Local boxing offers ring of hope
The Marshall County Boxing and Outreach Center, located in the rear of the old Connelly School building in the Edward Tai Ledford Memorial Boxing Gym is trying to give Marshall County youth hope through boxing.
The club, run by Michigan native and General Motors employee Richard Reyes, has been in existence since 2003 and is mostly funded by the Life Song Family Church in Lewisburg and by donations from local businesses.
Reyes, a former Gold Gloves champion in Flint, Mich. Said, "I am trying to get kids off the street and share with them what boxing has done for me and what Christ has done for me."
The club is open to children of all ages and there is a minimal yearly fee. The club is currently training youth from ages 6 to 26.
"There is a forty dollar fee for the year, but we have never turned anyone away that can't pay. We have never had a kid that wanted to fight not have that opportunity," said Reyes.
Reyes added, "We will teach them self-defense, but more importantly, we will teach them discipline and try to build their self-esteem."
The club works under the guidelines of controlled gym and no one can get in the ring until they are ready.
"This is a controlled gym," Reyes. "What that means is that the workouts and the programs are all controlled by the coaches. You have to be here awhile and prove you are disciplined enough to step in the ring and fight. You must be able to defend yourself."
There is one fighter trained at the gym who has proven himself and is now undefeated in his amateur career.
Brandon Oldham, 26, has fought in two bouts over the past three months and has won both contests.
Oldham, who fights at 146 lbs., had his first bout in Jackson in September, defeating Shaun Alexander from Mississippi in a fight that went the maximum distance of three rounds.
"To win my first fight felt great, said Oldham. "I felt like all those years of training had finally paid off."
Oldham, a native of Vero Beach, Fla. is a 2000 graduate of Marshall County High School. He began his informal training three ago, working at home and on the road, running up to 30 miles a week.
He learned of the Marshall County club through word of mouth and went and joined in 2007.
There he met Reyes and his coach Dennis Smedley, beginning his journey into the ring.
Smedley, also a Michigan native and ex-boxer in the amateur and pro ranks has been coaching boxing for over forty years. He had a 22-3 record as an amateur pugilist.
Smedley helped coach Sean O'Grady to the World Boxing Association's Lightweight Championship of the World in 1981 and also helped coach his son Jack Smedley, who went on to Marines where he captured the All-Service title in 1996.
"I think Brandon has a lot of promise, he has a great dedication to the sport," said Smedley. "Physically, Brandon is in tip-top shape."
"I can't give enough credit to coach Smedley," said Oldham. "He showed me what boxing was all about."
In his second bout, over the Halloween weekend in Jackson, Oldham made it to the pinnacle, scoring an RSC (Referee Stops Contact) in the third round over Zach Lovett from Kentucky.
"I was on top of the world, said Oldham. "That was the biggest adrenaline rush ever, there is nothing like it. He wore down and all of training and coaching had paid off."
Oldham wants to turn pro within the next six months, but before he does, he wants to repay the gym for all that it has done for him.
"My goal is to be world champion some day," said Oldham.
Oldham went on to say, "This place has been great to me, I love it here. There needs to be more places like this to teach these kids life and self-defense. I try to be a role model to all the kids here. I try to do and act and say as I would want them to do."