MUSKEGON, Mich. — Bracing for the big time, these young boxers in Muskegon are fighting their way to the Michigan Golden Gloves competition next week.
Happening across the country for years, each state holds its own boxing event and many cities in Michigan send boxers to fight in the annual competition.
Winners at the state level can advance to nationals. If a boxer is successful in the national competition, they can even have the opportunity to try out for the Olympics.
"A lot of these guys love it, you don’t have to necessarily rely on a team." said Rocky Smith Jr., a retired fighter. "It's all you, then your managers or trainers are here to teach you, and tell you what you need to change or what you need to improve on."
On top of a job and going to school, many of these amateur boxers spend 15 hours each week training and staying into shape.
"It's a one-on-one sport," Smith said. "A lot of guys who do boxing have a history of wrestling, MMA fighting, or karate; It's just contact sports."
The Muskegon Boxing Club also partners with area police departments to get kids off the street. Occasionally, officers even bring kids to the club for rehab.
FOX 17 spoke with 'Coach Tony,' who is helping train for the competition.
"We can take some of these young guys who have a little bit of a tougher time outside, bring them in and give them a place to get rid of some of that energy and get a little bit more control of themselves," he said.
The club often sees a fluctuation of people joining, but this year's group is the largest one yet, Coach Tony told FOX 17.
"We're probably taking one of the largest teams to Golden Gloves that’s ever come out of the club," he said. "Were looking to go into Golden Gloves this time with probably nine fighters."
Normally the group takes three to five fighters to the competition, he said.
As these kids prepare for the Golden Gloves competition, they hope to see large crowds.
"If you pack the place and get a lot of people in there, they fight harder when you have a large crowd cheering them on," Smith said.
Punch by punch and kick by kick, Smith and other say they are hoping to put Muskegon on the map.
"We want to make Muskegon have something that everyone can look at and see that this is what Muskegon is doing now, this is what we’re doing," Tony said.
The Michigan Golden Gloves competition is April 9 at 7 p.m. inside the Delta Plex.
General Admission is $10.
For tickets to the April 9th Golden Gloves competition, visit the Delta Plex online.
Click here for more information on Michigan's Golden Gloves competition.