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Naturally Impactful: Muhammad Ali Boxing Showcase Builds Character in Young Fighters

Jesse Bethea Jesse Bethea Naturally Impactful: Muhammad Ali Boxing Showcase Builds Character in Young Fighters
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On January 13, 2014, tragedy struck at a house full of teenagers in South Linden when 14-year-old Terrico Henry was shot in the stomach. Calvin Fluellen, who was 16 at the time, would later tell police he didn’t think the gun was loaded when he pointed it at his young friend. But Fluellen pulled the trigger, and Henry died late that night at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Five months later, Fluellen admitted to a delinquency count of reckless homicide.

Fluellen spent two years in youth prison and now he’s spent almost two years on the outside. It hasn’t been an easy readjustment. Not long after his release, he was in trouble with the law again, for improper handling of a firearm. This time Fluellen was 18, so he received an adult charge and was sent to the county jail. Out on bond and trying to stay out of trouble, Fluellen, now 20, turns to athletics to keep himself occupied.

“The boxing thing’s really been keeping me off the streets,” said Fluellen.

As a kid, Fluellen spent much of his time playing basketball at Columbus Recreation and Parks’ Douglas Community Center. Eventually, Fluellen and his friends decided to give boxing a try.

“We was playing around with it for a second though, like, we weren’t really serious,” said Fluellen. “We’d just go two days out of the week, come back. Most of my friends are smokers so they were never gonna last in the first place.”

Today, boxing is a serious pursuit for Fluellen. He practices at Douglas for three hours a day, five days a week. The sport keeps him cool, soothes his temper and reinforces an important lesson for daily life – “You can’t fight mad.”

“If you’re mad, it’s like half your body stops working as good,” said Fluellen. “If you’re like, it’s helping you out when you get mad, like ‘Oh I’m gonna knock him out, now,’ that’s ‘cause it’s wishful thinking…but for real, for real, when you’re mad, like, half your body shuts down, for real.”

Fluellen’s next fight comes on Saturday when he will participate in the second annual Muhammad Ali Boxing Showcase at Douglas Community Center. Vonzell Johnson, boxing coach at the Douglas Community Center and one of Columbus’ own boxing legends, knew Ali personally and created the showcase last year to honor his legacy.

“Ali and I shared the same corner man — the Great Angelo Dundee,” said Johnson in an email. “I watched him train and he inspired me to start boxing. He was a great man, not just a great boxer.”

“Most boxers learn about Ali before they even begin to box,” continued Johnson. “They may not know his full history but they do know he was ‘The Greatest.’ He’s someone they can look up to, someone who inspires them to work hard and do better every day. In all sports you honor and respect the people who come before you.”

Douglas Community Center’s boxing program has been in place since 1993, with Johnson as its first coach. Johnson said the funds generated by the Muhammad Ali Boxing Showcase are used to support athletes in the boxing program. Johnson said there have been instances when boxers have been ready to compete in tournaments but have lacked the money to register. Johnson wants to make sure those boxers who are ready and willing to compete have the financial support to do so.

“Boxing teaches athletes discipline, how to become better citizens, respect, structure, and how to achieve goals,” said Johnson. “It helps build character and teaches them how to win and lose in all aspects of life. “

“I want our boxers to become the best people they can be,” said Johnson. “Win or lose.”

So far, it’s mostly been “win” for Fluellen in the ring with a 6-0 record in his early boxing career. He heads into Saturday’s showcase as a “confident dude,” but one who knows he can’t fight mad.

“I’m 6-0 and I’ve got five KOs and one fight only went to districts, and that’s ‘cause I was mad, that whole fight,” said Fluellen. “But the rest of my fights I was cool and collected, it was straight KOs. So that’s how I know for sure, like, being mad and all that is no help. That’s like in life…being cool and calm will help you think more and do what you need to do, for real.”
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Naturally Impactful is brought to you by the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, which works to enrich and change the lives of our citizens. The column is an effort to share the story of how the pillars of Health and Wellness, Conservation and Social Equity drive the work we do. Each month the column will focus on different sections of the department using these pillars to create a positive impact on our residents’ and visitors’ quality of life along with providing basic knowledge of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, #CRPD. To find more about upcoming happenings at your Columbus Recreation and Parks, visit their Facebook page, Twitter page, or columbus.gov/recreationandparks.

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