gym, we can open this opportunity to more kids,” says Bareis.
Training isn’t quite free; students are asked to pay $25 a month to help keep the lights on. But any fitness buff in Louisville knows that normally, single classes can cost as much as $30, so $25 for a whole month is almost giving it away.
The location right across the street from the UofL football stadium might help Select Boxing raise some additional funds to bring even more kids in. Bareis says he’s willing to go out and sell candy bars at tailgate parties if it will help the kids.
The space was made possible and equipped by Southwest Youth Sports, which is run by Troy Burks. For the last several years, it has been active in the Shively community, offering football and cheerleading to area youth.
“He’s seen the results we we’re getting, and his primary goal is any way he can help kids … and he’s looking to expand his programming, which is part of why the partnership makes sense,” says Bareis.
While Select Boxing does have a competitive team, Bareis says not every fighter can make it to a competitive level — but that’s OK.
“Some of the kids may never win a belt, never win a trophy, but that don’t mean they can’t win at life,” he says. “Ideally, if we could produce as many accountants or teachers or whatnot, then that’s the greater goal.”
Bareis’ desire to lend a hand to kids who need help comes from his brother’s and his own childhood. “If people hadn’t invested in us, there’s a good chance we wouldn’t have been here now, because we come from similar demographics as the kids we’re working with.”
You can check out Louisville Select Boxing’s new gym at the grand opening on Saturday, May 13, at 5:30 p.m. It’s located at 2801c S. Floyd St.