LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The message from Evander Holyfield didn't fall on deaf ears Friday in Louisville.

A crowd of about 50 teenagers from the Louisville Central Community Center hung on every word from the "Real Deal," who came to town for Saturday night's "Gala of Greatness," the culmination of the "I Am Ali Festival" at the Muhammad Ali Center.

"I want a change," said Myles Hines, a 15-year-old who listened to Holyfield's speech Friday. "We need change."

Most of the teenagers come from west Louisville, a community punched in the gut by poverty and knocked out by violence. Holyfield's visit was designed to inspire the teens ahead of LCCC's youth summit. 

"We're trying to grasp the kids' attention by someone else in their age group to experience other things around the city they can get involved with other than crime when they're upset or trying to lash out and reach out at other people," said Arian Franklin, the organizer of the youth summit.

The summit for kids ages 11 to 18 takes place July 21 at the LCCC campus off 13th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard.

"It's all youth-based," Franklin said. "They came up with it ... what they want and the different strategies to getting a better community."

Louisville's tracking toward another record-breaking year of murders, topping the 117 of 2016. Nearly half the victims or suspects are teens or young adults. 

A.J. Williams, 17, said sometimes his peers' backs are against the ropes. 

"It's what I grew up around," he said. "I was not a part of it, but I've seen it. I've heard it. I know."

Holyfield took the time Friday to remind the kids that the hardest fights are never won in the first round.

"I hope they listen, follow direction and not quit," he said. "And if they do these three things, they'll be successful."

 Holyfield said after last month's professional boxing event at Freedom Hall, he wants to have three more similar events in Louisville later this year.

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