In the hometown of Muhammad Ali, boxing is held in high regard. For boys who train at Louisville Select Boxing, the sport is more than just learning how to fight.
“Louisville Select Boxing is a youth boxing program for youth development,” says founder and coach Nicholas Bareis. “Through their formative years, from ages 12 to 16, is where I really like to work with the athletes.”
Bareis explains that the prize fighting seen on TV is only a small part of what boxing really is.
“Boxing typically has a series of about 15 exercises, and you routinely do those exercises,” says Bareis. “Really, boxing is jumping rope, shadow boxing, sit-ups, pushups, hitting the heavy bag, lightly sparring. It’s not the fighting that you see on TV with knockouts; that’s for entertainment purposes. Boxing is really just learning all those exercises.”
And for student Demontaze Duncan, being in the program has done more than provide exercise and competition.
“I used to like fighting, and when I was younger, I got in trouble a lot,” says Duncan. “Boxing, it changed my whole mindset. It made me want to better my life.”
Duncan’s mother died when he was 7, and he went to live with his great uncle. Bareis became Duncan’s guardian when that great uncle died. Duncan now refers to Bareis as his uncle.
“Before I got into boxing, my grades weren’t as good,” Duncan says. “I was too busy worrying about what people would think… I was over there being bad in some way, getting in trouble, cursing at the teachers. But when I started with the boxing, my uncle would say, ‘all right, it’s time to change the way you’re acting in school.’”
So Duncan worked to improve his grades and his behavior so he could keep boxing. He found motivation by helping other people.
“I changed and I fell in love with it,” he says. “I love helping people out… Making them happy…making them smile, helping somebody else through something they need to be helped through. It’s all I want to do.”
Duncan is now one of the top athletes in the country, says Bareis. He’s one of around 40 young men who train with Louisville Select Boxing.
“I started it on a shoestring budget in my basement,” says Bareis. “Part of the program is that it’s low-cost, if any cost at all. A lot of times I waive any fees. This is just a youth-based boxing program that teaches kids life skills.”
“When you see these guys get good at boxing, the lure of the streets is not there anymore,” says Chris Byrdwell, ring announcer for Louisville Select Boxing. “Through this vision of Nicholas and his brother Sean, these kids have transformed. Back when they were just really getting good at boxing, they brought home bad report cards. Nicholas made them stop to make sure the grades were there first before they did the boxing. It’s fun to watch, because they’re becoming really good young men.”
This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2502, which originally aired on October 12, 2019. Watch the full episode.