Everyday Hero: Boxer uses sport to teach youth discipline

By Bill Murphy, Everyday Hero Host
Last Updated: Monday, March 27, 2017, 10:11 AM EDT

A one-time Olympic hopeful is currently using his skills and knowledge of 'The Sweet Science' to reach out to at-risk youth in the Bay area.

  • Demarez Wilkerson, 32, certified trainer, nutritionist
  • Wilkerson founded Fight 4 Change, Inc.
  • Group Wilkerson is training dubbed "The Backyard Brawlers"

Outside one St. Petersburg home there’s lots of calories being burned and muscles being built. It's just another day of training under the watchful eye of 32-year-old Demarez Wilkerson.

I met Wilkerson several years ago when he was training for the Olympics, but an injury cut that and his boxing career short.

Now he devotes his time to kids like these, remembering how boxing helped keep him from the mean streets.

“Boxing gave me discipline cause I come from that era.  So it was like, once I started boxing, all the bad stuff I was doing, it outweighed it. So I was too tired to really get into any more trouble,” Wilkerson said.

Through his nonprofit Fight 4 Change, Inc., Wilkerson, a certified personal trainer and sports nutritionist, works with kids from different neighborhoods.  That’s something that often does not work out well, but that's not the case here.

“You gain respect for each other. You might not get along right then but the weeks of training I put you through, if you’re not talking you’ll be talking at the end,” Wilkerson said.

Some of the kids are on their way to becoming amateur boxers. They are 'The Backyard Brawlers' -- an idea thought up by Wilkerson’s close friend, Emanuel Sims, who died earlier this year. He was just 19.

“January I lost him, you know, he got killed. Gun violence in the street. So once he died, it was his idea the ‘Backyard Brawlers’.  So, I was like, I’m going to keep his dream alive,” Wilkerson said.

A young man who found his way now makes his life’s work on sharing his road with others.

“I just want to make a difference. It’s a good feeling especially from where I came from ‘cause there’s a whole lot of different things I could have been doing.  Doing this today, I’m proud of that,” Wilkerson said.