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It’s not about punches - it’s about discipline, sportsmanship, work ethic and confidence.

It’s not about punches - it’s about discipline, sportsmanship, work ethic and confidence.

Inside the steely confines of the Lion Hearted Boxing Academy in Port Arthur, Texas, you’ll find Eddie Ray Brown and his team helping raise the next generation of upstanding young men. He’s been at it for 20 years, producing some national champions along the way. In the fight for his life against cancer, Brown says his soul is fueled by the immediate energy and future potential his gym provides the community.

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In the old-school boxing tradition, Lion Hearted boxers jump a lot of rope to build endurance. They’re tasked with circuit training exercises to improve footwork, bag work, defensive strategy and mental strength. Quick coaching debriefs continuously work to improve technique, especially if there’s an upcoming tournament they’ll be traveling to.

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From the speed bags, heavy bags, boxing gloves, headgear, jump ropes, mouth guards and shoes to the gasoline and jet fuel that take boxers and coaches to tournaments around the country — petroleum-based products help Brown and his team train tomorrow’s champions.

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In the midst of it all, wisdom from the elders is dispensed.

Throughout the week, sometime around 6:30 PM, a dozen middle to high school aged young men start trickling through the sliding corrugated steel door. Gloves slung over their shoulders, coaches meet them up front before walking them back to the locker room, using the time to check in and see how the kids are feeling. How things are going at school, in the neighborhood and at home. As founder Eddie Ray Brown will tell you, some of these kids have it rough. There’s the lure of the streets. Many lack a consistent positive male influence. The next few hours, he says, provide an escape from the stresses of life as well as a means of releasing some of life’s frustrations through pure sweat equity.

The very structure of the Lion Hearted Boxing Academy stands as a metaphorical veteran fighter. The building has survived incredible punishment from storms as devastating as Hurricane Harvey. If it looks weathered, that’s because it quite literally is. But, like any professional boxer, there are some talented and dedicated people in its corner. It can take a punch. It’s always ready to fight another round.