There is an effort being made next month to take advantage of Minnesota's philanthropic spirit and guarantee the long-term existence of the Northside Boxing Club's gym.

"Fight Night'' will be held on Nov. 19 at the Aria, an entertainment center in downtown Minneapolis. David Sunberg, Marty Davis and other prominent business people have pushed high-buck tables to eat, drink, see four fights, hear some music and provide a bright-light experience for the youth from the Northside gym.

"We're trying to make it look like Don King promoted it,'' Davis said.

The gym was started in February 2015 in an old firehouse on 33rd Avenue, a block off Lowry, in north Minneapolis. The appeal was boxing, physical training, nourishment and educational moments for registered youth in an area of the city dealing frequently with the triumvirate of devastating issues:

Poverty, violence and drugs.

"The need for places like ours has never been more important than right now,'' said Phil Williams, a barber, a pro heavyweight and a committed mentor at the gym. "There was a terrible distrust in the city, and then remote teaching in the schools last year because of the pandemic …

"That was doubly bad. It's great to bring back some stability for our kids five days a week.''

Ryan Burnet was a founder of the gym and now runs it along with Williams and Mohammed Kayongo, another pro fighter with an extensive résumé. Kayongo went through incredible circumstances in Uganda, made it to the United States at age 22 in 2003 and fought as a light middleweight out of St. Paul.

A great benefit of this gym has been Burnet's standing as the lead partner with the Barrio Restaurant Group. The registered youth are provided food either at 5 p.m. or 7 p.m., or both, Monday through Friday.

There's a sign reading "Kids Eat First.''

The gym was shut down in mid-March 2020 by the state's COVID-19 restrictions. The pandemic was not being kind to Burnet's restaurant business, either. Eventually, the Burch steakhouse on Hennepin and Franklin became a high-profile casualty.

Still, there was food if the boxing kids came by, even if the boxing and training equipment weren't in usage.

"When the gyms were allowed to reopen in June at 25% capacity, we just opened, because this old firehouse holds a lot of people,'' Burnet said.

The nightly number had been 50 or so kids, but it was more 30 when the gym first re-opened.

"Our competition was the streets,'' Burnet said. "The legal consequences for making money out there weren't the same. We lost some kids as young as 13 to that money.''

Burnet paused and said: "There's the violence that goes with it. We had a shooting on our block just the other day.''

When a youngster returns, there are no questions asked. "We say, 'Welcome back; God bless you,' and everyone has a smile on their face,'' Burnet said.

Kayongo works in special education for the Columbia Heights schools. He's at the boxing club every weekday at 3 p.m. Burnett says: "Moe is the spirit of this place.''

He was abducted by a messianic group of rebels in Uganda at age 11. He was freed by government troops after two years, attended school, discovered boxing and won a silver medal for Uganda in the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England.

Tommy Brunette, a high-wire act as a St. Paul personality, had been training a Kayongo cousin. "Tommy saw a video of my fight with an Egyptian in 1998, a controversial loss, and he was contacting me, saying, 'You won that fight. Come here and turn pro,' '' Kayongo said.

"I finally did after the Commonwealth medal. Tommy was like a father to me.''

An unpredictable father? Kayongo laughed slightly and said: "I loved Tommy, and he loved me.''

Brunette died in 2005 at age 50. Kayongo remained, first with an 18-5-1 pro record, today with this commitment to Minneapolis youth — at Heights, and the Northside Boxing Club.

Plus: Kayongo went home to Kampala for the only time so far in 2018, he remained three weeks and started the Godfather Boxing Gym, based on the same qualities as at Northside.

"The idea of 'Fight Night' is to give the kids a thrill, and to make sure this gym is around far into the future,'' Marty Davis said. "It'll happen, because this is Minnesota.''