Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Ringing success: Youths thrive at boxing club

Getting set to train in the Norwayne Boxing Gym ring,
from left, are Jesse Nelson, 17, a Livonia Franklin High
School senior; Ryan Reed, 16, a John Glenn High School
 junior and Sean Buza, 16, a Wayne Memorial High School junior.
Julie Brown
Staff Writer

Jirair Thompson, 14, has found a good thing at the Norwayne Boxing Gym.
“In my school, I used to get in trouble,” said Thompson, a sophomore at Wayne Memorial High School. “I get in less fights” in school now,” he added.
Thompson, in the ring at the gym inside the Jefferson-Barns Community Vitality Center, points to a 2018 Chicago Youth Boxing Club belt he won, along with a more recent one from Toledo, Ohio, competition. He enjoys traveling to boxing matches and he also appreciates the academic support from the Norwayne Boxing Gym.
“You remember that name, it's going to be out there,” promised coach Erskine Wade of Thompson. The coach cited the great boxing progress Thompson has achieved in one year.
The Norwayne Boxing Gym was founded by Jeff Styers, a former professional boxer. “He knew he wanted it here because he grew up in this area,” explained Jan Mnich of Northville, the gym director.”

Wayne resident Wade, also a professional boxer, was putting several young men through their paces on a recent Tuesday.  Ryan Reed, 16, a Westland John Glenn High School junior, is enthused about boxing.
“I really like the sport and I got family members that did it as well,” he said.
Reed benefits from the Learning Lab at the center for his schoolwork, too and hopes after graduation to be an entrepreneur. He's been coming to the gym about five years.
“I learned that this is discipline. It's preparing you to be something great in life. And I really like boxing. I know I could come here for help,” Reed said. He's working toward Eastern Qualifiers competition in Columbus, Ohio.
The Norwayne Boxing Gym is for ages 8-18, and has no fee to participate. It features National Golden Glove and Jr. Olympic Champions.
For information, visit or call coach Wade at (313) 425-1999, or Mnich, (248) 982-5367. Questions can also be directed to Mnich's email at
Jirair Thompson, 14, shows some of his
competition prizes. He's a sophomore
at Wayne Memorial High School.
Jesse Nelson, 17, a Livonia Franklin High School senior, started at the gym in late February of this year. He was a Golden Glove runner up, and plans to join the U.S. Marine Corps.
“Whenever I go home it feels good. You know you did something positive,” Nelson said.
Sean Buza, 16, a Wayne Memorial High junior, had another reason to visit the gym.
“I needed to cut back the extra weight. We had a lot of fun with events, like family.”
Buza has been proud of getting his weight down to 189 since starting at the gym almost a year ago. He's considering auto mechanics and looking into offerings through the Wayne-Westland Schools William D. Ford Career-Technical Center.
Wade and Mnich note the students often are at-risk. They appreciate University of Michigan women's and men's team boxers who volunteer at the gym and help with tutoring.
“It's been a good experience,” Wade said. Students, girls and young women included and encouraged, don't get into marijuana use or into gangs, the director noted.
They're now seeking assistant coaches to help keep the gym open more hours, with Mnich on the job about a year and a half.
Younger students at the Norwayne Boxing Gym do their homework there twice a week, as do older kids. Wade pointed with pride to a teen whose grade point average went from 1.9 to 3.0.
At 60, Wade, father of nine and a grandfather, said he wears several hats.
“I'm an ambassador, a plumber, a dishwasher, a dad.” He has done laundry for the young people in the past.
Wade worked 17 years at Botsford Hospital in dietary management before meeting Styers at a fight. “I really didn't know what I was getting myself into,” he commented.
He finds some at-risk youth where one or both parents use drugs, and may turn to robbery. Some of the youths are raising siblings.
Boxing training starts with coaching, hitting the bag, and working with someone the student's own size. Mnich and Wade emphasize that those who don't like boxing can still join up for other great experiences and bonding at the center.
They're proud of youth who've advanced in boxing and academics.
“It just incorporates all of them, what are their needs? If we all do our little bit to help these kids, it's incredible,” Mnich said.”