RICHMOND, Va. -- If want to box, you have to be tough. But you need more than toughness.
Boxing is called "the sweet science" for a reason. It requires forward thinking.
Trainer Tony Cherry helps kids in Richmond with both their toughness and thinking.
"I look at this as a sanctuary. See what I’m saying? So that's what I try to provide them," he said about his Northside gym Cherry Pick'd Boxing and Fitness. "A place they can go to and get their mind right."
Minds and bodies.
"First what we do, we'll warm up, and I call it 'The Circuit' and they hate it," he explained.
He opened Cherry Pick'd Boxing and Fitness two years ago as a way to work with at-risk youths and kids having disciplinary problems both in and out of school.
One of his pupils, Jisaya Singleton, is here to stay out of the trouble.
"All the madness that I take from school, I bring out on the heavy bag and I just work hard, and then I let it out," Singleton said.
But Cherry Pick’d door is open to anyone willing to work, because Cherry knows firsthand how boxing can keep kids off the street.
"I boxed coming up," he explained. "It was something that basically saved my life, kept me out of the streets. You just give them that mental toughness that they can apply throughout life. You know whatever is in front of you, you can go through it."
Robert Blue, 19, has a goal of turning pro one day. He trains a couple hours per day, six days a week. That's after his hour-long bike ride from Southside to the gym. He said he loves the sport.
"Fighting as a kid, trying to stay out of trouble, it's better to fight in the ring than out there in the streets," Blue added.
Cherry won two Virginia Golden Gloves championships and a Silver Gloves title. Unfortunately, injuries prevented him from advancing in his career. So he said he's doing the next best thing: training the next generation of fighters.
"I never got my chance and that kind of fuels me. I can kind of live through them almost in a way. I can give them that knowledge to carry out that path that I didn't get to take," Cherry said.
And the knowledge and skills are getting soaked up like a sponge by the young boxers.
"Coach trained me and showed me all the good techniques, how to move, bob and weave, through the correct punches,” Singleton said.
Everyone who trains at Cherry Pick’d agrees on one thing, Coach Cherry is like blood.
"Great person. Great personality with the kids. He pushes you. He's like another family member," says Blue.
And it's that family bond, the type that challenges his boxers to aim higher in and out of the ring, that Cherry appreciates most.
"Seeing someone obtain goals or push themselves to a level that they didn't think they could get to," Cherry said. "When I see that, that's when I get satisfaction. When they say 'Coach I don't if can do this.' But then they do it, I say don't you ever say you can't do it again."