Every heroic deed starts with a problem, often a problem that most have overlooked, and even worse, don’t seem to care if it gets fixed.
Soul City Boxing Gym was started by Otha Jones Jr., and his son, Roshawn Jones, as a way to keep the youth out of the streets, which for those that don’t know that is a code word for saying not in gangs, resorting to violence, abusing drugs, or making the neighborhood uninhabitable from unappreciated behavior.
“I wanted my brother [Otha Jones III] to be the symbol of the gym, to show young people in our city that you don’t have get killed over gang violence to be famous in the city,” said Roshawn Jones, Otha Jones III’s brother, and co-founder of Soul City Boxing Gym. “I am tired of seeing a pattern of reckless behavior, repeating itself, over and over again, I talked with my father and we decided to be that change.”
Otha Jones III, an emerging superstar signed to Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing USA, doesn’t just want to win in the ring, he wants to bring hope to his city.
“It isn’t just about me,” said Jones III. “I want people to smile, because they know me, they interact with me. I know if I do well, maybe someone might go to college or find a passion that they didn’t know they had. I’ve seen a lot of senseless violence in Toledo, and I feel that I have a chance to be a voice for the voiceless.”
Being a voice for the voiceless speaks volumes, as people give back to the community, but in terms of athletes, Jones III is hoping to do it to the next level. Jones III is looking to be a symbol of hope in a city that has very little hope left in an upcoming financial depression, as well as low employment rates, and a major class distinction that is largely unaddressed. In short, Toledo, Ohio has a disproportionate gap in people of color falling into a lower socio-economic class as opposed to those who are white and even further is the division between college education and those in the aforementioned neighborhoods who are or have attended college, let alone graduated.
You might wonder why Otha Jones III is this way? Civic-minded, thinking beyond himself, well – it is simple, look at his father, Otha Jones Jr., who raised at a young age to be selfless.
“At a young age, I raised him to think about others,” said the fighter’s father and coach, Jones Jr. “We’d help kids out from the street, they’d live at our house, and he would share his clothes with these kids to help them. It is natural to him, he is a kind soul, but also an old soul, who really wants to see people do well.”
Jones III echoes these statements.
“I only see a few people in boxing helping their community,” said Jones III. “I want to achieve in boxing a bit more, and then I want to give back more than I have achieved. I am being vocal, because I want to speak it into existence. The key part is, I need to do more to be a symbol of the gym rather than just a great fighter. I know my success can elevate other people’s lives. Toledo is a tough place, but I embrace it, and what to make people proud when they announce in the ring where I am from.”
In a city with so little change or options to do other things than what you see around you, it is easy to get stuck doing something you don’t like or even worse have a situation arise quickly you can’t get out of, the old adage wrong place, wrong time, holds more weight in Toledo, Ohio, than most cities. That is why Soul City Boxing Gym is more than just a gym, it is a beacon of hope for the youth filled up with a unique cast of characters, who treat training as serious as anyone across the country and the results show.
Currently, Jones III’s sister, Oshae Jones, a future Olympian, is a holding a women’s empowerment training camp for women who live within driving distance of the Toledo, Ohio, to train with each other during this health crisis, while taking proper health precautions such as washing their hands, social distancing, and sanitizing everything that is touched. This is an overarching theme as the gym is a place of empowerment, as despite women’s boxing still not getting the respect it deserves young emerging fighters, as well as established veterans like Christina Cruz, drove to Ohio, to work and train in this camp, based around the energy, vibe, and caliber of work.
The other aspect of this – was despite the entrepreneurship from Jones III’s sister, Oshae, it is also, a community-based event, which is bringing people together rather than dividing people, which sadly in boxing, is not common.
So you might wonder about the results. Do they win? Well, the answer is – YES!
In fact, the whole gym is used to winning. Oshae Jones has rarely lost as an amateur, Charles Conwell, a 2016 Olympian is one of the best fighters in the country as well as seen his career face numbers tragedies Conwell preps for a world title push in the future and as Otha Jones III, a blue-chip prospect, destined for the bright lights, big stages, and marquee fights.
This is an overarching theme for Jones III, a lifelong boxer, and wrestler, who rarely lost at either as an amateur, and as a professional has never lost. In fact, last year, Jones III fought Michael Horabin in York Hall in London, England, only to fight again, eight days later in Providence, Rhode Island. This is not a normal feat, nor would most fighters be motivated to jump into a situation like this, but since Jones III is fighting for something far greater than himself, it starts to make sense.
What makes Soul City Boxing Gym unique is not the place it is in – gyms are in the hood everywhere in the country. It is the mindset, the purpose, and the thought. It is a world-class facility with the goal of helping others at the crux of the mission statement, and in order for the message to get to the people they hope to, Otha Jones III needs to meet the expectations asked of him, which is boxing dominance.