Boxing program gives at-risk kids an alternative to hitting the streets

CLEARFIELD, Utah — A boxing coach with a once promising career, hopes to prevent kids from making the mistakes that nearly ruined his life.

Julian “J.D.” Stevens owns the Lights Out Boxing club in Clearfield.

He hopes the athletes he coaches learn from his life lessons.

“I actually had positive people in my life and I chose the negative people,” Stevens said. “I probably could have been a world champion, possibly, maybe.”

Stevens began boxing when he was 8-years-old and as a teen he fought someone who would go on to become one of the biggest names in the sport.

“I actually fought Floyd Mayweather in 1994 at the National Golden Gloves,” Stevens said. “He went to the ’96 Olympics and I went to prison.”

Stevens spent 16 years behind bars for committing a robbery and selling drugs.

After being released in 2012, Stevens turned his life around. He founded Lights Out Boxing as a way to keep at risk kids off the streets.

“Our gym is not a gym, it’s a family,” Stevens said.

The gym has 25 members between the ages of 7 and 30.

“It’s a good place to be. It keeps you out of trouble,” Jon Bryant, a 24-year old boxer said.

As he taped up a young boxer’s hand before a bout, Stevens described what motivates him to do this work.

“I have a big heart, that’s my main thing,” he said.

When he was finished preparing the athlete for the match, the boxer said, “I love you J.D.”

He knows he can’t save every troubled kid.

“I grew up a hard life, but I don’t want these kids to have that same life, you know," Stevens said. "I want these kids to have something different."

If his message saves someone from a troubled life, that is all he needs to know he made a difference.

“One kid. It doesn’t matter. If I make one change in somebody’s life, then I did something. I did my job,” Stevens said.

Lights Out Boxing currently trains in a room at the Clearfield Aquatic Center. Stevens hopes to raise enough money so the club can have a gym of its own and also send athletes to competitions around the country.