Photo courtesy of Steel City Boxing Association
oxers from Steel City Boxing Association pose for a group photo inside the non-profit’s Spring Hill gym. The gym serves as a haven for local youth.
By Brady Langmann
Josh Mook, a 15-year-old boxer for the Steel City Boxing Association in Spring Hill, recently advanced in Pennsylvania’s Golden Gloves Regional Tournament.
With only the state competition left before the national bout in Las Vegas, you would have expected Josh to take time to celebrate after his convincing win, but instead, he immediately shook hands with the opposing boxer and coaches.
“It’s all in the gym, especially big sportsmanship, big friendship,” Josh said. “Every time we see each other, it’s not like we’re enemies, we say hi, we shake hands, it’s good.”
“That’s what it’s all about, building camaraderie,” said his father Jack Mook, who works as a city police detective and a coach for Steel City Boxing. “And that’s our objective – we talk to these kids every day about schooling and about family and living clean.”
Since 2001, Steel City Boxing Association has dedicated itself to providing an organized and safe community for youth and adults alike. The Golden Gloves Competition, which also featured Steel City Boxing’s Dan Buckley and Dave Guckert, represents only a small side of the group’s activities. According to owner Bob Sobocinski, encouraging members to become involved in the community is a priority for the organization.
“That’s what we hope to instill in these kids , that they’re part of a community,” Sobocinski said. “We do neighborhood clean-ups, we work in the community gardens, we try to be involved and teach these kids that being a part of their neighborhood is what’s important because that’s how we function.”
Sobocinski, a lifelong Northsider and President of Spring Hill Civic League, took over Steel City Boxing about five years ago. At the time, the gym was close to shutting down. However, along with the new generation of fighters that has emerged in the last year or so, interest has increased in the association. According to Sobocinski, this success is due to hard work from the kids, parents and coaches.
“I might be behind the scenes more than these guys, but their day-to-day efforts are mind-blowing to me. They work their days and they train these kids, and everybody puts their amount of time in, and it’s a thankless job. We’re valuable, I think we really are. There are not a lot of programs like what we do,” Sobocinski said. “I’m as proud as the trainers are, as the kids are, we literally are a family.”
Aside from continuing their public service and preparing for future competitions, Steel City Boxing hopes to continue to be a supportive network for anyone who would like to become involved, whether it be by working out in the gym or stepping inside the ring.
“We’re completely nonprofit, 100 percent free. Kids can come there, they spend no money,” Sobocinski said. “They’re off the streets, they’re interacting with good people, my age and their age, so they got a range of people that they can pick and choose from, you know, it’s mind-boggling to me that more people aren’t involved in something like this.”
Those who join Steel City Boxing typically have the same experience as Josh, who said that the organization has taught him discipline and life skills in a way that public school had not.
“It’s on the Northside and that’s where I’ve lived my life,” Josh said. “Kids play football, kids play basketball, it was just the neighborhood and that’s that. And I went up to it one day and fell in love with it.