The Minneapolis Fire Department had closed a firehouse on 33rd Avenue N. years ago and it was standing empty. Restaurant owner Ryan Burnet had spent a couple of years involved in giving boxing lessons to kids in makeshift locations in north Minneapolis.
Burnet was able to purchase the firehouse for $40,000, and then through fundraising, more than $800,000 was put into the building to make it a gigantic boxing gym.
The Northside Boxing Club opened early in 2016. I had not made a visit until earlier this month, when local businessman Marty Davis, a persuasive fellow, convinced me of the need to do so.
Davis and several other business people have been major contributors to the club, in goods and dollars.
We met there around 6 p.m. on a weeknight, and the activity of the youth and the volunteers — well, it was dumbfounding to see what the determination of Burnet has made available to interested kids in this low-income part of the city. The ages are 9 to 18, boys and girls.
The large room that held the fire trucks houses a ring that’s surrounded by traditional boxing activities. There is first-class workout equipment in the next room, with treadmills, etc., constantly in action.
Another impressive amenity is the kitchen, where large amounts of “good food” are available to the kids for dinner — at 5:30 p.m., 7 p.m. or both.
Burnet owns nine restaurants with various partners, including Burch Steak, Bar La Grassa and Barrio. He runs his restaurant business from an upstairs office at the boxing club, which opens daily for registered kids at midafternoon.
The volunteer training staff includes pros Phil Williams and Mohammed Kayongo, both committed to bringing out the competitive talent in these kids from the north side.
Burnet and his wife, Amber, became parents to twins, Cy and Ivy, a few months ago, to go with Layla, 5. Throw in the restaurant business and it’s a hectic life, but he remains all in on bringing opportunity to a group of kids (close to 60 and increasing) hungry for competition and good food.
Davis was right. It’s an amazing scene.
PATRICK'S PLUS THREE
A sampling of recent in-ring success for Northside Boxing Club:
• Chello Roland, 17, had only 10 total fights when he finished as a runner-up in a Ringside International tournament.
• Morgan McDonald Jr. is the Ringside International champion at 54 pounds and 9 years old.
• Nine Northsiders advanced through the state Silver Gloves, including D’Trell Larkins, 14; Deshaun McKizze, 13; and Jasmine Winn, 13, one of the gym’s top female boxers.
Read Patrick Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick. E-mail him at email@example.com.