1-2 punch of respect & responsibility

June 5, 2009 8:48:43 PM PDT
A West Philadelphia boxing club is helping young people. 16-year-old Damon Allen Jr. works hard in the ring, not simply to better his 56 -6 record, not just because he wants to win a gold medal in the Junior Olympics, but because his mother manages the gym and his trainers are his father, Damon Sr. and his 81-year-old great-grandfather Mitchell Allen Sr.

"If I do bad, I'm getting in trouble at home by my mom, my dad, my grandpop and my grandpop," Damon said.

The elder athlete speaks with pride about his grandson's prowess in the ring and the classroom and playfully contends the younger has nothing to fear.

"I ain't going to kill him. I might beat him upside his head," Damon Jr.'s great grandfather Mitchell Allen Sr. said.

Albert Mitchell began boxing at 15 and has trained other fighters since he was 21. He created the Albert Mitchell Boxing Program at West Philadelphia's Shepherd Recreation Center 40 years ago.

He says the late city councilman Lucien Blackwell was one of countless kids from the neighborhood he's trained to steer them away from the streets.

"The best part of this whole game is when one of the young kids come up and hugs me and says Mr. Mitchell how did I do? That's all I care about," Damon Jr. said.

The legacy of this ring extends beyond the Mitchell Allen clan. Four young boxers from this gym are headed to Denver next week to compete in the National Jr. Olympic Championship.

"Next week, no games to be played. I'm going to go out there and try my best," Donald Smith said.

Donald Smith & Damon Jr. are two of the countless youngsters who've gotten a one-two combination of respect and responsibility at the Mitchell Allen Gym that helps prepare them to be champions in life.

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