On The Ropes

Originally published in Baltimore magazine

It’s near dusk on a weekday in late summer, and at 1901 Pennsylvania Avenue in West Baltimore that means work is about to begin. Dozens of kids and a few adults, too, will soon arrive at the Upton Boxing Center to train, spar, and take in the advice that coach Calvin Ford and a partially volunteer staff dish out nightly at this city-funded recreation facility.

“You ain’t nobody until you beat somebody,” Ford says while preparing stations, drills, and matchups for the next few hours. Sage words float around this place, much like the pops from leather gloves smacking training mitts, the beats of 92Q on the radio, and the late afternoon light piercing through a run of high windows in the converted basketball gym.

There are tires to flip. Boxes to leap. Ropes to pull weight. The boxing ring in the center of it all represents a sport, yes, but in the bigger picture, also a refuge from the realities of what’s outside.

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