IEA recruits Olympic boxer to train at-risk youth

IEA recruits Olympic boxer to train at-risk youth

Growing up on the mean streets of New Orleans as a young boxer wasn’t easy, but looking back, Quantis Graves said he would be nowhere without the sport he loves.

“It kept me off the streets and taught me a lot of discipline,” he said.

As a troubled youth, boxing was an outlet that changed Graves’ life for the better. Now that he lives in Beaumont, Graves is passing on his knowledge to other at-risk youth as part of the new Beaumont Boxing Club.

Sponsored by Inspire, Encourage, Achieve (IEA), a nonprofit group dedicated to reforming at-risk youth in Beaumont’s juvenile correction system, the Beaumont Boxing Club has its first eight youngsters between the ages of 12 to 17 ready to put on the gloves and step in the ring under Graves’ watchful eye.

“I think this is a great opportunity for young individuals to participate in civic activities where they’re off the street,” said Judge Bob Wortham, club president. “They have the chance to take out some aggression they have in a positive way.”

At least 100 people gathered for the club’s open house Tuesday, Feb 12, at the IEA’s facility on North 11th Street. Refreshments were served and the soon-to-be boxers got to meet their new mentors, Graves and his trainer, Shedrick Lewis.

For now, boxers may only be referred through Beaumont’s juvenile corrections department, but IEA Executive Director Angeliqueca Avery, said the program might not stay that way.

“The Beaumont Boxing Club is just getting ready to kick off in the next couple of weeks with the first group of IEA referrals,” she said. “And we hope by this summer it’s a membership-based program that’s open to other members of the community.”

Graves, a professional boxer since 2008 and an alternate for America’s boxing team in the 2008 London Olympics, said he’s excited to get started.

“The main thing right now is discipline. That’s gonna be a big factor in these kids’ lives right now,” he said. “Boxing should be secondary for these kids right now. We wanna make sure these kids have a positive role model to look up to so we can teach them what the sport is all about.”

Graves said although boxing is a particularly violent sport, it’s important for kids to take what they learn and save it for the ring.

“It’s not about just going in there and fighting somebody and taking this sport and going out and fighting somebody on the street. It’s not about that,” he said. “We have to teach them the discipline of boxing first.”

That discipline includes a total mind and body transformation. He said the transformation may take a while, but the wait will be worth it.

“Patience is a big thing,” he said. “Knowing how to make the right decisions. In the ring, you have to make the right decisions and make sacrifices.”

If his boxers can take what he teaches them and stay out of trouble, Graves said the sky is the limit.

“We want to get these kids to the Olympic trials,” he said. “We want to get these kids to have something to look forward to as far as winning national tournaments. Taking trips around the U.S. Those are the things we want for these kids, and they could happen.”

Graves said he sees a lot of himself in every young boxer in the Beaumont Boxing Club.

“I was in a lot of trouble as a kid, but I learned from my mistakes,” he said. “It’s like boxing. You have to learn from your mistakes. You don’t throw a jab when someone throws a left hook. If you throw a jab and get caught with a left hook, it’s your mistake. It’s your fault. Everything relates to boxing when it comes down to it.”


Clay Thorp can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 225, or by e-mail at clay [at] theexaminer [dot] com.