NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Norfolk’s storied boxing program — the program that created Olympians Sweetpea Whitaker, and more recently, Keyshawn Davis — is without a home.
The boxing facility at Harbor Park closed two years ago to make way for a potential temporary casino. But that could soon change. City of Norfolk spokesperson Kelly Straub told 10 On Your Side the city will soon announce a new location.
“A proposal to relocate the center to a new location, which will greatly enhance the programming and surrounding community, is currently under consideration by the city and we hope to be able to announce that plan very soon,” said Straub.
While no details were released, one business owner hopes his ready-to-go program in Military Circle Mall will be considered.
Over the decades, Dorsett Barnwell, owner of Easy Work Boxing at Fitness, threw some punches and he took some hits. It was the emotional hits that really hurt.
“I was in alternative schools from second grade to 11th. I had 17 assault charges when I was 13; six or seven of those assault charges were on teachers,” said Barnwell.
At the age of 13, he happened upon the Norfolk boxing program and in months, it changed his life. Last week, the winner of 16 world championships shared his story before the Norfolk City Council in a public session.
“Because of boxing, I’ve been to 30 countries now. 30 countries just to box,” he said.
The former heavyweight contender operates a boxing and fitness business in Military Circle Mall. Now, he and a partner are calling on Norfolk to join them in putting more children in the ring to keep them out of trouble.
“To get inside that ring and be successful, you have to develop what they call a ‘boxing I.Q.'” said Barnwell.
The former contender says he will never give up on children who’ve been counted out.
“When you come from an environment where just to survive is an accomplishment, you are not pushing yourself as far or as hard as you can possibly go,” added Barnwell.
The Easy Work boxing proposal, and $350,000 a year, is under review.
City Councilman Paul Riddick confirmed he plans to meet with Barnwell later this week. Barnwell says his program can accommodate another 150 children and young adults over the age of 5.
The Easy Work proposal also includes opportunities for children to learn information technology skills and electrical work.