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A 13-year-old pounds the heavy bag in a gym at 26th and Master and dreams of scoring Olympic gold.

By G.W. Miller III
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Sep. 10, 2008

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Hanif fights for his sister, who was murdered last year.

Between 200 and 500 young people work out at the city's boxing clubs every year. David Reid trained here en route to an Olympic gold medal, and Olympian Zahir Raheem began working with Jenkins when he was 11.

About 150 fighters from the tri-state area, ages 9 through 32, are participating in the Sixth Annual Lucien Blackwell Amateur Boxing Tournament which began last weekend. This weekend's contests will be at Gustine Lake Rec Center on Ridge Ave. On Sept. 20, bouts will take place at the Carousel House on Belmont Ave. Admission is free.

Hanif will be fighting this weekend. He's 6-0 and dreams of the Olympics.

"I'm trying to get that gold in my hands," he mumbles.

Among other entries is Damon Allen, a local 15-year-old who's 52-6 and ranked No. 2 in the world in the 125-pound weight class.

Making his last amateur fight will be 19-year-old Jesse Hart, son of legendary Philly fighter Eugene "Cyclone" Hart. Jesse made it to the national Golden Glove tournament this year, and is going pro after the Blackwell tournament. He trains with Hanif some days.

"This is one of my prospects," Hart says, patting Hanif on the back. "He's going to be an Olympic champion."


Shortly after Hanif started boxing, the school beatings ended.

Now he hits the gym two hours a day, six days per week with his father, a security guard who ends his shift at 6 in the morning. Hanif stretches, does jumping jacks and push-ups, shadowboxes, hits the bags, spars and runs five miles.

By the time he gets home, he's exhausted. He usually just relaxes with his 3-year-old niece and 5-year-old nephew, the children of his deceased sister.

"She was silly," Hanif says of his Octavia. "I see a lot of that in my niece. She'll laugh at anything. I could tell her that her shoes are untied and she'll start laughing."

As he speaks, he drops his head and slumps his shoulders. The pain is fresh. So I tell him we're done.

He looks me in the eye, shakes my hand and politely offers a thank you.

Then I watch him run outside to the basketball court where he fearlessly jumps into a game with kids older and more than a foot taller.

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1. mar said... on Nov 22, 2008 at 05:48PM

“feel sorry for your sister keep ya headup youngin and stay away from the streets and one day u be olympian champion -”

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