LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A group of teens from a Louisville boxing club achieves their greatest triumph, while at the same time facing the kind of trouble that could end their young careers.
The Throwdown Boxing Club won nine national titles this year alone, boasting a gym record of 78 and 10. Yet despite success, on the same day that three champions from the club leave Louisville for their biggest tournament to date, reality sets in. The gym has lost its toughest fight: the battle with the bills.
Owner Steve Bailey trains children, teens and young adults, many of whom are from broken homes, some of whom are literally fighting to survive.
"My goal was to help kids and keep them away from crime and drugs and give them a positive thing to look forward to in life," Bailey said. "I've had kids live here before because they didn't have a place to go."
Metro Louisville's parks department gave Throwdown Boxing Club a pass on the rent at the Sylvania Community Center for about a year to get the program off the ground. Bailey fronted travel costs and utilities, maintaining about 30 fighters at the gym. Racking up wins, Bailey says the city now wants him to sign a lease of $500 per month for five years, plus insurance. He says that's money neither he nor the young fighters can afford.
Throwdown went lights out last week, sending more than two dozen young fighters away. A handful of others, like Jesus Murillo Rodriguez, his older brother Mario, and Steve Bailey's son Trenton will continue to train in the garage of the Bailey's home.
"Somebody should fund this program. There is money in this city to help our kids," Bailey said. "This is what we need. We don't need cameras. We don't need lights on a bridge. We need our kids involved so they're not committing crimes."
Throwdown's last stand comes this weekend in Kansas: the Ringside World Championships. 1500 of the best amateur fighters from around the globe vying for titles, and winners will be thrust onto the international stage as potential contenders for the 2016 Olympics trials.
"I'm really pumped. I want to go in there and win it, that's what I'm aiming for," said Mario Rodriguez.
For Throwdown Boxing Club, there is no greater motivator than adversity. Knocked down, but not out, it's a team hoping for one more round to go out with a win.
"It's going to be tough. I know that for sure," says Trenton Bailey. "I'm going to get in there and box and bring home this championship."