How a Roanoke boxing program is impacting the lives of nearly 100 kids each year

‘They’re all my little favorite fighters,’ the man behind the program said

Through Boxing and Brawling, La'torie Woodbery strives to provide a safe space for kids to face their stress and anger. (Boxing and Brawling)

ROANOKE, Va. – La’Torie Woodberry believes boxing saves lives.

With each jab, one is instilled with the self-discipline, patience and inner strength often needed in the face of life’s greatest challenges, the veteran boxer explained. There will be many times when life knocks us down, but just like in boxing, it’s important to get back up and keep fighting when presented with adversity.

“Boxing to me is a bridge to go from where you are and who you are to where you wanna be. It [helps us] build broken confidence, conquer fears and fight inner demons that damage us. It’s my way to connect and make an impact on people because of my experience in boxing,” he said.

The Roanoke native has been boxing for nearly a decade, traveling from state to state to take on top prospects and even opening up for three world title cards at one point. Now, he’s using what he’s learned in the ring to bring out the fighter in those in the Star City with his business, ‘Boxing and Brawling LLC.’

Through it, he runs “BoxFit,” a youth boxing program that strives to give at-risk youth a safe space to combat anger and stress and learn self-discipline, work ethic and self-accountability. It operates solely on donations.

Young fighters participate in BoxFit program. (Boxing and Brawling)

Whether it’s teaching healthier lifestyle choices or being a 24/7 on-call coach, Woodberry tries his best to be there for the young fighters in every way he can.

“It can be some serious consequences that impact you for the rest of your life,” he said. “So if I can be that person that kind of like guides you away from that at this time of your life, that’s what I wanna be because I can save your life.”

Maurice English can attest to that, saying the program changed his 13-year-old son’s life.

“Melvin has gained so much confidence, discipline, work ethic and attitude,” Maurice said of his son, who has been in the program for about four years. “I can remember countless times of Coach telling his students about the power and skills that he’s teaching them and the importance of using that power for good and not evil.”

Maurice can recall a moment when his son did just that.

“One time Melvin had an altercation in school [where] a little boy wanted to fight and cornered Melvin in the bathroom. With Coach’s teaching, instead of fighting the boy, Melvin just side-stepped all of the kid’s punches. He told me, ‘Dad I could have hurt that kid, but all I was thinking about was boxing and what Coach said. So I just made him miss and look stupid, and when he charged me I just side-stepped again and tackled him to the floor and held him tight. I promise I didn’t throw one punch.’”

Maurice English

Melvin said being able to dodge the other boy’s punches felt like magic, a moment that made his father proud.

Knowing that Melvin used what he learned for good made Woodberry proud, too.

“He’s one of the toughest kids I have,” he said. “He’s a good fighter and that’s good that he’s learned that self-discipline. I know he has it in him.”

Melvin English (Courtesy of Maurice English)

Of the nearly 100 kids Woodberry works with each year, he says they all feel like family.

“They’re all my little favorite fighters. I don’t see any one of them different,” he said.

He just wants to reach those who are facing the same challenges he did as a kid.

“The fighting inside the households. Having frustrations and fears that you can’t articulate to people that are outside of their struggle,” he explained, adding that the man he is today is who he wishes he would’ve had at a young age.

La'Torie Woodberry said the relationships he builds with his fighters are one of his favorite parts of the program. (Boxing & Brawling)

Woodberry’s overall success with BoxFit doesn’t come without challenges.

The program recently lost its facility at Champ’s Gym on Jamison Avenue and has transitioned into ‘Boxing in the Park.’ Woodberry said the kids oftentimes depended on the gym as a home away from home and a place of camaraderie. Not having that has taken a toll on his fighters.

“I desperately need the resources to be able to provide the services to the kids that they need. And one of those resources is a building and the proper funding for the program to go on,” he said.

He continued, saying “I see the city invest a lot of money in a lot of things, and I’m not at liberty to say whether it’s right or wrong, but I run through about 100 kids a year, maybe over ... Not all kids want to be on the dance team. Not all kids want to go to the Boys and Girls Club, but everyone wants to be perceived as a tough guy who can handle himself — especially the ones that are affected or involved in gun violence.”

Ultimately, he hopes to continue impacting those throughout the Star City as he works to create young champions.

“I know lessons I’ve learned from boxing I’ve applied to my life. I know in this life everybody needs someone in their corner. As a coach, I’m there in the ring and outside the ring,” he said.


La’Torie Woodberry has created a GoFundMe so that you can donate to the program if you wish to do so.


About the Author:

Jazmine Otey joined the 10 News team in February 2021.