As you make your way through the front door of Bang ‘Em or Hang ‘Em boxing gym, you’ll see materials and machines that appear to have been through many workouts over the years.
Lined along one wall is a row of dumb bells, many whose numbers and letters are difficult to make out. Wood planks used to support athletes as they jump rope line another wall. Old, dingy carpet underneath the ring’s surface is apparently used to soften falls.
A fresh, bright orange bicycle, one with the promotional tags untouched, stands out in a place like this. It sits on a stand near the gym’s entrance and is the transportation to and from the west Toledo gym for trainer Wayne Lawrence, Sr.
Lawrence’s son, who shares the same name but mostly goes by his ring moniker, Pretty Boy Bam Bam, doesn’t have a bike at the gym. That’s because he makes the nearly five-mile round trip on his feet, the 9-year-old wunderkind jogging alongside his father to train for his boxing debut next month.
Bam Bam is an Internet sensation. A YouTube video uploaded in December, 2007, of him at 5 years old sparring with his father has been viewed more than 2.5 million times. The rapid succession in which Bam Bam fires off jabs and hooks in the clip is so impressive that it landed him a guest appearance on various national TV programs, including the Ellen DeGeneres Show, as well as a cameo in a music video by rapper Ludacris.
But four years later, the question remains — is there substance to the hype? After all, Bam Bam’s record is 0-0. Chances are, the uncanny skills and quickness the 65-pounder displays in that two-minute, 20-second video will translate into some level of success in the ring. But no one will know for sure until June 11 when he makes his debut as the headliner of an event at Central Catholic.
“We definitely want to try to fulfill people’s expectations of him,” Lawrence said.
Per USA boxing rules, one must celebrate his or her eighth birthday before being ruled eligible to compete in a boxing match. Bam Bam turned 9 in September, so his debut is coming later than many anticipated.
“I’ve been asking my dad, can I fight? Can I fight?” said Bam Bam, a third grader and honor student at Toledo Christian.
The answer to that question, initially, was no. Upon viewing the skills of other fighters his son’s age, one’s from high profile gyms in other cities with an abundance of sparring partners and coaches with a wealth of knowledge, Lawrence concluded Bam Bam was ill prepared for a fight. The Lawrences visited a gym in Detroit, and even though Bam Bam hung tough with his sparring partners, it was apparent to Lawrence “he needed a little more training.”
That also meant Lawrence needed more training. With minimal boxing knowledge, he began studying instructional DVDs put out by former world champion Roger Mayweather and met up with Mayweather during a trip to Las Vegas a few years ago. Lawrence also started paying close attention to respected boxers and trainers, analyzing which elements of their style worked and which elements did not.
“It takes more studying on my part,” he said. “The more I study, the more I learn, the more I add to what he’s doing.”
“Jab, jab,” the father instructs. Then Lawrence takes a light round-house swing at Bam Bam’s head, which the son quickly avoids by ducking and stepping to the side. This goes on for a few minutes.
“I like doing it,” Bam Bam said. “Sometimes I don’t feel good, but [my dad] tells me when Floyd [Mayweather] doesn’t feel good, he still comes to the gym. That’s what I have to do. I have to push and be strong and come to the gym.”
Mayweather, who is 41-0 as a professional, is Bam Bam’s favorite boxer. The two met a couple of years ago in Las Vegas at the video shoot for Ludacris’ “Undisputed.”
Bam Bam’s diet is that of an aspiring champion. For breakfast, Lawrence fixes him fish, eggs, and milk. A packed lunch usually consists of a turkey sandwich and water, followed by some sort of meal high in carbohydrates and protein to be eaten when Bam Bam gets home after school. Then, for dinner, it’s more protein, along with fruits and vegetables.
Asked whether Bam Bam is allowed to eat any of the candy for sale at the entrance of the gym, Lawrence points to a box of breakfast bars next to a selection of sweets and chocolates and says with a smile, “he’ll eat those.”
Is all of this too much for a 9-year-old? The defined arms, the sprouting six-pack abs, the long run home after a tiring workout?
Lawrence, a 38-year-old carpenter, believes his son is blessed with a rare talent, and he isn’t about to let it go to waste based on what anyone else thinks.
“I don’t want to put my kid in here just because I want to see him beat on other people’s kids,” he said. “It’s a sport, but this is a job. When I talk to the pros, they tell me this is a job. Being that this is a job, why not practice it and make it become his job? It pays well.
“Even if I don’t live to see it, hopefully he’ll still go on and make something of it. And not only that, but when he does get it, he’ll help other people.”
“It’s neat to see a kid at that age have that kind of desire for anything,” Rightnowar said.
Responsible for creating the 15-fight card are Lawrence and his uncle, Bang ‘Em or Hang ‘Em owner Christopher Lawrence. Some of the scheduled fighters hail from Toledo, while others will travel from Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Professional boxer DeMarcus Corley plans to make the trip, bringing with him his two young sons, who are scheduled to fight, as well as trunks and shoes to be worn that night by Bam Bam.
Bam Bam’s opponent is unknown to this point, but whoever it is, Lawrence figures to be nervous when it becomes time for the main event.
“I get nervous when he spars,” Lawrence said. “But he just loves it so much that I’m just going to let him do his thing. Why am I getting afraid? He’s anxious to get into the ring.”
Contact Ryan Autullo at: email@example.com or 419-724-6160.
Pretty Boy Bam Bam, will make his boxing debut June 11 at Central Catholic in one of 15 fights on the card. Tickets for $20 can be purchased at Central Catholic, Toledo Christian, and Bang ‘Em or Hang ‘Em boxing gym, and $25 at the door on the night of the fight. Doors open at 6 p.m.