South Charlotte

Boxing academy fights to help homeless

Social change was the last thing on boxing coach Al Simpson's mind as he returned home late one night from a daylong tournament.

Driving through Charlotte's streets as he took some of his boxers home, Simpson noticed people, apparently homeless, wandering the streets.

On Oct. 8, Charlotte Boxing Academy and Hope Haven will host what organizers hope will be an annual boxing exhibition at the residential recovery center.

Hope Haven residents and those of other Charlotte shelters will be treated to boxing-themed activities and visits from local celebrities.

The Charlotte Boxing Academy operates through Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation. It is established at the Revolution Sports Academy, where youth and adult boxers train with state-of-the-art equipment and a 22-foot-by-foot ring. Its fighters compete in USA Boxing and Golden Gloves events throughout the Southeast.

It is after these tournaments Simpson often finds himself on Charlotte's roads, taking kids home. "I saw baby carriages and little kids," Simpson said.

"Driving up and down Tryon, I wondered if they are ever afforded the chance to see an event. I'm thinking let's do that for them," he said.

So Simpson contacted Hope Haven and spoke with Melissa Thompson, vice president of public affairs and outreach. Hope Haven assists homeless and chemically dependant adults and their families.

"When (Simpson) came and talked about his vision, it was very evident that he really did care about the community and wanted to share his talents to brighten up the day of someone who doesn't see the sunny side," said Thompson.

The event will begin 10 a.m. with a collection of personal items for Hope Haven residents. The public is encouraged to donate toiletries, razors, and alarm clocks.

An autograph session with local boxing celebrities Calvin Brock and Kelvin Seabrooks also will begin at 10 a.m. At noon, former Charlotte Motor Speedway President and General Manager Humpy Wheeler, a member of the Charlotte Boxing Academy's board of directors, will deliver the keynote speech.

Simpson estimates the CBA will have four or five sparring matches, followed by a demonstration by members of the Revolution Sports Academy's martial arts program.

Charlotte Boxing Academy fighters are no strangers to community service. At last weekend's Queen City Invitational tournament, CBA boxers were encouraged to bring hats, coats and gloves for homeless shelters throughout the city.