An Amateur's Take on Pro Boxing

 Baltimore Boxing Club, Fells Point, MD. i i

Before getting into the ring, boxers typically start their workout by jumping rope, shadow boxing, hitting the heavy bag, or as pictured here, by working out on the speed bags. Katie Gradowski, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Katie Gradowski, NPR
 Baltimore Boxing Club, Fells Point, MD.

Before getting into the ring, boxers typically start their workout by jumping rope, shadow boxing, hitting the heavy bag, or as pictured here, by working out on the speed bags.

Katie Gradowski, NPR
 A photo on the wall at the Brooklyn Boxing Club shows one the youngest boxers there. i i

A photo on the wall at the Brooklyn Boxing Club shows one the youngest boxers there. Brooklyn Boxing Club hide caption

itoggle caption Brooklyn Boxing Club
 A photo on the wall at the Brooklyn Boxing Club shows one the youngest boxers there.

A photo on the wall at the Brooklyn Boxing Club shows one the youngest boxers there.

Brooklyn Boxing Club
The central feature of any boxing gym -- the sparring ring.

The central feature of any boxing gym -- the sparring ring. Katie Gradowski, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Katie Gradowski, NPR
 A note from the management, posted on the wall at the Brooklyn Boxing Gym in Pasadena, Md.

A note from the management. Brooklyn Boxing Gym, Pasadena, Md. hide caption

itoggle caption

The Brooklyn Boxing Club sits on the top floor of a building at the corner of Patapsco and Fifth, in a small working class community on the outskirts of Baltimore. At first glance, the average passerby might mistake it for an empty building. But for the past seven years, coaches Danny Kisner and Josh Hall have used the space to train some of the top amateur and professional fighters in Maryland.

"Danny asked me if I would consider opening up a boxing gym," says Hall. "So I came over here and looked at it, and Danny said, 'You know, Josh, that you've always wanted to train fighters.' And I thought, 'Well..."

When the gym opened in 1998, they had 10 members. Now there are at least 20 boxers coming in regularly, some spending as many as 25 to 30 hours a week sparring, shadowboxing and working the bags.

Before turning pro last year, boxer Mike Paschall had 97 amateur fights. He's now 4-0 as a professional and is getting ready for his fifth pro fight.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous, cause sometimes I'm scared to death," Paschall admits. "But actually, that plays a part in the fight game. They say fear's your friend, in the fight game."

In spite of its popularity in local gyms, the sport itself often seems to be battling its own negative image. Since 1983, the American Medical Association has called for a ban on boxing, and Congress has repeatedly pushed for higher safety standards. Many of these reforms are aimed at professional boxing, where fighters are not required to wear headgear, and where fights may last up to three times as long as an amateur bout.

"Very few fighters ever stick it out," says coach Josh Hall. "Some of them will be fairly good amateurs and maybe have a few good four-round fights. Then if they go up to sixes — dangerous waters for them — they figure, man, can I handle a six? Why should that even be a problem? If they really truly want to be fighters in their heart, they can handle any situation that's put in front of them."

In a video documentary, NPR's Katie Gradowski looks at the much-maligned sport, and the story behind the sweet science of boxing.

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