DETROIT (AP) — The sight of two people battling it out in a makeshift 10-by-10 boxing ring on a nearly empty street in Detroit’s Delray neighborhood may seem violent to some, but to Dwayne Taylor, the punches thrown are a way of possibly saving someone’s life.
“It’s better ways to solve issues than to always result to the guns,” said Taylor, the co-founder of Detroit’s Pick Your Poison, a group dedicated to encouraging people to pick up boxing gloves instead of guns to resolve conflicts.
Taylor, along with his cousin Angel Torres, created these boxing events to curb the gun violence in Detroit that has affected their family multiple times, the Detroit Free Press reports.
“Growing up I lost a family member or friend literally on every corner,” Taylor said. “It’s just flowers and candles on each corner. All through Southwest is like a walking memorial.”
Beginning in October 2020, the boxing event grew from simply a match in the street to a more formal ring and a wrestling mat to cushion the boxers if they fall. And as the fighting evolved, so did the community event aspects including cookouts with musical performances, a bounce house for neighborhood kids and local artists selling their work.
“I’m trying to get the community out together. I’m not trying to charge anybody anything. Free food, free everything,” Taylor said.
The fights changed, too — first it was just street fighting, which then morphed to include a mixture of mixed martial arts, boxing and street fighters of all levels.
“There’s a lot of guys who come out from gyms. It’s also good work for them,” explained Taylor, a newly minted professional boxer with a 2-0 record that includes two knockouts. He works hard to make sure he matches up fighters at similar skill levels, so no one has an advantage over another fighter.
“No one is doing it with any type of ill intentions. They’re there to box; win, lose or draw,” he said. “Everybody has a smile on their face. Everybody hugs it up and dabs it out after whether they just got beat up or not.”
“It’s more than fighting,” said Keith Bullock, of Detroit, one of the boxers who has had family members killed around the neighborhood. “It’s friends getting together and having a good time.”
By early September, the event had grown organically in size and prominence but hadn’t been sanctioned by the city. Taylor chose to shut it down, but he has dreams of bringing it back in a bigger more organized fashion.
“My dream is to have a youth community center out in southwest Detroit where I can teach kids boxing lessons and they can come play basketball, swim, self-defense,” he said.
“There’s not really anything for the kids to do but be in the streets. If they’re out on the streets, I might as well bring them to me and teach them the right way to do stuff and show them that no matter what there’s always a way.”