Sitting in a hallway adjacent to the boxing ring inside Lincoln Neighborhood Boxing Club, Deche Ward got a little emotional a few times.
He seemed most torn as he discussed his amateur boxing record.
He gave it as 4-3, modestly not wanting to talk about his wins. He was apparently galled by the outcome of his first two matches. They were losses.
At the same time the 17-year-old cruiserweight (200 pounds) admitted that he learned a lot in defeat.
“I saw that I could push myself to the next level,” Ward said. “If I had a second chance right now to go back and fight those dudes (his first two opponents), I would knock them out.”
As a boxer with two years’ experience, Ward is one of the favorites to give the home team a victory when the Lincoln Center Boxing Club stages its annual tournament Saturday at the Armory.
Every fight is a step to living his dream of becoming a world champion, said Ward. But working to see his dream come true does more for him than preparing him for the next level.
It’s his way of dealing with his biggest demon – fighting anywhere and anytime he was challenged, he said. He had a few too many of those brawls while he was attending Godby High School and eventually was expelled.
But now he is in his final year of taking classes in Leon County’s Adult and Community Education, a program that allows dropouts to get a high school diploma.
Trainer Tyrese Williams reeled Ward in before he had a chance to join one of the gangs, which Ward said were constantly challenging him. Williams, a former gang member himself before being reformed, gave Ward an earful about the dangers of being in a gang.
It was easy to walk away for two reasons, Ward said. His family constantly chastised him about his poor choices and the fact that gang life could deprive him of attaining his goal in the ring.
“I was headed that way, but I was too scared to go down that way,” he said. “My pride just won’t let me be scared so it didn’t really matter.”
His attention is focused on boxing now, with a regiment that includes running two to three miles daily. That is followed by long hours in the gym, located not far from his Joe Louis neighborhood.
The gym has become his refuse from his past, he said.
“When I come to boxing, it’s a positive; a positive atmosphere,” said Ward, who spends his summer days working at the Lincoln Center in the same building where the gym is located. “I don’t need to be a type of person to impress everybody else.”
Ward and Williams have developed a relationship that Ward said is like father and son. They’ve spent many hours before and after training in conversation about manhood and life in general.
The finer points of boxing usually is a part of the conversation, too. It has helped Ward become a fast study, Williams said.
“The upside with Deche is he started off slowly but he picked it up quickly,” Williams said. “Now he is up to a level where he can stand toe-to-toe with anybody. If you think you’re good Deche Ward wants to see how good you are.
“He is like a gym rat; one of those guys who moves in and stays. He comes in and works hard.”
And, for reasons that Ward said he wouldn’t have found on the streets.
“This has put me on my feet and I can keep walking,” he said. “I can do what I want to do and not constantly look behind my back.”
Source: St. Clair Murraine, Tallahassee Democrat