NORTH LAWNDALE — In 2012, Jamyle Cannon erected a boxing ring in his West Side classroom at DRW College Prep. The school had no gym, and Cannon knew from experience what happens when kids have no outlet for their energy and frustrations.
“There’s something about boxing that makes you face your problems,” Cannon told DNAinfo in 2016. He said before he discovered his love for boxing, he’d get into fights with kids at school.
It didn’t take long for Cannon’s boxing club to catch on among West Side kids and soon after, The Bloc was born. Aside from boxing, the organization provides tutoring and mentoring West Side youth. But in order to keep the successful program going, Cannon needs help from his fellow Chicagoans.
On Saturday, April 14 at UFC Gym in Wrigleyville, 3215 N. Broadway St., Cannon and other members of The Bloc will lead a group workout for anyone interested in boxing — or helping The Bloc continue its mission of bringing structure, discipline and community to kids in North Lawndale.
“The Bloc is more than a boxing club,” said Tyler Matthews, who was a member of The Bloc before embarking on his own college boxing career. “It’s not all about fighting. It’s about pushing yourself to be the best you possible both inside and outside of the ring.”
Matthews, a National Lewis University student, 2017 Chicago Golden Gloves Champion and 2018 United States Intercollegiate Boxing Champion, said “boxing has taught me to use my head and not my fists in conflict,” which was echoed by other Bloc members.
“I struggle a lot with anger. When I get mad, I’ll take it out on any and everybody. I’ve lost a lot of friends because of that,” said UIC College Prep student and Bloc member Jashaniquae Turnipseed. “But boxing makes me happy. I think about boxing all day and it helps me prioritize. I’ll do my homework so I can go to boxing. I even made a calendar to keep up with school. It’s helping with my anger, too. Last time I got really mad and wanted to lash out, I just went and shadowboxed in the mirror. Ever since I learned I could box with The Bloc, it was all I wanted to do. I’m not about to do it halfway.”
Daishawn Wheeler, an eighth grader at Frazier Prep Academy and Bloc member, said a near-death experience at a young age forced him to make a decision about how he wanted to spend his time.
“After we got shot at, I realized I needed to change who I was hanging around,” Wheeler said. “It’s not like I was really in the streets, but we were always outside and people knew us. I’m too young to die out here. I came to The Bloc because I want to make something of myself.”
Tickets for the workout Saturday, called Punching With Purpose, can be purchased here. Aside from a tough workout, you’ll get a chance to talk to Bloc members about their experience and bid on custom boxing gloves designed by artist and boxer Sarah Sears (who also designed Block Club Chicago’s logo).
If you can’t make the event but still want to support The Bloc’s mission, you can make a donation here.