Back in 2007, St. James United Methodist Boxing Club head coach Albert Brewer wanted a place where kids and teenagers could channel their issues into a healthy exercise instead of resulting to gun violence, but nobody would support the program.

Back in 2007, St. James United Methodist Boxing Club head coach Albert Brewer wanted a place where kids and teenagers could channel their issues into a healthy exercise instead of resulting to gun violence, but nobody would support the program.


"It took me several attempts, but I had no support," Brewer said. "I can recall going place to place with no luck."


Brewer had just about given up hope, until he met the current pastor of St. James United Methodist in December 2012. State senator Hank Wilkins IV answered with three simple words when Brewer approached him with the idea: "Let’s do it."


"I didn’t hesitate to say, ‘Yes,’" Wilkins said. "The program was the brainchild of (Brewer) and I agreed with him about wanting to get the kids off the street, and to provide a place for the kids for them to be cared about and move them forward."


With the help of Wilkins and the church, Brewer was able to launch the boxing club with the camp again of "gloves not guns" in April 2013.


Administrative assistant Anneshia Smith, Brewer and Wilkins put up flyers and banners around the neighborhood to try and advertise the club to the local children. Smith said she wanted to join the program because of the message they were trying to teach the kids.


"We want to make sure we give them a positive influence," Smith said. "They learn about self-discipline, endurance, faith, proper etiquette, and manners among other things. There are consequences along with a set of rules that they must follow."


Brewer said another blessing happened when assistant head coach Dominique Azeez was driving around and saw the banner posted outside of the gym about the club.


"He came in and asked about the program," Brewer said. "We told him about the program and what we wanted to do and he was on board."


As the club developed, there were some people around the neighborhood and across the state who raised some eyebrows about having a boxing club sponsored by a church. Brewer said it’s been a rocky journey, but they keep their heads held high in support of the program.


"When we travel to other competitions, people look at us and say, ‘You’re sponsored by a church?’ Brewer said. "It gets questioned, but it gets the kids to church."


Among the 30 current members of the boxing club, two boys will be heading to the national Silver Gloves boxing championships this weekend at the Hilton Garden Inn in Independence, Mo.


Brothers Rhamon Johnson, 13, and Jakari Johnson, 9, will represent the St. James Club as the only two fighters who qualified for the nationals. Rhamon Johnson (0-1) qualified due to the division unopposed rule, while Jakari Johnson (3-1) qualified by winning his match at regionals.


Azeeze said he knew right away the Johnson brothers, who joined the club in June, were cut out for the program.


"They had no skills," Azeez said with a laugh. "They were willing to learn the basics and I could see potential in both of them."


Rhamon Johnson said that while he hasn’t won a match yet, he feels no pressure in trying to get his first win but admits he thinks about it.


"I feel kind of nervous," he said. "This is my first year boxing. I have been training good by exercising and working out. I’ve been working out on my core by trying to take hits and punches. I listen to what my coach tells me to do and I’m just taking it match by match."


Jakari Johnson said he is focused on his match and is looking forward to another win, while he tries to be like his favorite fighter, Mike Tyson.


"I feel good," he said. "I do push-ups, jumping jacks, sit-ups and jump rope, and I listen to my coach."


Brewer said he couldn’t be more proud of the two brothers as this is his first time coaching anybody at nationals. He said that this had been a long time coming and this is just one step in the right direction of where the program is headed.


"I never dreamed I would have two kids in nationals," Brewer said. "Everything is new to them and the kids are starting to understand the ways of boxing."


Brewer said he has two long-term goals in the expansion of the club. Those goals are trying to get local schools involved with the program andgetting the club enough recognition to meet President Barack Obama before his final term ends.


Wilkins said the program is getting better and he is amazed at the progress that has been made in the short period of time.


"I never thought it would go this far," Wilkins said. "I’m just really proud of Coach Brewer and the program. From where we started in April to where we are today, it’s truly been a blessing."