GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Steven Matthews wasn’t born fighting, but he learned how to fight as he grew up.
“I am a high school dropout. My father, I met two years ago. He died on my birthday, last year,” Matthews says of his youth. “I come from the east of Greensboro so what that means is that income is low, it’s a food desert and there is an education gap.”
To escape, Matthews joined the Army when he was 17-years-old and later learned how to box, having a professional career in which he won five of his six bouts.
“I think, when you look at the sport of boxing, for me, it was highly therapeutic,” he says. “I’d be finding myself and when I found boxing, I really found a purpose.”
He started using the sport of boxing to keep kids he knew in shape – it was a good form of exercise for kids who otherwise spent too much time sitting and playing video games. Matthews called the new program, “Punch4Pounds Kids” and has expanded it to work in a deeper way with kids.
“Boxing we utilize as a unique engagement tool,” says Matthews. “If you think about some of the disparities or you think about some of the challenges in the communities that we serve, health is a big one, diabetes is a big one so it initially started, this boxing program, had a lot to do with anti-obesity with adults and youth. But, as we continued to evolve, we were engaging communities that other needs, just the same. So, now we use boxing as a way to mentor, we use boxing as a way to close disparity gaps educationally, socially, emotionally.”
Kahrima Abdul-Hameed and Terrick Smith see the changes in their 10-year-old son, Ahmed, who is a bit smaller than a lot of his classmates.
“He’s definitely more attentitive to what I’m saying,” says Kahrima.
“I just see him turning into a little man,” says Terrick with a smile.
The idea isn’t to turn these kids into fighters– it’s to give them the tools so that they know they don’t have to use the kind of bravado that often gets them into a position they can’t get out of.
“Being equipped with the ability to fight back definitely gives you the advantage of picking your battles, knowing you don’t have to fight them,” says Cesar Gill who spent several years in the program. “This place will change your life, if you are willing to let it change your life.”
See more on how it works in FOX 8’s edition of the Buckley Report.
To learn more about Matthews’ work, click here.