By Eric Heinz
The swish and crack of Darohn Ransom Jr.’s fist striking a training pad is the only sound that can be heard in an otherwise noisy and crowded gym.
Ransom Jr., 12, was the runner-up of his age division recently at the USA Boxing Silver Gloves regional tournament in Compton, California. He also won the Colorado Golden and Silver gloves in 2022. He has been boxing since he was about 7 years old and has boxed competitively for the last two years, training at Brick City Boxing in Elyria-Swansea.
Brick City Boxing is located in a small room in the back of the Johnson Recreation Center, but they use every inch of it, with as many as 20 children training at once.
Coach David Mingo started Brick City Boxing right before the COVID-19 pandemic and was able to reopen a little more than a year ago. Originally from the Curtis Park neighborhood, Mingo used to be a boxer, training with notable fighters like Ron Lyle, who once went 10 rounds with Muhammad Ali. Mingo was also a national champion in the Amateur Athletic Union as a teenager.
“It’s just been in my blood,” Mingo said. “We’ve got a lot of high-risk kids, low-income kids, and without me being here a lot of them wouldn’t learn how to fight. Boxing is like a mentorship, counseling. There’s a lot more that goes into coaching than just coaching.”
Mingo said the gym is funded through donations and a partnership with Denver Parks and Recreation.
“It’s a lot of hard work. It ain’t easy, but I teach them more than boxing, teaching them to really challenge themselves, to be a better person,” Mingo said. “It’s all about being positive, a positive mindset. And we put the mindset to be the best that they can be.”
Classes cost $40 a month unless students live in the area code of the recreation center, then the classes are free.
“If they ain’t got it, I’ll train them for free,” Mingo said. “The main thing is to get the kids off the street, keep them out of gangs and drugs. And it’s also a good outlet for anger management. The gym is always open, if you get an attitude or if you’re mad about something, you can come in here and just punch the bag.”
Ransom Jr. had to stop boxing for some time as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down competitions, and he’s been back at the sport for about a year. His current record is 7-2, and he fights southpaw, or primarily left-handed.
When he’s in the ring, “I like showing off my different techniques,” Ransom Jr. said.
The Silver Gloves regional tournament, Ransom Jr. admitted, was difficult. “It’s just fighting people with different techniques and styles,” he said. Mingo said he grew up with Ransom Jr.’s grandfather, who suggested his grandson train with him.
“My thing is I teach them how to work on what they know,” Mingo said. “This was our first year at the Silver Gloves. We came out with two runners-up, so I was very proud. We got good coaches, and they learn and listen. There’s a certain way that I train them. You gotta challenge yourself to be great.”
Another Brick City Boxing student, Enrique Gomez, 14, also took second place in his age division. Like Ransom Jr., he’s been boxing competitively for two years.
“I was most proud of just being there,” Gomez said. “My whole progress of doing what I had to do to get there. It was hard, I had a lot of cardio (training), and it was a big accomplishment in my life.”
Mingo said he hopes to provide all the knowledge he can within his coaching capacity.
“A lot of these kids haven’t even been out of the city, even to Boulder, Colorado Springs and stuff, and you get to travel a lot in the city and out. That’s what makes boxing beautiful. You see other kids, you meet friends, and you start realizing there’s a big word out there.”
Ransom Jr.’s father, Darohn Ransom Sr., said he noticed his son had a talent for boxing at a young age.
“My grandma, she’s a therapist and she does play therapy for kids,” he said. “And then one day he was at her office, he was like 3, and she had a little punching bag, and he was punching the bag, and right there I kinda thought we might be on to something.”
Ransom Sr. said his son does want to box professionally one day.
“But he’s only 12, so we’ll see what happens,” he said.
Ransom Jr. and Gomez are going to compete at the 2023 USA Boxing National Junior Olympics, scheduled for June 3-10 in Lubbock, Texas.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article misstated the organization in charge of the June 3-10 tournament.