LAC DU FLAMBEAU
- Names of boxers no longer pop into the minds of Americans when thinking of famous athletes.
Muhammed Ali, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman are names of the past.
But in Lac du Flambeau, the boxing culture remains strong.
The coaches of the Flambeau Indians Boxing Team have spent years in the ring, but these days, they're
"Instead of a kid getting into a fight out on the school yard, he can come here and work out and realize you're not supposed to fight in public. There's a place you can come put the gloves on, and all the gear, safety equipment that you need," said Head Coach Jerome "Booj" Labarge.
Labarge says boxing helped him stay out of trouble when he was growing up in Lac du Flambeau.
Now he and his coaching partner, Ira Frank, have been boxing for 20 years.
They're using the sport that helped them, to help others.
"Just to show the kids around here, it is possible to become a professional boxer, and I've done it. You guys can do it, and go further than I ever imagined," said Labarge.
Further in distance too.
The Flambeau Indians give young boxers a chance to see and explore new places.
"A lot of kids don't have a lot of things to do in the summer. I'll take them to Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Green Bay at certain points, "said Labarge.
The two coaches and long-time friends now mentor a dozen boxers, including some kids that are just starting out.
But if you want to box with these two, you need to take it seriously.
"You've got to be healthy, you've got to eat right," said Labarge. "You've got to train right, you've got to be right spiritually to box."
Labarge and Frank not only train their team, they also use their connections from years in the ring to secure bouts for their young fighters.
Labarge says there's nothing better than seeing them in that moment.
"I can relate so much to their feelings of their adrenaline flowing, the excitement of the crowd, everything. I love seeing that, I love seeing kids be happy," said Labarge.
Labarge and Frank pay for most of the team's expenses out of their own pockets.
The coaches say the tribal council has supported them every step of the way.
They've given them a space to practice in the LDF multipurpose building.
The team meets there three times per week.