The New Fight Game in Woodberry

by Jesse Fask
       Bob Glassmyer is a man just salivating with knowledge about local boxing. He sits in his new office in his brand new gym on Parkdale Avenue in Woodberry, watching kids get turned on to the fight game that has never really caught on completely in this town.

       “Yeah, there’s only about eleven or twelve gyms in Maryland,” Glassmyer says, siting back in his chair. “Like, Philadelphia’s got a ton of gyms, I don’t even know how many. D.C.’s got a lot too. They got more kids. Kids in this area, there’s too much street things going on. It’s almost like training canine dogs,” he says laughing. “This has been the slowest night since I opened on the first of March,” he continues. “But this kid,” he says, looking over at an tall slender unshaven teenager pounding relentlessly at a punching bag, “He comes in every night and he’s just natural.” Glassmyer marvels as he watches him go from punching to skipping rope and he is all fluid and rhythm. “Three weeks, he’s been coming now. Never fought before,” he speaks faster, in his slight Bawl-mer drawl, getting more excited. “I know fighters. I been in boxing since ’79 and this kid is as good as anyone who’d walk in off the streets. Just natural.”

       “Ken!” he yells at his prodigy. “Go outside and make sure the lights to the building are on.” Ken drops his jump rope and hustles outside, returns, nods, and then goes back to training.

       “Real quiet,” Bob says. “A good kid. He’s an electrician, keeps to himself. Goes to work, drives a new car. But comes in all the time, every day. “Yesterday he asks me, ‘Can I have a day off? It’s my birthday.’ I say, Of course, come in when you want. If you train five times a week, you’ll burn out anyway.”

       Bob hands me a flyer, while telling me to come by anytime. “The registration fee,” he points to a figure, $35.00 printed in bold black on the flyer. “That goes to USA Boxing. I just get the fifteen dollars a month from kids.” The Mid-Town Boxing Program is twenty dollars for adults. The gym is open weeknights, from five until nine.

       I had heard about this place because my step-brother Aaron had joined. Aaron’s grandfather is very active in the Kiwanis Club of Hampden-Midtown, the club that funds the Midtown Boxing Program.

       “Kiwanis gave me a year rent upfront,” Glassmyer says. “It’s to keep kids off the streets, give ’em something to do after school. I used to be involved in this gym on Loch Raven and Taylor but it burnt down. The closest other gym is Mack Lewis’s gym down on Lafayette and Broadway. I figure by word of mouth, it’ll spread all over.”

       Around the gym, Ken continues to train, jumping more rope, doing sit-ups, hitting the bags. My step-brother is in the ring, sparring with former professional boxer Robert Taylor. Other trainers watch Taylor, marvelling about what good shape he’s in.

       “He looks like he could still go a hundred rounds,” one guy says.

       A short older trainer shouts at my step-brother, “Snap the jab, Aaron. Quick jab.”

       The bell rings and Aaron and Taylor go to their corners. Aaron is drenched in sweat, huffing and puffing. He manages to yell out to me between breaths, “Hey, Jess, make it seem like I’m winning.” The bell rings and Aaron’s still talking to me.

       Taylor belts out, “Come and get me. Yo! The bell rung!”

       After the sparring ends, Taylor tells me what a good kid my step-brother is. He explains to me how all the trainers at Mid-Town Boxing are volunteers.

       “Bob Glassmyer,” Taylor says. “He managed me back in ’93. He got me some good fights. He asked me to help out with the kids and maybe I’ll get another fight. I ain’t been in the ring in five years.”

       In through the door comes a baby-faced, blue-eyed kid with a black Yankees baseball cap to the back and a busted lip and swollen nose. He brings his bike inside the gym. He introduces himself to me as Chris, and goes into Glassmyer’s office.

       Chris sits below a poster of Tyson-Holyfield II and announces to Glassmyer, “I got in a fight last night.”

       Bob rolls his eyes. “What was the purpose of that?”

       “Two kids came up to me and jumped me. They got it the worst though.”

       “Where was it at?” Glassmyer asks.

       “Like 3900 block of Hickory.”

       Bob shakes his head. “Yeah, there’s a real bunch of punks hang out around there. Keep that to a minimum. You hear me. That fighting in the street. Save your aggression for the street.”

       Robert Taylor walks into the office to check on Chris as he wraps his hands in yellow tape.

       “He got in a fight last night.,” Glassmyer says to Taylor.

       Taylor gives Chris a stern look and then asks directly, “Did you win?”

       Everyone in the office laughs. “Hell, yeah, I won,” Chris says.

       “Look, Chris,” Glassmyer says. “You tell the kids, ‘I don’t need to fight you. I got a real fight coming up and I’ll fail the physical’.”

       Chris’s baby-blues grow concerned. “Is this gonna make me fail the physical?” he asks about his swollen face.

       “Today it would, but you don’t fight ’til Tuesday.”

       Glassmyer tells me that he has scheduled upcoming fights for both Chris and Ken at the Du Burns Center. After Chris gets his hands wrapped, he hits the bags.

       “Look at that. He hits hard. Like a heavyweight,” Glassmyer says about the 130-pound 16-year-old, as he practices punching. “He’s a tough kid. Got kicked out of school. Now he washes dishes at Frazier’s up on 36th Street, believe it or not.”

       Bob walks me back into his office. His desk is piled with boxing magazines, rulebooks, boxing rankings.

       “It’s the cheapest sport around,” he says. “Especially if you got someone like me supplying the equipment.”

       “There’s just so much fun out there for these kids with the drugs and the girls. Especially, with free love and all,” he says, sounding a bit behind on the times. “But once they come in here, it’s like a hammer.”

       He pauses, looks at me and smiles, “I mean I’d rather have ’em in here with me, then, standing behind me at an ATM machine, wouldn’t you?”


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This story was published on April 4, 2001.