F.W.C. Berston Field House is a recreation center in North Flint. It's a big, beige building on Saginaw Street, a mile north of downtown. It's been there since 1923. After a full day of work, coach Jason Crutchfield volunteers his time, five nights a week. 6pm-8pm. Dead of winter cold. Height of summer heat. No matter what, the place is buzzing.
The gym itself is in the basement. The entrance is in the back, but you wouldn’t know it. There’s no sign on the big steel door. Inside it's too hot. The air doesn't move. It smells like sweat and hand wraps. Photos of Ali and posters of the Direll brothers are taped to the walls with scotch tape. Jump ropes and dusty speed bags litter the floor. Even with the banks of buzzing fluorescent lights, the place is dim. In the middle of it all, an old boxing ring.
Along the wall, a dozen kids punch the air in unison. Over and over, one of them yells out the combination and the others throw the punches: 5-year-olds stand next to 19-year-olds. All boys and 2 girls. But for those two hours, they are all boxers.
Jason has been coaching Claressa since she was eleven. Like every coach, he’s always wanted a champion. He just never thought it’d be a girl.
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