CCHS alumus brings ministry-based boxing program to underserved youth
By Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]
“Fight the good fight of faith … ”
These words from the Bible verse 1 Timothy 6:12 adorn some of the equipment within the walls of Jeff City Boxing, a facility that sits next to Messiah Temple of Praise in Jeffersonville. These words also serve as the personal mantra of the facility’s CEO, Jeremy Voyles.
Voyles, a 1996 Corydon Central High School graduate and two-time martial arts Hall of Fame inductee with a degree in martial science and backgrounds in Olympic and USA boxing at the silver level, is using that mantra to help guide underprivileged youth in the Kentuckiana area down a productive path.
“I started here over 22 years ago, but the current facility is new to us,” he said. “Two of the kids I’ve helped have been in and out of my home since they were 3 and 5, and they’re in their 20s now.
“I’ve had over 17 different kids in my home that stayed from the time they were 12 or 13 years old into their late 20s through the program,” he said.
Voyles knows what a number of those who come through his program are going through due to personal experience. Growing up in the 1980s, Voyles battled issues with ADHD while in school. During this time, he found himself being taken under the wing of the late legendary Corydon Central wrestling coach Richard Clipp.
“I wasn’t mean or hateful, but this was before they had ADHD medicine and stuff like that in the early ’80s, so the teachers didn’t know what to do with me,” Voyles said. “Coach Clipp would come pick me up, take my homework and take me to the wrestling room.”
Clipp was the first of many mentors for Voyles, including William York in Wing Chun and Close combat along with Earl Cheatham in Judo. The guidance from all three helped give Voyles the tools he needs to pass those teachings to the next generation. Finding a proper training venue wasn’t easy for Voyles, who started his school out of a daycare along Springdale Drive that was only about 1,500 square feet.
That small space was only the beginning, as Voyles managed his school in a number of buildings before ultimately settling into his current establishment along Michigan Avenue. He’s also brought his teachings to Corydon, starting late last year in the building that is now Alpha Combat Training Center just off S.R. 135 north of Interstate 64.
Through his teachings, Voyles hopes to not only help people rise above their life situations, but to help address the issue of building relationships with law enforcement, which has intensified following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020.
“I want to bring both these kids and police officers together,” Voyles said. “I want to show these kids that not all police officers are bad, and I want to show these police officers that not all of these kids are bad.”
JC Boxing has become a hidden hotbed for boxing talent, serving as the training home of amateur and professional fighters alike in both boxing and mixed martial arts. The facility is home to a number of Golden Gloves champions, including three-time champion DeShawn Ross, Kiael Waldon, Marionette Mosby, and Jeffersonville’s own Joel Evans, who has won a pair of Golden Gloves on top of a Silver Gloves, Junior Olympia, state and regional titles.
“I’ve been home schooled my whole life, and I still am,” said Evans. “Growing up, I never really did anything at all, then at 13, I found boxing. I fell in love with it and went to the gym every day nonstop. I did it for six months at Terry Middleton’s in New Albany, then I went over to a new gym where I met Jeremy, who just really took me in. We started training twice a day every day, and that’s when I fell in love with boxing. My life changed. Everything in my life now revolves around getting better.”
The ranks of JC Boxing also include a number of professionals, including the likes of undefeated American Boxing Organization Welterweight champion Selassie Bey, current UFC heavyweight fighter Don’Tale “Lord Kong” Mayes and four-time amateur title holder and professional Super Bantamweight Denzel Negron. Negron moved from his native Puerto Rico to the United States in December of 2019 and began searching for a new training facility, but the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic made matters difficult.
“I moved from (San Juan) Puerto Rico to here and I was looking for a new gym, then COVID happened,” Negron said. “I was training in my house until I found this gym one day. I saw it was open even though COVID was still around. Since I got here, I’ve opened doors and they’ve treated me like family.”
For Voyles, setting up a boxing gym of any kind was not easy. Every piece of equipment strewn about the facility from the training rings to the punching bags were all bought with money out of his own pocket. Even in times of hardship, such as when he contracted a bad case of COVID almost a year ago, Voyles takes solace in knowing that his program has grown through his faith and is beginning to grow itself through its boxers.
“We have kids in here that are good boxers, and now the little guys are looking up to them, so we’re building that mentorship and we always find a way to function,” Voyles said. “I believe that’s because of God. I think that he drives us, and that’s why this facility is ministry-based. I believe that God put it together for a purpose, and that’s for us to help kids and the community. When you do that, it doesn’t matter if you’re heavy, ugly, beautiful or what race you are, everyone is a brother and sister in this building.
“That’s something I try to tell everybody, that I’ve never seen in any other sport (because it’s) unspoken about how many teeth you have, what kind of clothes you wear, what kind of car you drive or if you walked here,” he said. “I’ve never had an episode where that played a role in those guys to not be brothers in that ring.”