Every day, Coach Benji arrives at the Downtown Boxing Gym around 3 p.m. to get ready for training. He greets students as they come into the gym and leads them through warm-ups, stretches, jumping rope and running drills. Benji also works with our student boxers who spar in the ring. He’s the perfect person to help them, because he’s been there himself.

“I love it,” he says when asked about coaching. “I love — don’t say ‘like,’ put love — I love it, or I wouldn’t do it.”

Benji first started coming to DBG at age 13, eager to box, when his father brought him along. He went on to become a youth boxer who traveled and competed in tournaments. An arm injury later forced him to step out of the ring and Benji says that’s how he found his calling to help mold young boxers from raw passion or talent to disciplined fighters.

“It shows what kind of character [they] have,” he says. “They get discipline, first and foremost. They get strength, confidence in what they’re doing. They learn to behave and control themselves. And they also learn that they can’t beat everybody in the world.”

Benji, 23, lives in Detroit with two brothers — one of whom is a DBG student. He attended Oak Park High School and earned his G.E.D.

When he’s not working at the gym, he is working on his own entrepreneurial business ventures. Benji has a hip hop and R&B record label and clothing brand, called Soldiers Only — or S.O. for short. He also makes music under the name Eastside Benji.

He recently completed an online business course at Johns Hopkins University and plans to continue to grow his business. But he says his heart is – and always will be – with the students that DBG.

“That’s gonna be a lifetime thing for me, even as my career takes off,” he says. “The gym is my home. That’s not just a thing for me, that’s my blood family. I’m still going to be coaching kids.”

One final note… today (August 12) is Benji’s birthday. Happy birthday from your Downtown Boxing Gym family and thank you for all you do!