RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you've lived long enough, you know life can present different battles you have to fight.
Jerry Royster knows that all too well, which is part of the reason why he is pretty successful as a boxing coach - and has been for almost three decades now.
He gives area young people a fighting chance at winning all of life's battles, so I stepped inside the ring with him to see how he does just that.
There is a difference between fighting and boxing.
"A lot of people think boxing is just throwing a bunch of punches," said Royster. "It's learning how to catch punches, learning the slip, and when you do that, you become a real good boxer."
Royster knows there's an art to it.
He learned that decades ago while growing up in Richmond's Hillside Court.
"This man took me into the gym. I was 8 years old. He took me into the gym and that's where it started," said Royster.
It continues at Cobra Boxing Academy, where for seven days a week, around four hours each day, the 59-year-old former amateur boxer, simply known as "Coach," teaches around 60 young boys and girls how to counter punch, uppercut, and everything in between.
"It's like a puzzle. You teach them one thing at a time," said Royster.
Today's puzzle piece? Sparring.
In one corner, you have 7-year-old Kyle Spencer-Green.
"I step when I punch and don't step too far, and then I won't be able to move," said Spencer-Green.
And in the other corner - 8-year-old Nasir Joyner.
"I hope I'll be the greatest," said Joyner.
However, for Royster, greatness is more than winning in the ring, which hundreds of his students have done a lot of in his 29 years of coaching.
"I'm a pretty good coach," said Royster.
Greatness is winning in life, which has knocked him down in quite a few rounds.
"I'm just a man that don't want kids to go through what I went through," said Royster.
He gets a bit emotional when thinking about some of the punches he has endured.
"Got shot in 1996. Car accidents. Fell through a building at 80 feet," said Royster. "Kids that I've been through working with, they get shot. They get killed. I don't want that to happen to them. I don't want their parents to have to go through what the other kids' parents went through."
That's why this father of 12 dedicates so much time to keeping these youngsters busy, while, at the same time, pushing them to do more than master a peek-a-boo boxing style.
"I push the education. I push the discipline. Parents. Caring about people. Respect," said Royster.
And because of that combination, his students regularly earn opportunities to do things he never could at their ages - like travel to compete and meet people all over the world.
Over the years, Royster has had chances to throw in the towel on this program.
"I've been offered jobs in different places, to go places to help real good fighters," said Royster.
But he simply cannot.
"I can't leave my babies, man," said Royster.
Because he wants his "babies" to see him as an example - that you can get up after being knocked down.
Yet, he also wants to show them what it takes in the ring, and in life, not to be knocked out in the first place.
"They're good kids," said Royster. "They're just my babies."
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