Boxers are role models who can make a change for the better.
Many young people around the world, with a bright life ahead of them, are drawn into a life, a ‘street culture’, which results in death or at the very least, years spent in a prison cell.
With regards to boxers, they have a larger platform than they could possibly fathom. As individuals in the public eye with many looking up to them, their success can have an impact on many around the world.
There are fighters who have changed their lives completely by dedicating their life to boxing, and moving away from a life which many can relate to today. They have committed their focus and attention towards success in boxing and now act as an inspiration and motivation for many, providing belief that it is never impossible regardless of environment to change one’s life.
One fighter who can be the biggest of inspirations for so many people around the world is Gervonta Davis. The WBA super-featherweight champion witnessed his parents endure drug abuse and survived gun violence around his Baltimore neighbourhood. He witnessed events that could taint the purest of hearts.
As a child, Davis’ father was imprisoned and his mother did not have custody of Davis and his two brothers. From six onwards, Davis and his brothers were moved from care home to care home. Davis was fighting the neighbourhood kids. His uncle, James Walker, told his nephew:
“We’ve got to turn something negative into a positive.”
In a recent interview with Brian Custer for Showtime, the 24-year-old said:
“Five of the fighters that I started with, all of them dead. All of them got killed in the streets. Boxing definitely saved my life.”
Now, he is a two-time super-featherweight world champion with a record of 22-0 with 21 KO’s, with the word “Blessed” inscribed on his throat.
Recently, Davis became the first native of Baltimore to defend a world title at the Charm City since 1940, when featherweight champion Harry Jeffra defeated Spider Armstrong.
‘Tank’ knocked out Ricardo Nunez in the second round in this historic event in front of a sold-out Royal farms Arena crowd of 14,686. Baltimore has rallied behind their champion and such a special occasion can provide inspiration to the natives of Baltimore, who have to endure a similarly difficult upbringing to Davis, as well as many who live outside of Baltimore who also have to grow up surrounded by poverty and crime, that through hard work and focus on something productive away from the street life, there are no limits. They are not imprisoned by their surroundings. Dark beginnings can still lead to a bright future.
Terence Crawford is another great fighter to draw inspiration from. ‘Bud’ was born and raised in a rough northern suburb of Omaha, Nebraska.
As a hot-tempered youth who was scrapping on the streets, he was taken to the boxing gym to channel that temper into the ring.
Shortly after turning professional, a life changing event occurred in Crawford’s life. It was 2008 and ‘Bud’ was shooting dice with some neighbourhood gangsters in North Omaha. Afterwards, whilst sat in his car, bullets were fired in his direction, one of which traced the back of his skull. Crawford was in the wrong place at the wrong time and knew that changes were required in his life.
Now, Crawford is in the right place at the right time. He is a three-weight division champion with a record of 35-0 with 26 KO’s, and if not the best, is one of the very best pound-for-pound boxers in the world.
Since first becoming a world champion by defeating Ricky Burns in Glasgow in 2014 to become WBO lightweight champion and Nebraska’s first world champion for a century, the most significant fights of his career have been in Nebraska. These have included the acid test against Cuban 2004 Olympic gold medalist and then-undefeated Yuriorkis Gamboa, the star-making performance for Bud.
This was the first title fight in Omaha since Joe Frazier defeated Ron Stander in their heavyweight championship fight in 1972. Also, perhaps the most significant of all, the fight when Crawford made history against Julius Indongo, unifying all four 140-pound titles and becoming undisputed super-lightweight champion.
Prior to the Khan bout, in an interview with Sports Illustrated, when talking about his success and it’s impact on Omaha, Bud said:
“I’m proud of how it gave people hope. You know, a lot of people see what I’ve accomplished and it gives them the motivation to go out and push for their goals and dreams even harder, being that they see that you can make it from Omaha, Nebraska.”
The best US-born fighter, born and raised in Omaha, who now has a street named after him called ‘Terence “Bud” Crawford’ in Nebraska, the same street in which Crawford was filled with so much rage as a child, and the same fighter who now has all his fights with ‘Omaha’ printed on his shorts, is a real people’s champion for those in Omaha, and beyond.
Davis and Crawford turned their lives around, and once they reached the pinnacle of their careers thus far, world title fights, they went to battle in their hometowns, where it all started.
Muhammad Ali once said:
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”
Through their own success and the fact that they have had the opportunity to inspire in their own hometowns during their quest towards greatness, where many can relate to the struggles of being brought up under similarly difficult circumstances, means that their service is being fulfilled.