By Emily Jackson
Last month, a group of boys traveled to Kansas City to compete for first place and the title “Number One in the Nation.”
But these kids aren’t playing chess or cheerleading – they’re strapping on gloves and throwing punches.
Team Cartel is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) that trains a group of elite boxers who travel around the country and compete on state, regional and national levels.
The team fights out of the Toledo Boxing Association and trains anyone ages eight to 40.
Kellen Moreland, the finance and promotions manager of Team Cartel, said that seven boys between the ages of eight and thirteen competed and five made it to nationals.
The competition began in December in Cincinnati, OH, where all seven boys fought and won state. They traveled to Philadelphia two weeks later and five won regionals, which took them to Kansas City for nationals.
The five boys fought in the Silver Gloves National Championship Feb. 1 – 3 and two won. Nolan Huntley, eight, and 65 pounds, and Ryan Williams, 13, and 95 pounds both earned recognition as best in the country.
Moreland said Huntley has been training since he was four years old and Williams since he was about 10.
Moreland’s ten-year-old son also fights on the team and competed at regionals this year. He said that his son was being bullied and fought a lot last school year and was suspended more than 25 times.
Then Moreland signed him up for boxing and everything changed.
“This year he hasn’t been suspended at all,” he said. “I haven’t had any phone calls about him or anything; his grades are ok since he’s been boxing. It’s the best year of school he’s ever had.”
Moreland said that many boys just like his son had anger issues before boxing, but now they don’t because they box.
“It helps with their behavior,” he said. “They get along with kids better than before.”
He also said that the kids have to keep their grades up in order to stay on the team, which gives them incentive to do well academically and all the traveling gives them an opportunity to see and learn about the world.
“We take them all over the country so we show them that there’s more than just Toledo,” Moreland said. “They’re seeing more things than sitting here in drug infested areas getting caught up in trouble. We’re keeping them away from that.”
Robert Mumford, Team Cartel’s head coach, has been coaching for five years and said that it is “an all-around great experience” for the kids.
“The comradery. You learn how to have a brotherhood. These guys have to wake up, go to the gym and learn about weight and dieting,” he said. “Their grades and their work at home as far as their parents… it’s just always in a better situation when they end up in the boxing program.”
Mumford also said that, not only has boxing helped the kids, but himself as well.
“These kids are like my kids and when I get positive responses it just as if I raised my own kids the right way,” he said. “It gives me gratification working with these kids.”
Mumford and Team Cartel are currently in New Mexico and will begin fighting in the 6th eastern qualifier tournament March 6. Winners will move on to compete in the National Championship again next December.
“We might have some more national champions when we come back,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes.”