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Boxing Mentor Changes Thousands Of Lives Inside Old North Philly Gym

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A North Philadelphia Boxing gym is the place where some of Philadelphia's best young boxers trained. But one man has been the background of the gym for four decades.

Fred Jenkins, Sr. has come to the ABC Boxing Gym nearly every day for 45 years.

"There's been a lot of blessings -- a lot of ups and downs -- a lot of getting throughs," says Jenkins, a former boxer.

Known as "Freddie J" and more recently, "BBG" short for "Blessed by God," Jenkins created his new name in thanks. Over his decades at ABC, he's coached some of the best in the world of boxing without ever having to leave Philadelphia.

"We had a reputation of a real tough gym," he says, "you had to come through here to prove yourself because we were known to have tough fighters."

Athletes like Olympic Gold Medalist David Reid and IFB Champ Choo Choo Charlie Brown took Jenkins around the world. But his best legacy is the heart he's trained inside these walls.

"You have to be a psychologist, you have to be a doctor, you have to be a lawyer, a big brother," he says, "a dad, a best friend."

Jenkins says he broke up fights, watched children and even went to homes to mediate neighborhood disputes.

Over the years, he estimates that he's personally mentored 2,000 youth through boxing. Now their successes are visible all around him, on his so-called, "walls of champions."

"Growing up I used to hear all the stories," says Fred Jenkins, Jr., 29.

Fred Jr. aka "Herk" is now pro fighter junior middle-weight fighter. While some of Jenkins' nine children did experience boxing, Fred Jr. is the only one that decided to go pro.

"I used to see my dad work with these guys, and as soon as the limelight came  they'd leave," he says, noting that he felt bitter. "So I said why not me, I'll do it."

Fred Jenkins, Sr.
Fred Jenkins, Sr. (seated) with his son Fred Jenkins, Jr. behind him. (credit: Cherri Gregg)


Jenkins, Jr. has a 10-3 record, with three knock-outs. He wants to become a champion. Then he'll follow in his dad's footsteps.

"Father was a boxer and trainer," he says, "son will be a boxer and trainer-- only I'll do it better-- I learned under him, I watched him do it, I won't make the same mistakes."

But for the senior Jenkins,it wasn't about the wins or loses; it was about being able to do what he loves right here where it all began.

"What I'm most proud of is being able to do all that I've done, being able to get closer to God from right here," he says, "being able to raise my kids and keep them safe."

At 60, Jenkins still has fight left. The ABC Boxing Gym could be on the list for renovations when the city of Philadelphia's ReBuild program to revamp parks and rec centers is finally implemented. The Athletic Rec Center where the gym is located already received some repairs thanks to a volunteer effort and donations from AEC Cares. Jenkins hopes to be there when and if the gym gets state of the art equipment– to keep training the next generation.

"God willing," he says, "I'll be here til the end and do the best I can with it."

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