Steven Call said he is fighting to keep kids fighting — for their health, for their future, for themselves.
By kids, he means anyone younger than his 41-year-old self.
Founder of the Relentless Youth Boxing Club, Call started training clients out of his one-car garage in 2010. His program utilizes boxing as an outlet for troubled youths while also providing mentoring and guidance.
Though Call upgraded to Phase 1 Sports, 5137 W. Oquendo Road, the journey hasn’t been easy.
“I need sufficient time and the ability to have a stable environment to help develop these kids,” Call said. “When I have to bounce from gym to gym, it’s difficult to have a long-term effect.”
Call, a Henderson resident, started the nonprofit organization by posting ads on Craigslist for workout partners. A 19-year-old responded and eventually brought his friends to train under Call.
“At first, it was a means of me getting back into shape,” Call said, “but my mentor told me I should go after the (nonprofit) status so I could move out of my garage. It took me about a year to get it going.”
According to Call, his organization took off after he sealed a partnership with Sunset Boxing & MMA, 2100 Olympic Ave.
“The next thing I know, I had about 30 kids I was helping,” Call said. “They were all so different. They all needed help, but all had different problems.”
In September 2012, the Relentless Youth Boxing Club was briefly featured on HBO with the help of Top Rank Boxing, a promotions company. However, the exposure caused tension between Call and the gym’s owner.
“I pulled the program from (Sunset Boxing & MMA) and moved to Phase 1 Sports on the southwest side,” Call said, “but all the kids I was training are still on the east side (of town) so I don’t see them as much as I used to.”
For months, Call tried to secure gym space closer to his clients but to no avail. He even attempted to obtain a van to transport clients to and from Phase 1 Sports but couldn’t find any donors.
“I did take probably a four-month hiatus because it was discouraging, and I wanted to put effort back into my own family,” Call said. “Within the last couple weeks, I’ve had so many people call me needing help for their kid that it’s prompting me to do something again.”
Call continues to train out of various gyms but wants to start his own private gym as soon as possible.
“If I could open a gym closer to the east side, I would literally have 20 to 30 clients within the first week,” he said. “I still keep in touch with all of my old clients. The whole mentoring and leadership thing goes well beyond boxing.”
In addition to training, Call made his clients add his business account on Facebook so he can keep close tabs on their thoughts and whereabouts.
“It’s more than just boxing at a gym,” Call said. “It’s the daily interaction and counseling. It’s, ‘Hey, what’s going on in your life?’ or ‘I saw your Facebook post, what the heck is that all about?’ ”
“I just monitor them and make sure I’m not seeing any gang-related stuff or other things that can cause problems.”
Adrian Bernard, 29, started training with Call more than a year ago after finding the ad on Craigslist.
“I used to box on and off, but I didn’t have the money to keep going because it gets pretty expensive,” Bernard said. “I called (Call) up, and he trained me for free and made me part of the team.”
Even with a history of drug abuse and jail sentences, Bernard said Call has never judged him or given up on him.
“I’ve called him from jail before,” Bernard said. “I’ve never had someone that I could just call up and tell them whatever was on my mind. A lot of (boxing) coaches would think I’m washed up and spent, but (Call) is not about just making money. He’s about helping the guys that really need it.”
Bernard, a Henderson resident, was released from jail in November and landed a job in construction. He said he is staying clean and positive and continues to hang out with Call.
“We all need someone like (Call) who actually gives a (expletive) about us,” Bernard said, “someone who can get us working hard and keep us on track.”
For more information or to donate, visit relentlessyouthboxing.org or call 702-612-1185.
Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0403.