Gym provides alternative outlet

With the blistering heat outside, and even warmer conditions inside, the Tallahassee Fighting Tigers is where champions have been trained for a lifestyle in and out of the boxing ring.

Coach Alonzo Johnson continues to inspire and give youths an opportunity to follow their dreams.

Johnson opened his first gym in 1990. At the time it was the only boxing gym in Tallahassee. He wanted to open his gym to give kids a second opportunity.

“We just provide an additional service to the community,” Johnson said. “This is just another avenue that kids can take to get the same values, standards and characteristics that they receive in other sports.”

Johnson went on to say, “Thirty days after conception of the program, we opened the doors.”

As amateur fighters train for their next opponent other members of the Tigers gym come to either get in shape or stay fit.

Current members range from teenagers, college students and professional boxers from all walks of life.

“The gym gives my son the opportunity to go after his dreams,” said Arlisa Reeves, mother of Adam Reeves, 15. “Coach has a reputation with the youth that will help them to be able to achieve those dreams.”

With a good mix of people at the gym the one thing they all have in common is dedication and hard work.

“When you come here you are going to sweat,” Johnson said. “If you don’t want to sweat, you can go to the other gyms and take kickboxing, tae bo or something where they have the A/C running. Sweating is important in our workouts for various reasons.”

Johnson has helped train dozens of Tallahassee athletes such as 2003 National Golden Glove Champion Travis Walker and Tavoris Cloud, winner of two national boxing championships. He also assisted in the training of Henry Akuwanda. The gym served as the warm-weather training site for the 1996 British Olympic Team.

“There are always several kids in the community to utilize the sport of boxing for whatever reason they choose,” the coach said.

Al Clove, a parent of one of the young boxers, said he would recommend other parents to allow their children to train under Johnson.

“I can tell by the first day. I could see an improvement,” Clove said of his son, Dearious Williams. “It was intense but it was controlled. I knew it was the place for him. The gym has a championship mentality and it breeds champions.”

Even though it’s not a school-sanctioned event, Johnson requires all his amateur boxers to maintain a 2.0 or higher grade point average.

A graduate of Rickards High School, Johnson excelled in football and other sports. He took his talents to the next level around the corner at Florida A&M University in the early 1980s.

Johnson, who was on the FAMU track team with current NFL sideline reporter Pam Oliver, was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame in September 2002.

He played professionally for the Tampa Bay Bandits, now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he earned Most Valuable Players honors in 1985.

“I use the same values and characteristics in boxing that you learn in football and basketball,” Johnson said.

Johnson later served as the recreation therapy manager at Appalachia Correctional Institute in Sneads, FL. He then held the same position at Jefferson County correctional institution, which gave him the idea to start a boxing gym.

“Every week I saw 35 to 40 new young men who had talent and were wasting that talent in prison.” Johnson said.

Johnson doesn’t advise anyone to turn professional until he or she wins a national amateur championship.

The boxing gym is open Monday through Friday from 4p.m. to 8p.m. It is free for individuals 17 and under.

For more information call (850) 766-7051.