ROANOKE, Va. – Inside a repurposed gym in Northeast Roanoke, it’s all about strapping up, hitting the bags and giving your best shot.
David Hopkins started Big Lick Boxing back in January with the goal of sharing his passion of the sport with the next generation.
“My little brother got me into boxing when I was in the Navy and I started doing amateur boxing then professionally,” Hopkins said.
“It was good and got me started in life.”
Through his endeavors after returning home to Roanoke, he met a special group of guys who have developed the want to throw some haymakers.
“Boxing is not a game. Not everyone can play boxing. You can do football but can’t play boxing. You can play basketball but you can’t play boxing,” said Haider Alghazi.
Alghazi is a 16 year old who’s been in the ring for less than 2 years, just four matches to his name, but already has championship gold. His most recent came at the Sugar Bert Qualifyers in Punta Gorda, Florida-- which has now inspired him to seek a career in the ring.
“I want to be a world champion, there’s no other way. This is just it for me,” Alghazi said as he held his 2 championship belts.
17-year-old Aziz Yasin shares those same dreams, striving to go the distance and one day reach the Olympics to prove a point.
“Making it out...I came from the struggle and stuff so I want to make it out and show people where I’m from a better side to life than the streets,” Yasin said.
“I want my little brothers to look up to me so they see if I can do good, they can do good.”
As Nazier Graves explains, it’s not for the faint of heart but certainly worth lacing up the gloves.
“Not a lot of people can do it but you never know, it might click for you. My whole life I was a basketball player. But I fell in love with boxing as soon as I started,” Graves said.
Sparring, throwing jabs and going pound for pound inside the ring, to avoid throwing in the towel in life.
“The committment that they’re putting into it is not just making boxing champions but I see it making them champions in all areas of their lives and that’s what it’s all about,” said Hopkins.
The group is currently preparing to return to Florida for their next round of fights. In an effort to raise funds for travel and stay, they’ve held car wash fundraisers at Auto Zone on Williamson Road in Roanoke. The next date they will have a car wash will be on Saturday, Sept. 26. If you would like to help the team with a direct donation via CashApp or Venmo, simply search “$Dadondada2000”. The goal is to raise about $800 more dollars.