Lessons in, out the ring: Port Arthur gym to host city event

Published 10:03 am Wednesday, April 4, 2018

By Lorenzo Salinas


Youthful members of the Lion Hearted Boxing Academy undergo their daily training Tuesday evening at the boxing gym’s location on Augusta Avenue in Port Arthur. (Lorenzo Salinas/The News)


There would seem to be just as many lessons that could be learned in the ring as outside it.

The Lion Hearted Boxing Academy is hosting a city event at 6 p.m. Wednesday at its location on 680 Augusta Ave. in Port Arthur. The speaker is professional boxer Kurtiss Colvin; the theme is “Fight For Our City.”

Organizer and volunteer coach at the academy Calvin Shepherd Jr. said the theme is one that transcends the boxing ring and into real life.

“It’s dealing with a lot of things that have been going on recently,” Shepherd said.

He pointed out how the gym has been a viable avenue for kids going through tough times, particularly those who might be tempted to get into trouble or join gangs.

“It’s the message we want to portray to kids: Fight for our city. Do those things that bring us together and create unity — not something that separates us.”

Shepherd called Colvin an “outside voice,” hailing as he does from Austin, and thus being someone who could reinforce the message of unity the coaches at the academy tell the kids.

“Sometimes that’s what you need, an outside voice, to repeat everything you’ve been told,” Shepherd said. “So, they can see how he’s dealt with the life he’s lived.”

Volunteer coach Luke Joseph works with one of the youngest members of the Lion Hearted Boxing Academy Tuesday. (Lorenzo Salinas/The News)


A flawed speaker

Colvin has been no stranger to controversy and to the other side of the law.

He had been found guilty of aggravated assault in 2008 and was on trial for a capital murder charge. After a lengthy trial, he was found innocent and cleared of the crimes.

Afterward Colvin got into boxing. According to Shepherd, that decision changed the course of his life.

“I’m bringing him in to talk. He’s innocent,” Shepherd said. “He fought trial for 18 months. His story is unique.”

Shepherd said being in the wrong place at the wrong time could change one’s life forever, as it did Colvin’s.

“They could really make you pay for it. It took him a lot of money and a lot of time to exonerate himself … . He was innocent; his story was true.”

Shepherd drew parallels between Colvin and some of the kids who train at the academy.

“This is the voice of a guy who’s been down a path some of them are heading,” Shepherd said. “One bad decision and it changed his life… It’s crazy how things happen and he’s happy to provide this service to them, free of charge.”

Charles Joseph (left) and Kenneth Shepherd are the volunteer coach and head coach respectively for the Lion Hearted Boxing Academy in Port Arthur. (Lorenzo Salinas/The News)


An experienced teacher

For his part, Shepherd is an experienced fighter — both in and out the ring. He served four combat tours overseas in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

“In the Museum of the Gulf Coast, my dad is in there. He was the first world champion from Port Arthur,” Shepherd said. His father was Calvin Shepherd. “Boxing has always been in my family.”

Shepherd joined the military when he was 19 years old. Growing up, there had been no boxing gyms in the city for him to join. Instead, he picked up boxing while serving.

After his third tour, he went to Austin and met Colvin there. The two struck up a friendship and ended up training together.

Shepherd described boxing as his mechanism for coping with the hardships of warfare like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“It was my way of dealing with a hard time in my life,” he said.

During his fourth tour, Shepherd was injured, effectively ending his career. However, that did not stop him from participating in the sport — as a coach.

“We have a lot of kids in the gym. A lot of those kids don’t see outside the city. They believe Port Arthur is the extension of the world,” Shepherd said.

Accordingly, Shepherd takes those kids to other places outside the city to train, compete and to generally see that the world is more than what most kids have grown up with.

“If I can, on weekends, I take them somewhere, show them something different and give them options.”

Lion Hearted kids have traveled to places like Kansas to compete in national tournaments. The academy has produced at least seven national champions, Shepherd said.

Memorial High Schooler Luke Alpough practices his punching in the ring Tuesday at the Lion Hearted Academy in Port Arthur. (Lorenzo Salinas/The News)


Beyond the sport

“One of the main things we’re teaching about boxing goes beyond the sport. It’s not just something we do. It goes beyond the ring,” Shepherd said.

He made certain to draw a distinction between boxing and fighting. He said he and other coaches teach that boxing is something done in competition, in the ring — not out in the street.

He also emphasized the sense of accomplishment and discipline boxing could instill in someone.

“When you have a sense of pride you can stand on your own as a man or woman. You don’t have to follow a crowd. Many of those kids do join a crowd because it feels easier that way,” Shepherd said.

“But when you can stand on your own two feet, you have confidence and pride in your abilities.”

Shepherd recalled his sense of accomplishment when he competed in his first professional fight — he was paid for doing something he loved.

Youthful members of the Lion Hearted Boxing Academy undergo their daily training Tuesday evening at the boxing gym’s location on Augusta Avenue in Port Arthur. (Lorenzo Salinas/The News)


Keeping it in the city

Lion Hearted Boxing Academy is normally open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

“The greatest thing about the boxing gym is it’s open 365 days a year. As coaches, we build strong relations with these kids. We see them all year round,” Shepherd said.

Jefferson County Commissioner Precinct 3 Michael Shane Sinegal and Port Arthur Police Officer Patrick Britton are also scheduled to attend.

“It’s about coming together,” Shepherd said. “That’s why we’re calling it a ‘city event.’ We’re just going to have them talk to the kids in the gym.

“And this event caters not just to the youth, but to anyone who could use positive speech.”

The Lion Hearted Boxing Academy on 680 Augusta Ave. in Port Arthur. (Lorenzo Salinas/The News)