PINE BLUFF, Ark. (KTHV) – You’re in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and you hear the sound of a train horn as it echoes through an old gym.
It’s not unheard of for people to refer to Pine Bluff as ‘Crime Bluff.’ In the heart of the city, you can find a man with no bigger heart than Albert Brewer.
One man who is whole-heartedly trying to change the bad image of Pine Bluff. Brewer is the coach of the Gloves Not Guns program at the Pine Bluff Boxing Club. The idea of the program is very simple.
“It's just one of my passions that I like doing,” he said. “Yes, there is a lot of aggression in the streets. But now they get a chance to come in here with our program, they have a chance to channel it into something positive.”
You can hear Brewer saying, “When you hit that bag then you bring it right back there,” as he instructs one of the young men. Brewer and coach Tobias Rogers train and mentor kids during the week and not just with crosses and jabs.
“We had some students that started out that were the riff-raffs of what is going on but right now they're slowing turning the dime, they're learning and getting better in school and they're progressing,” said Tobias.
Al Stokes is 17 years old and is one of the group's best up and coming boxers. But, just five months ago he was far from this ring.
“I used to get into street fights a lot and my friends use to tell me to come to boxing. And I thought about it and my uncles used to box. And they were telling me to come to boxing. I used to workout with them a little bit. And I just thought about it and came to box and I loved it,” Stokes said.
He is becoming one of the best young boxers in the state, but he may not even be the best fighter in his own gym.
“Some of it was easy and some of it was competition but I did what I had to do,” Iesha Green said.
The 15-year-old young lady has a perfect 5-0 record in competitive matches and has no plans of slowing down. “It keeps me out the streets and fighting a lot. Keeps me focused at school. I want to go to college for boxing,” she told us.
Brewer said the reason kids join gangs is because they're trying to fit in. They're trying to find a place to belong.
“You look around and you see kids smiling and I just get an overwhelming feeling because they could've chosen to do something else,” he said.
You can hear the group saying the Lord’s Prayer inside the gym during practices.
“I mean it would mean everything to me, to make it,” Stokes said.
“This is what I do: box. This is the only thing I do,” Green said.
Brewer emphasized that these kids are our future and we can rest assure they are our future boxers of Arkansas, too.