Jarred “Nugget” Minor, 18, begins to shadow box around the boxing gym at the Lonnie Young Recreation Center in Germantown. He got the nickname Nugget for being the smallest kid in the neighborhood his entire life.
But over the last year, he has transformed his small, fragile figure into a solid, muscular force, a teenager who fights at 120 pounds and stands 5-foot 2-inches tall. He arrived at the gym one recent day wearing a tight yellow button-up polo shirt. The sleeves had his biceps in a stranglehold.
“Every time he gets his ass kicked, he gets back up and keeps going,” said Kevin Carmody, Minor’s trainer.
Carmody, who does home remodeling for a living, works in his off time as one of several trainers at Lonnie Young, located at 1100 E. Chelten Ave. For the last 20 years, he has played a major role in the development of almost all the young boxers who have walked walk through the doors.
“We build champions here,” Carmody said.
Lonnie Young Recreation Center, which charges $40 a month for boxing lessons, is one of only nine recreation centers citywide with organized boxing programs. “Training costs $40 a month, but some guys can’t afford it so I help them out,” Carmody said.
At Lonnie Young, trainers teach every aspect of the sport. Whether it’s lifting weights, running sprints, or just general punching instruction, the trainers at the rec specialize in maximizing the potential of every boxer who has the heart to stick around.
A fatal plane crash
The center was named after the late local boxing legend, Lonnie Young. On March, 14, 1980, Young was on his way back from representing the United States in an international boxing tournament in Warsaw, Poland when his plane crashed. Young was one of 77 passengers, 14 of whom were United States boxers and 10 of whom were officials. There were no survivors in the crash, which is still considered to be the worst in Poland’s history. Young was one of two Philadelphians representing the city in the tournament.
Today, the rec has attracted a wide range of young people, but not everyone has what it takes to stick around long term.
“I got guys who come and go for whatever reasons — drugs, getting girls pregnant, or whatever reason, but the guys who stick it out do good out of here,” Carmody said.
Outside, the skies were clear and the sun was beginning to warm the spring air. Inside the rec, more than a dozen young boxers crammed into the basement with one common goal: to become champions.
“Your feet gotta work with your hands! Look! Right, left, right, left. Just like that!” Carmody barked at his students.
He shouted at all his fighters, but told Nugget to put on his fighting gear. “He was the little guy and all of the bigger guys here would beat on him, but he’s got such a great work ethic and made himself into a real fighter,” Carmody explained.
Nugget tightened his headgear, tied his shoes, and knotted his boxing gloves strings. He was ready to get in the ring.
“I wanna turn pro by 19,” Nugget said.
Hoping for a military career
Nugget is finishing his junior year at the Philadelphia Military Academy at Elverson, a public military school at 2118 N 13th St. in North Philadelphia. After he graduates, he hopes to be admitted to the United States Naval Academy.
His opponent, a current champion in Philadelphia in his respective weight class, was clearly the favorite in this bout. He had more experience in the ring and at least six inches in height and 30 pounds in weight on Nugget.
Still, the little guy was ready for the challenge. “If I keep working hard, I’ll move up the rankings,” he said.
The spark that fueled Nugget’s drive to work so hard was his father. With a military background, Nugget’s father often pushed him extra hard in everything he did, and that translated into his passion for boxing.
“My dad used to train me and he would wake me up at 2 a.m. to run. After that I would hit the gym around 6 a.m. or so,” Nugget said.
Defending against the bullies
But his father wasn’t his only reason for wanting to learn the sport of boxing. The streets in Germantown can be cruel, but especially to young black men who are smaller than others.
“When I was a kid I couldn’t fight and I was bullied a lot,” Nugget said.
After training at Waterview Recreation Center at 5826 Mahon St. in Germantown for five months, Nugget decided to take his talents to Lonnie Young Recreation Center to train with Carmody, who was a family friend. Nugget has been at Lonnie Young for the last eight months, and says he is “grateful” to train there.
“Every time you throw that hook, you gotta cover up!” Carmody yelled to Nugget as he ate a powerful left hand counterpunch right below his right eye.
Nugget wasn’t fairing so well in his duel with a much older and experienced boxer, but not one person in the gym could criticize his heart. Although he was taking quite the beating, as expected in this match, Nugget refused to give up.
As the sparing ended, the two boxers tapped gloves — a sign of sportsmanship and mutual respect.
Though Nugget lost, giving him a career record of 1-1, he wasn’t focused on defeat. Instead, he remembered the knockout he had scored in his previous fight.
“Knocking someone out feels pretty good,” Nugget said, a smile breaking out across his face.