Boxer goes from incarceration to inspiration

PHILADELPHIA-At the boxing fitness gym that carries his name, Maleek Jackson holds group classes and one-on-one training sessions.

He offers the chance to train like a pro boxer for everyone from weekend warriors to elite athletes like former Eagle and now New York Jets safety, Will Parks, who says boxing makes him a better football player.

If your body feel's beat up, there's a sports recovery room with everything from massage to acupuncture.

And every evening at 5, he holds classes for kids.

It is, Maleek says, his pain. He trains kids because he lost three of his brothers to gun violence.

Maleek grew up at 17th and Christian Streets, in the fast gentrifying graduate Hospital neighborhood. He saw his brother, Pud, get shot when he was just 7 years old. Pud was shot dead a year later. By the time Maleek was 12, he says, he was caught up in a life of crime.

He spent 10 years behind bars, from age 16 to 26.

He'd taken up boxing as a young child and he returned to the structure and discipline it gave him while behind bars.

He also lost 2 more brothers to gun violence while incarcerated, including his younger brother, Azzim, who was killed the age of 17.

Maleek, worried he'd been a bad example and, when he got out of prison, he opened his open boxing fitness gym and started the Azzim Dukes Initiative to carry on his brother's legacy

Those daily classes for kids are free for children who, Maleek says, come from households like he did-where their parents can't afford the classes and the kids may be vulnerable to gun violence.

After class he gives all of the children tokens for free snacks and his paying clients are invited to sponsor a child with a $5 donation.

He says he now interacts with both people of means and those who are underserved in life, and he's on a mission to bridge that gap.

He also offers violence prevention programs in hopes of curbing gun violence and says he sees Azzim in every child he trains.

Everyone, he says, should aspire to have an impact on their world in some way.

Maleek Jackson Fitness Boxing Gym | Website | Facebook | Instagram

926 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia,Pa. 19123

(215) 964-9201
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