Jamaal Gregory has tasted enough success in boxing to believe he can achieve anything in the sport.Like many confident teenage fighters, Gregory aspires to do it all: win an Olympic gold medal, “hold up as many belts as Floyd Mayweather,” and be as great as “the greatest,” Muhammad Ali.The 18-year-old light-welterweight knows he’s a long way from achieving those goals; but if he does, he’ll be able to say he honed his skills at Mid-South Boxing and Fitness Academy, Concord’s only certified boxing training facility. Mid-South is owned and operated by Kannapolis resident and Syracuse, N.Y., native Mike Kane. His brother, Steve, who lives in Thomasville, is his business partner and helps with the fitness side of Mid-South.A self-described boxing “gym rat,” Mike Kane learned boxing from his grandfather, who fought in the Navy. Kane said he spent countless hours training in some of Syracuse’s gyms, but he never competed beyond their walls.“I don’t have an astounding amateur career,” Kane said. “But I spent enough time in the gym to earn my scars. My trainers always said not every great fighter can teach.”In 2007, Kane moved to North Carolina and took a job as a diesel mechanic. He found a gym in Salisbury, where he worked out on his own. A few years later, Kane started to coach boxing at a martial arts facility in Concord, but soon looked for his own building.Last year, Gregory – who had been fighting in USA Boxing and Golden Gloves bouts through the Charlotte Boxing Academy – moved to Concord and started training with Kane. When Kane opened Mid-South in February, Gregory moved with him.“When we had no place to train, the idea was to set up a gym in Concord with real boxing,” Kane said. “We wanted to set up something for youth to try something new and to put boxing in Concord. It’s never had it that I’m aware of.”Mid-South is housed in the historic Warren C. Coleman Mill, on Main Street (off U.S. 601 Bypass/Warren C. Coleman Boulevard) in Concord. The mill was built around 1900 and has had several unusual tenants in recent years, including an auto mechanic and a T-shirt print shop.The 8,000-square-foot space on the second floor, which still has the original hardwood floors and 20-foot ceilings, gives Mid-South the genuine feel of a boxing gym one might see in the “Rocky” movies.The gym has a complete set of training necessities, such as heavy bags, speed bags, slip bags and double-end bags, and fitness and weight-training equipment. The Kanes built a regulation 18-foot boxing ring out of wood and posts they bought through online classifieds.Kane said Mid-South has many more clients interested in boxing as a means of fitness training than boxers who want to compete. No one ever is pressured into competing, he said, and sparring at Mid-South is by invitation only.Kane does most of the coaching, assisted by Dwight Hunter, who fought as a pro throughout the Southeast in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Including Gregory, Mid-South has a handful of competitive boxers – with a wide array of aspirations – who fight in amateur tournaments.Alex Finger, 25, is a machinist by trade who lives in Concord. Fighting at 195 pounds, Finger describes himself as someone who is “big, goofy, and I can take a hit… and I have a pretty good jab.” He has a 2-2 record in four bouts and considers boxing a hobby.In early September, Kwame Benson, a Jay M. Robinson High School football player in the mid-2000s, represented Mid-South at the Paul Murphy National Championships and brought home a title belt in the heavyweight class. The belt is on display in Kane’s office at the Mid-South gym.Gregory attended Central Cabarrus High for his senior year and graduated in June. He won USA Boxing Junior Olympics state titles in 2010, 2011 and 2012 as a member of the Charlotte Boxing Academy.Gregory competes at 141 pounds in the Open division, meaning he can fight anyone between 17 and 34 years old. At Mid-South, he follows a strict training regimen that includes four or five hours a day of hitting the various bags and fitness training.“This is my home six days a week,” Gregory said. “This is where I live, sleep and breathe, and I still have a long way to go. This is my life. This is what I do.”
Monday, Oct. 14, 2013
Concord boxer has lofty goals
Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at joehabina.yahoo.com.
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