Boxing 101: Sparring boosts young boxers’ confidence

Joey Mullins, 11, of Winchester, said he likes boxing because it "takes your mind off all the negativity of the day." Ashley Miller/Daily

WINCHESTER – “Do what scares you until it doesn’t” is one of the many mottoes painted on the walls of Winchester Boxing. That is a daily reminder to its gym members that the world has enough followers: be a game changer. Better yet, it’s the recipe to win at life for gym owners/trainers Mike Doleman and John Custer.

“Boxing takes your mind off all the negativity of the day,” said Joey Mullins, 11 of Winchester.

For Joey and his fellow boxers, Winchester Boxing  allows them to center themselves and put aside uncertainty. For an hour, three times a week, they focus on the task at hand: boxing.

“Good job, guys. Gloves on. We’re going to partner up,” Doleman says as the boys finish their laps around the building.

For some, fitness is a way of life. Others simply work out for fun. But for the 18-21 children who participate in Boxing 101, it’s about changing their lives.

Boxers perform timed plank intervals, which help with core conditioning. Ashley Miller/Daily

“In this day and age, kids are so mean to one another,” Doleman said. “We’re trying to give them another outlet — give them the ability to do something other than the norm in our area. I mean, not everyone can be a baseball or football player.”

Through boxing, Doleman and Custer are trying to improve the young boxers’ self-confidence. “Here we’ve taught our kids the importance of discipline. A lot of kids will never make it into the ring,” Doleman said. “And that’s OK. Either way, it gives them the self-confidence and discipline to take on the day.”

Many of the boys participating in Boxing 101 with Doleman say they have changed since they first started. John Juergens, 11, of Winchester, said when he leaves the gym he values respect. Marshall Robertson, 11, of Stephen City, said his grades have improved because Doleman “won’t let us box if our grades aren’t good.”

Dale Bowling, 16, of Winchester, knew before he entered the ring he wanted to join the Marines.

“I’m in the best shape of my life,” he said. “When you walk into a ring with an opponent, it’s a thrill. Everything Mike has taught me has allowed me to succeed.”

Mike Doleman, left, spars with Dale Bowling. Ashley Miller/Daily

Dale added that he views Doleman as a father figure.

Parent Mandi Bauserman, of Augusta, West Virginia, said Doleman pushes the boxers.  “He’s hard on them, but he does it because he knows they can do it.”

For some of the boys, Doleman is the only father figure they have.

“When they go through something they don’t want to talk to mom about, they know they can come here and talk to Mike,” Bauserman said.

Bullying, self-esteem, and emotional stress are three of the issues the boys say they face outside of the ring.

Dale Bowling, 16, of Winchester, spars with fellow boxers. Ashley Miller/Daily

Alicia Shane, of Winchester, said her son was bullied for his weight.

“In the past six months, my son has not only lost weight but also he’s gained the confidence he’s always needed,” she said.

The parents of many of the children who participate in Boxing 101 having nothing but kind words for Doleman, Custer and their establishment.

Bauserman said the boys’ attitudes have changed and their grades have improved.

“Mike and John have put a lot of work into not only this place, but also with the kids. These kids really look up to them. Every single one of them. I can’t think of one kid who doesn’t look up to them,” she said.

Shane added, “It’s an entirely different level of respect. When they walk in the door, they know Mike and John own them.”

“There’s less fighting at home. Structure,” she said.

These are just a few improvements parents have noticed with the help of Winchester Boxing.  Doleman said the kids are sharing their accomplishments.

“Kids go to school and tell their friends,” Doleman said. “Next thing you know, they bring in a friend who may be going through the same things.”

Winchester Boxing, located at 2241 Valor Drive in Winchester, has been open a year and a half. Other classes include Punch Fit, a boot camp with a focus on interval boxing, circuit training, one-on-one personal training and powerlifting.

Crystal Duncan and Christa Powell, both of Winchester, work out with Custer while their boys participate in Boxing 101.

“It’s about getting healthier and happier” Powell said.

Bauserman added, “It’s a big family. We’re all friends – both inside and outside of the gym. How many places can say that?”