It’s a Knockout: Boxing Beats Street Violence in Brooklyn

Undefeated boxers Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin and Heather “The Heat” Hardy joined forces in the fight against violence in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center Tuesday ahead of defending their titles this Saturday.

Children in the second to 12th grades from Public School Nine and members of Put Down the Guns were invited to meet the boxers and watch a training session with the champions as part of the Barclay Center’s community outreach program.

“It was sort of cool,” said Theai Ingram.. “I actually got to meet a world champion for boxing.” Quillin told the group they shouldn’t be afraid of anything—and that What stood out for Ingram, 9, whose biggest contact with boxing until Tuesday was play fighting with her brother.

“I don’t think my daughter has ever really seen a professional female athlete,” said Ellen Goolsby, who was at the event with her daughter. “I think that it’s a good way to get exposure to role models and I like that.”

The Barclays Center runs a number of community outreach programs throughout the year, which aim to encourage local children to engage with athletics, the arts and education. The Center has also invited underprivileged children to family events such as Disney on Ice and run a competition that awarded $1,000 to 20 teachers in the area who showed they wanted to improve their classrooms.

“We wanted to be able to inspire the students that bullying is wrong,” said Mia M. Hall, community manager for the Barclays Center. “These fighters fight in an organized way.”

For Put Down the Guns, a Brooklyn-based organization who aim to deter kids from joining gangs, the stakes are higher than bullying. “Our goal is to keep the kids busy with activities,” said Davina Perez, who manages the mentorship program. “To give them an alternative to gun violence and gang violence.” The New York police department estimates that there are more than 300 gangs across the city made up of young people aged 12 to 20. “We use music, sports, film, television, and dance and education as an alternative to gun and gang violence,” said Perez.

But boxing can be particularly effective, because of the technical and physical aspects. Put Down the Guns, which has been running since 2012, partners with the Judah Brothers Boxing, which provide trainers, and PacPlex gym, which provides a workout space, to bring boxing mentorship programs to Brooklyn children.

Heather “The Heat” Hardy said she was honored to be able to meet children from the Barclays Center neighborhood ahead of her fight. She also took the opportunity to promote women’s boxing. On Saturday, she said, “I’ll be defending my title and I’m not giving it up.”

Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin will also be defending his undefeated record against world World Boxing Organization middleweight champion Andy Lee on Saturday. “I hope I don’t lose no Irish fans,” said Quillin, who hopes to beat the Irish Lee. Quillin, who has just had his first son, told the Brooklyn students that “CHAMP” stands for confidence, hard work, attitude, motivation and patience.

He finished by throwing chocolate to the crowd, which is how he got his name. “I thought it would be different,” he said before bringing out his goody bag labeled “Sugar.” “I give a lot of love to the chocolate that I throw.”

Saturday’s fights will be broadcast live as part of NBC’s Premier Boxing Champions series.