Going to Africa with The Champ
Going to Africa with The Champ, Two-time World Boxing Champion Terence Crawford
Hail the Omaha Conquering Hero and His B & B Boxing Academy
Every year Nebraskans make humanitarian mission trips to Africa, often through medical, educational or religious institutions and other non-governmental organizations.
In June a small group of Nebraskans will travel to Rwanda and Uganda, Africa with the goal of raising awareness about challenges facing people there and ongoing efforts to find solutions. Headlining the trip will be two-time world boxing champion Terence Crawford from Omaha and Pipeline Worldwide co-founder Jamie Nollette, who was the fighter’s fourth grade teacher at Skinner Magnet School in North Omaha. Nollette’s nonprofit works with partners doing sustainable water and agricultural projects in Rwanda and Uganda that aim to improve living standards and encourage self-sufficient practices.
Last August Crawford traveled there with Nollette. What he witnessed profoundly impacted him. He saw a scale of human need he’d never experienced before. He saw people trying to move on from a traumatic past. If progress can be made there, he thought, then perhaps problems facing his northeast Omaha community, where his B & B Boxing Academy serves at-risk youth, can be surmounted.
Joining the fighter this time will be a recent high school graduate from Omaha, another recent high school graduate from Phoenix, a native Omahan living in Los Angeles, and myself. I’ve closely followed Crawford’s rise to boxing stardom in a number of articles I’ve written.
The reporting I do in Africa will be featured in a future Omaha Metro Magazine (http://www.spiritofomaha.com) issue as part of its long-running Journeys series. I will also write about the experience for The Reader (http://www.thereader.com), the Omaha Star (http://theomahastar.com), Revive magazine and possibly other publications.
My going abroad is made possible by the Andy Award for International Journalism facilitated by the University of Nebraska at Omaha.. I am one of two recipients of this grant award for 2015. Winning applicants are selected by a committee headed by Thomas Gouttierre, Dean of UNO’s International Studies & Programs.
On our journey through Rwanda and Uganda we will glimpse various aspects of Rwandan and Ugandan life that reflect on these nations’ troubled recent history. Tribal-sectional tensions and harsh government policies have led to coups, revolutions, civil wars, reprisals and atrocities. In Rwanda, feuding ultimately resulted in a genocide whose repercussions are still felt today as reconciliation efforts continue. In Uganda, a succession of dictators and instability has given way to the iron clad rule of president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, whose reign has been marred by human rights violations and the invasion of Congo.
Picking up the pieces is not the only narrative with currency in Rwanda and Uganda. But recovery is a primary theme there. So is the need for these poor, developing nations to build infrastructure, stimulate work, maximize resources and achieve enduring, empowering solutions to fresh water and arable land shortages, among other problems.
My chronicles for various Omaha publications will cover my and my travel companions experiences with:
•meeting perpetrators and survivors of genocide
•visiting a genocide memorial and the Hotel Rwanda
•visiting projects building fresh water wells and growing food
•meeting aid workers
We will meet meet people who have been internationally recognized for their humanitarian work, including the famous Sister Rosemary.
We will go on a safari, do gorilla trekking and see all manner of natural wonders.
We will also attend an African boxing convention where we will meet athletes and coaches from across the continent.
The trip is just one way Heartland residents engage with Africa and other developing regions. Opportunities to serve and learn about places in need are as far away as Africa and as near as North Omaha. Everyone who goes on these journeys comes away changed, their world vision broadened, their humanity deepened. My reporting will cover this transformation and lessons learned, too.
Look for more on this in the weeks to come.
Here is a brief profile of Terence Crawford that tries to provide some context for why he’s emerged as a great story in the boxing world.
Omaha conquering hero Terence Crawford adds second boxing title to his legend; B&B Boxing Academy builds champions inside and outside the ring
©by Leo Adam Biga
All hail Terence Crawford of Omaha for claiming his second world boxing title with his 6th round technical knockout of Thomas Dulorme on April 18 in Arlington, Texas.
Crawford vaulted to world prominence with his three signature wins last year in the WBO lightweight diviion, beginning with his unaminous decision over then-lightweight champion Ricky Burns in Glasgow, Scotland and followed by Crawford twice successfully defending his title in his hometown before huge crowds at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha. Those three wins earned him consensus boxer of the year recognition, including the coveted Fighter of the Year nod from the Boxing Writers Association of America. It was long anticipated that his dominance of the rather weak lightweight division would see Crawford move up a weight division or two in time. With the junior welterwight title vacant, it only made sense he would test himself there, though doing it this soon after reaching the top may have been a bit of a surprise. Then again, Crawford, who had trouble making the lightweight limit, has the frame that allows him to naturally carry the junior welterweight limit of 140 pounds with ease and with his performance against Dulorme it’s obvious he can carry his power up to that weight class, and probably well beyond it, too. It’s a good bet that within a few years he’ll move up another weight class or two, certainly to welterweight and perhaps all the way up to middleweight. When all is said and done he stands a good chance of fighting for and perhaps winning another world title or two or three. Should he do that, perhaps adding another Fighter of the Year award for good measure, on top of what’s already, he will be mentioned with maybe a dozen or so all-time boxing legends. That’s where he’s come to already at age 27.
No single Nebraska-born athlete has dominated his sport in this way or to this extent since Bob Gibson went on his 10-year pitching tear for the St. Louis Cardinals from the early 1960s through the early 1970s. Gibson led the Cardinals to two World Series titles and very nearly to a third. His combined Series numbers of 7 wins and 2 losses and 1.89 ERA give you an idea of how brilliant he was in the post-season. He was twice the Series MVP. His regular season numbers and awards were equally impressive. He posted a 1.12 ERA and 13 shutouts in 1968, when he won both the Cy Young Award and the MVP. He won a second Cy Young another year. His dominance contributed to Major League Baseball lowering the mound. Terence Crawford’s string of four wins in a year-and-half over world-class fighters, two of those wins earning him world titles, and each victory more impressive than the last, is just about equal to where Gibson was at his peak in his sport. Just as Gibson was acclaimed by many to be the best pitcher, not to mention the best athlete, player and competitor in baseball, Crawford is nearing that kind of accilmation as the best fighter in the ring today. Once Floyd Mayweather retires, Crawford may be the guy everyone talks about in that vein. Just as Gibson still had a few good years left after 1968, Crawford has at least another three to five prime years left. Anything after that will be gravy.
As Crawford’s career blossoms, it’s rapidly becoming obvious that Bob Arum, the man behind Top Rank, the fight organization the fighter is contracturally signed to, is not alone in procaliming this warrior as the next big thing in boxing. When he looks at Crawford’s considerable talent and prodigious work ethic Arum sees a dependable and bankable star that he and Top Rank and HBO can ride for a decade or more, barring injury or other things that could interrupt this meal ticket. Having covered Crawford the last year or two, I see what Arum and others see in him – a dedicated, mature young man with a good heart who is also well-grounded about who he is and what’s he’s doing and how he wants to help his family, his friends and his community. Like all great fighters and athletes regardless of the sport, he views what he does in the ring as a job, and he views all the work that goes into preparing him for his fights as part of the job. It happens to be a profession that he’s passionate about and respects and thus he never cuts corners. That attitude and practice will keep him sharp and help him avoid the pitfalls many top-flight boxers suffer once mega fame and fortune come their way.
On this same blog you can find my various stories about Terence, who also goes by Bud. I have links to those stories below. I recently did some new writing about him for a project drawing attention to his B&B Boxing Academy in North Omaha and I’m sharing that here for the first time. Bud and comanager Brian McIntyre are founding partners of the academy and they have a beautiful dream to make it a full-fledged resource center for underserved youth. What follows is a kind of prospectus for what the gym is about and who it serves.
To learn more about Bud and his boxing journey, here are inks to my stories about him:
Look for more from me about Bud and his ever expanding story as I preview the trip to Rwanda and Uganda, Africa that he and BoMac will be making.
Once again, I am going on this adventure as a 2015 recipient of the Andy Award, a grant for international reporting presented by UNO’s International Studies & Programs to a news entity, reporting team or individual journalist whose reporting raises the global awareness of Nebraskans. I am most grateful for the award and the opportunity it affords.
For more on the award and 2015’s other recipient, Matthew Hansen of the Omaha World-Herald, check out this link-
Here’s a look at the B&B Boxing Academy that is so close to Crawford’s heart.
The B&B Boxing Academy
B & B Boxing Academy is a community-based athletic center that builds body, mind and character. Expert, caring coaches help members reach goals inside and outside the ring. Positive, structured activities teach confidence, discipline and healthy habits for a lifetime. Learn the winning edge at B & B, the home gym of two-time world champion Terence “Bud” Crawford.
Boxing brothers Terence “Bud” Crawford and Brian “BoMac” McIntyre have shared the same dream for years. Coming up through North Omaha’s hard knock streets, they were determined to make it in the sport they love in order to give back to their community.
After a solid amateur ring career BoMac turned pro but found his real calling as coach and manager. His prize pupil, Bud, fulfilled the early promise he showed as a youngster. Under the tutelage of BoMac and Midge Minor, Bud became one of America’s best amateur fighters and now has carried his hard work and talent all the way to a world professional championship.
Omaha has entered the spotlight of the sport after his two rousing WBO lightweight title defenses in front of packed CenturyLink Center crowds and loads of HBO viewers. Those victories, combined with his winning the title at the start of 2014 in Scotland, earned him Fighter of the Year recognition. He recently added to his lustre by winning the WBO light welterweight title with a TKO over Thomas Dulhorme on April 19 in Arlington, Texas.
But reaching the top was never the end of Bud and BoMac’s quest. Their vision has always included a gym serving youth located in the very neighborhood they grew up and got their own boxing start in.
The pair’s B & B Boxing Academy, opened in October, 2013, is a nonprofit dedicated to building the body, mind and character of young people, including at-risk youth in need of positive, structured activities. Team Crawford has expended blood, sweat and tears turning the former garage and storage space into a working gym that gets lots of use. Since the doors first opened it has been a magnet for young people. Some are there for competitive boxing, others just to get fit. Many kids who come reside in the neighborhood. They walk or ride their bikes there. Gang violence is a real threat on what can be mean streets. It reminds Bud and BoMac of when they were young and flocked to the neighborhood CW Boxing Club. It was their refuge from the lures and dangers of those same inner city streets. They want the Academy to serve the same sanctuary role for today’s youth.
“It’s not just all about boxing,” Bud says. “We’re trying to teach the kids how to be young women and young men. We’re teaching them to have respect and dignity. We’re teaching life skills. You’ve got to be able to control yourself in the ring as well as outside the ring and boxing is a great way for kids to learn discipline.”
Team Crawford’s coaches and trainers are mentors who care. They teach lessons for life. Having a caring adult to provide direction means the world to young people who may not have that support at home or even if they do still need another guiding hand.
“If they feel like nobody cares than they’re not gong to care, but if they feel one person cares than they tend to listen to that person,” says Bud, who had parents, teachers and coaches steer him straight.
Bud knows from personal experience the difference a gym can make for a young person working out anger issues.
“It’s a good place to come and get away, release some stress, release some steam if you’re having problems at home or school and you just need to let it out. What better way to let it out than on a bag, rather than going somewhere else and letting it out the wrong way. I look at it as an outlet for the kids that are just hardcore and mad at the world because of their circumstances. They come to this gym and they feel loved and they feel a part of something. For some kids, feeling a part of something changes them around.”
Kids who compete under the B & B banner train as a team, vying for titles and trophies against fighters from other gyms. But you do not have to fight to be a B & B member. Every member receives instruction and mentoring from top-flight coaches and trainers with decades of experience. Every member is exposed to winners and champions.
BoMac says the Academy, located at 3034 Sprague Street, offers “the remedy” for young people at-risk of falling prey to negative behaviors. All that he and his fellow coaches need is to get youth through the door and then, he says, they can “shape and mold” them to develop healthy habits that last a lifetime.
As B & B expands it will offer tutoring and academic support programs through community and corporate partnerships. A commercial kitchen serving fresh, hot meals for members of the gym and the community is envisioned. The renovated-expanded gym will add showers, a dedicated fitness-weight training room, meeting spaces, a second ring, more punching bags and new workout equipment.
Even as Bud’s career grows ever larger, he pledges to make B & B an ongoing part of his unfolding legacy.
“This is my community, B & B is my gym, so I am in it for the long haul. I’m not in it for the fame or anything like that. I could be anywhere but my heart is with Omaha. We just want to help as many kids as we can. Everything is for the kids.”
His fondest wish is that some young people training at B & B now or in the future will one day take over the Academy. Then they, too, will pay forward what they received to help a new generation of young people. Each one, to teach one…
The young people coming to the B & B Boxing Academy all have different reasons for being there but all share in common a desire to improve themselves with the help of coaches who care.
Small for her age, 14-year-old high school freshman Haley Roberts struggled with self-esteem issues until working out at the gym.
“I was self-conscious about how small I was and everything. I felt different from everyone else because everyone had a sport they were good in but i was never good at sports. Then when I found boxing I realized I had more strength and power than I thought, and I put it to good use,” she says.
“I enjoy coming. I just enjoy the sport. It helps my confidence, it helps me feel better about myself all around.”
She likes the communal approach used at the gym.
“I enjoy the different people who train me. Certain days we’ll work on certain things, like our footwork or straight punches. We just work on different things as a group. It’s really a team environment.”
Having a world champion on hand in the person of Terence “Bud” Crawford is an extra benefit of training there.
“When Terence is in town to train everyone comes in and wants to train with him. It’s really cool seeing the Crawford entourage coming in.
It’s amazing actually just watching his fights and realizing, ‘Oh, I train with him.’ It’s really cool, too, that he kind of helps everyone (with pointers).”
With Bud and Co. behind her, Haley is excited about her potential in and out of the ring. She looks forward to traveling to tournaments next summer to prove herself in competition.
“I’d like to show everyone that girls can do what guys can do. I’d like to go as far as I possibly can in the sport.”
Away from boxing, her new-found confidence has her intent on studying forensic science in college. Her goal is to become a crime scene investigator.
Alan and Ary Panduro Angulo
Siblings Alan and Ary Panduro Angulo hail from a boxing family. Their uncle Alfredo Angula is a highly regarded Mexican prizefighter who once held the WBO light middleweight title. The boys, ages 10 and 13, respectively, were trained by their father at home before they tried out some gyms. After meeting Bud they fell in with him and his B & B Boxing Academy and they have not looked anywhere else since.
Training there Alan’s learned the value of putting his all into the sport.
“It’s like really hard work – hitting the pads, hitting the bag, doing pushups, doing jumping jacks, it’s just a lot of hard work. It pays off in fights, you know,” says Alan, who was among the first fighters to compete for B & B.
The brothers say the work ethic that boxing demands carries over to their schoolwork and chores.
Alan says it doesn’t hurt either being surrounded by champions who exemplify what it takes to be successful. “It gives me motivation,” he says. Getting advice from a world champion, he adds is, “really awesome.”
Ary also appreciates having Bud in his corner. “He’s very gracious. He motivates everyone in the gym. Whenever I’m tired and I sit down he’s like. ‘Go hit the bag and exercise more.’ He’s like always there. He’s great, he’s really a nice guy to be around. He’s very cool and funny. I like him a lot.”
He says the coaches look out for him and his brother: “They’ve always got our back.”
Ary. who’s battled obesity, appreciates the health benefits he sees from getting in good shape and staying fit. “It’s helped me lose weight and it’s gotten me in good condition.” That’s given him a better self-image.
At other gyms the brothers were sometimes the only kids present. At B & B they often work side by side with kids their own age trying to get in shape and learning the ropes of the Sweet Science just like them.
Alan says, “You’re not like the only kid around here, you’re surrounded by kids that want to do this sport. too.”
The brothers have become good friends with Haley Roberts.
While Alan has been fighting in competitions and winning trophies for the gym, Ary has yet to enter a tournament, but he feels boxing has already given him much.
“A lot of kids go through bullying at school and I think it’s good for those kids to go in the sport because it gives you confidence. I know because I was bullied when I was smaller. If kids want to mess with you, you know how to defend yourself.”
The confidence that comes with being able to handle oneself is important to Alan, too.
Both brothers also enjoy traveling to different cities and states for tournaments for the education and experience it gives them.
Promising amateur lightweight Treven Coleman-Avant, 24, an Omaha Burke High School graduate, wants to be the next champion produced by the gym. In addition to Bud, there is top U.S. ranked amateur light heavyweight and Olympic prospect Steven Nelson. Treven, who trains with both in Omaha and in Colorado Springs, has shown well at regional and national competitions and so he sees no reason why he cannot follow their footsteps.
He uses their dedication to the craft and what they accomplish inside the ring as inspiration and benchmark for himself.
“It all comes with work ethic – hard work and heart. I feed off those guys’ energy and I add it onto mine. Omaha isn’t done producing champions, I’ll tell you that right now.”
Just like his role models, he wants to be a champion outside the ring, too. He senses the same is true for all the people who train there.
“There’s been a flood of new people coming in wanting to get their life changed and that’s the goal of the gym being down in this environment – to pull people off the streets and change their lives.”
Treven says the mentoring he’s received there inspires him to mentor others by “giving advice, showing the right steps to take that you didn’t take.” At B & B, he says, “you learn great leadership,” adding. “It’s built me up as a person. Boxing takes a lot of discipline and dedication and I take that attitude to the other things I do in life – to my work, to being a father. You’ve got to give it your all or you’ll come up short.”
Treven, who has been around boxing his whole life, has developed a special bond with Bud that’s made him a member of Team Crawford.
“To be part of his team and to see where he’s come from to now is a tremendous thing. He’s been like a brother to me.”
In the spirit of giving back to the community, Treven conducts fitness classes at the gym most weeknights and weekends to help young men and women sharpen their minds and bodies.
“We’re busting at the seams.”
That assessment from B & B Boxing Academy co-founder Brian “BoMac” McIntyre sums up why the popular North Omaha gym must grow in order to meet the surging demand for its services.
Located at 3034 Sprague Street in a former garage and storage facility, B & B is home to WBO world lightweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford, who trains there under BoMac. Together, they opened the gym to provide their underserved community a safe, clean environment to box and get fit in.
With the Academy attracting more participants, the gym has reached physical capacity. On warm summer nights the place over-brims with youth and young adults going through their paces – running, working the bags, shadow boxing, sparring. To accommodate the overflow, the doors and fences are opened and the parking lot emptied of vehicles to create a makeshift outdoor training site. If the numbers keep growing as expected members will need to train in shifts.
A much larger connected space, three times the size of the existing one, is available. The vision is to acquire that warehouse and convert it into a spacious, state-of-the-art gym and to repurpose the current space into new uses that provide academic and community support.
B & B Boxing Academy is a nonprofit, community-based athletic center developing young people to reach their potential. The youth and young adults who train there share the same aspirations and dreams of wishing to improve themselves and realizing their potential.
BoMac, Bud and their Team Crawford family of coaches are dedicated to touching as many lives as possible. B & B is their vehicle for producing winners in the ring and in life.